Dinan & Saint-Malo, France

We’re in the French region of Brittany exploring the old medieval towns of Dinan and Saint Malo. Brittany is the peninsula south of the English Channel that points out into the Atlantic and provides France its distinctive shape.

Much like Texans in America and Bavarians in Germany, natives here consider themselves Bretons first and French second. Brittany has a Celtic cultural history and existed as an independent kingdom long before being united with France in 1532.

You can see Brittany’s distinct identity displayed on their car tags. The black-and-white Breton flag has a passing resemblance to the American flag:

We’re staying in an Airbnb in the tiny village of Taden (pronounced ta-doh) just north of the town of Dinan along the river Rance. It’s quiet and peaceful, perfect as a place to relax after a long day of travel.

Just across the street is the 14th-century Manoir de la Grand’Cour complete with turret and flag on top. Even more exciting is the Bar du Manoir where you can order up beer, wine and aperitifs within steps of our door.

Just a few minutes’ drive south is the port of Dinan. This morning we headed across the old bridge to the top of the hill for market day in the square.

Every European town has a market day (or two) each week when local farmers set up stalls full of fresh produce, cheese, wine, seafood for sale. Market days are always a great opportunity to browse and people-watch here. You can blend into the crowd and experience daily life like a local.

Dinan is full of medieval buildings and still circled by a town wall. The locals voted to retain the old ramparts rather than tear them down for more roads.

I like to scale a tall tower early in my visit to a town to get an overview of its layout. Usually, a church spire is involved but this time it was the clocktower above the town hall. You climbed stone stairs that eventually gave way to wooden steps to a final, steep ladder that brought you up to an open hatch in the viewing platform.

You emerged on a narrow ledge with a frighteningly-low railing circling the bells of the tower. I made sure to time my visit between rings (I didn’t need any clanging in my ears).

After lunch, we drove down the valley back to the old port of Dinan. It was lined with people in cafes and boats. The French simply operate in a different time frame than we do as Americans. They work a shorter week and take long breaks for lunch and dinner. I’ve come to the conclusion we’re crazy for working so much in the States (I think all the Puritans left for America).

It was only a short, 30-minute drive north of Dinan to the striking, walled port town of Saint-Malo on the English Channel.

If you read the Pulitzer Prize-winning book All the Light We Cannot See, you know the city was reduced to rubble in 1944 when the Germans garrisoned within its walls refused to surrender to the Allies.

Saint-Malo was painstakingly rebuilt during a 12-year period from 1948 to 1960. We walked around the top of its walls and enjoyed the ocean views. Down from the walls, the town seemed like a labyrinth of narrow streets deep among tall, stone buildings.

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Thanks for coming along on the trip. If you have questions or suggestions, tweet @JasonRMatheson. Missed an entry? Click here.

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I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.

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Jason R. Matheson

Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.

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