March 16-19, 2017 | During an extended weekend, we popped up to France to visit an old Trinity friend in Brittany.
Sometime in 2016 we found out that one of my old friends from Trinity, Dave, was going to complete a one-year MBA program at a university in Rennes, France, so we had known prior to arriving in Europe that we wanted to visit him. We found Rennes to be a charming little city, and it served as a great base for 2 day trips as well.
Upon arriving on Thursday afternoon, we checked into our Airbnb and then set out to explore. We grabbed a sandwich and a pain au chocolat (the first of many) and then ate our makeshift picnic in a plaza called Place de la Mairie, which is home to the city’s opera house as well as a main government building. The sun was shining, a street performer was singing, and we were smiling. The performer (also an American) was fantastic, and we even purchased one of his CDs to support the cause.
With our bellies full, we headed east to Parc du Thabor, a beautiful city park with a huge bird coop in the center. Manicured flowers lined the walkways, and people of all ages sat on park benches reading, relaxing, and reflecting. We joined a large group of people seated on a grassy section before weaving our way back to town for a cappuccino.
Later that night we met up with Dave for a traditional Breton dinner of galettes and crêpes. It turns out that galettes are savory crêpes eaten for the main meal while crêpes are the sweet version eaten for dessert. We greatly enjoyed the food and the company, and then went back to our Airbnb to sleep.
On the second day, we took a bus an hour north of Rennes to the famed Mont Saint-Michel, an abbey/castle located on a small island on the Atlantic coast. The abbey was originally built over 1,000 years ago, and later a small town was built around it. Though touristy, we found Mont Saint-Michel to be a beautiful place, and we had a great lunch to cap off our visit.
When Dave offered to show us around another small town called Vitré, we quickly accepted, so on our third day in France we took a train eastward to the small town of 20,000 people. It was a tranquil morning there, and an outdoor market in one of the squares seemed to be a local hot spot for Saturday mornings. We passed through without forgetting to sample the cheese and then made our way through an old castle and a few churches.
It’s easy to think that once you’ve seen a single European church or castle, you don’t need to see any more, but I find each one amazing in its own way. To kill some time before restaurants opened for lunch, we went to the library to play a cool Monopoly card game Dave had brought with him!
One of the highlights of the trip, however, came later that night when one of Dave’s friends invited us to her house for a dinner party. Looking around, the group was pretty amazing, as it consisted of 3 Brazilians, 3 Americans, and a smattering of individuals from China, Poland, Mongolia, and Nigeria. Joanna, the Polish host, made some great food and once again we enjoyed the conversation.
On our last morning in town, we took a final lap around the city center and were sure to order one final set of chocolate pastries.