Discover Breton Culture on VBT’s Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany vacation

Dinan France Brittany, Brittany France
Visiting Brittany on our Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany vacation is a unique experience in and of itself due to the Celtic history and prominence of Breton culture in the area. Brittany is known for many unique things within France such as its language, architecture, music, cuisine, and even French Brittany Spaniel Dogs—a breed of gun dogs that is recognized on its own by the American Kennel Club. While on tour with VBT you’ll experience much of the Breton culture firsthand during a two-night stay in Saint-Malo and day visits to Cancale, Dinan and Saint-Suliac. We thought we’d tell you a bit more about what you’ll find in this historic region.

The Culture
Breton bagad instrumentsAlthough it is a part of France, Brittany is considered one of the 6 Celtic nations and about half of the population consider themselves as much Breton as French. Despite French efforts to diminish the cultural identity of the Bretons in the 19th century—children were even banned from speaking their native tongue and forced to speak only French in schools—a cultural revival occurred in the 1960’s. Bilingual schools started recognizing the Breton language as well as French, and Breton music returned to popularity in the 1970’s. Today cultural festivals throughout the area feature bagad bands—complete with bombards, bagpipes and drums—traditional Breton dancing, and folks in traditional attire—including women with bigouden headdresses.

The Architecture
Medieval structures abound in present day Brittany. You’ll have ample opportunities to explore some on a guided tour Saint-Malo Brittany Franceof the cobblestone streets of Dinan, a fairy-tale-like medieval walled city perched high atop a hill. We’ll also spend two nights in Saint-Malo, a beautiful medieval city along the Brittany coast. Saint-Malo became notorious in the 18th century as the home of the corsairs who were privateers, authorized by the French crown to conduct raids on the ships of any nation at war with France. During some free time take the chance to discover the famous Ramparts of Saint-Malo, the area of the old town where the medieval walls are still intact.

The Cuisine
Cancale Oysters, French Food, Brittany FranceBeing that Brittany is a coastal region it is not surprising that the local cuisine here is dominated by seafood. Your taste buds will delight in mussels, cotriade—a native dish of fish stew—and the area’s most notorious bivalve, the oysters of Cancale—a tiny fishing port nestled along the beautifully rugged coast. In fact, King Louis XIV was reportedly so enamored of these briny bivalves that he had fresh oysters brought daily from Cancale to Versailles! Today these oyster beds harvest about 25,000 tons of oysters each year and you’ll have the opportunity to taste these acclaimed huîtres while on tour with VBT during a visit to an oyster market.

These are just a few of the historical and cultural highlights we’ll visit on this fantastic biking tour of France’s northern coast. To read more about our Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany vacation, please click here. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868, available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST.

A Guide to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited on VBT Vacations in France

Pont du Gard
An active vacation with VBT to France is an amazing, all-encompassing experience.  Along with world-class biking and walking routes, you’ll also stay in unique accommodations, taste local wines, enjoy delectable French cuisine and visit a variety of historical sites and attractions. Most of VBT’s French vacations visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the tour and travelers who choose our optional trip extension in Paris will receive city Info packets to help them explore renowned attractions like the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral on their own. We thought we’d create the following list so you can learn about these historic sites and cultural monuments, and discover which VBT vacations will take you there.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Château of Fontainebleau | Visited on Heart of France Bike & Barge
Chateau FontainebleauWith origins dating to the 12th century, the château has welcomed France’s most important dignitaries, many of them lured here by the extensive possibilities to hunt in the surrounding forests. Each century witnessed additions and improvements to the château and the grounds, resulting in today’s vast complex centered around a series of stately courtyards. While on tour with VBT, you’ll have time to explore the château and gardens and to buy lunch before continuing our ride through the wonderful forest of Fontainebleau.

Saint-Émilion |Visited on Bicycling Bordeaux & the River Dordogne
This commune—first settled by Romans in the 2nd century—is home to ancient ruins and Romanesque churches. The Vineyard in St Emiliontown got its name from a local monk who first produced wine commercially in the region during the 8th century. During your visit with VBT you’ll spend a morning on a private walking tour with a local guide of the medieval town and discover its underground monuments.

Pont du Gard |Visited on Provence: The Alpilles
VBT Travelers at Pont du GardBuilt by the Romans in the first century BC, the Pont du Gard is just one segment of a 31-mile-long aqueduct created to transport water to the city of Nîmes. Much of the aqueduct has deteriorated over time, but this most impressive part still stands. After a lovely ride to the site, feel free to park your bike and walk across this stunning architectural achievement. As you cross the lower level, you can see stones, some of which weigh up to six tons, held by iron clamps. Remarkably, the structure was built entirely without mortar.

Avignon |Visited on our France: Slow Road Through Provence​ Walking Vacation
This commune—located in the French department of Vaucluse—is known as the “City of AvignonPopes” because it served as the papal seat for almost 68 years in the 14th century when seven popes, beginning with Clement V, abandoned Rome and made the city their permanent residence. While on tour with VBT, you’ll meet a local guide for a walking tour of Avignon’s historical center and view the Palais de Papes—the magnificent Gothic complex in which the holy men once lived.

Mont Saint-Michel | Visited on Bicycling France: Normandy & Brittany –New for 2014!
Mont Saint MichelOn the final day of your VBT tour, you’ll visit this island commune in Normandy that is best known for the spectacular and well-preserved Benedictine abbey of Saint-Michel that sits at its peak. The abbey is surrounded by the winding streets and architecture characteristic of a medieval town. Small houses, shops and street stalls are found on its lowest level. Above these stand the monastic buildings, many of which date from the 13th century and are considered outstanding examples of Gothic architecture. The entire islet is crowned by the abbey church, which soars roughly 240 feet above sea level.

Must-see sites on our Paris Pre- and Post-trip extensions

Arc de Triomphe
One of the best known monuments to visit during your extension in the famed French capitol is the Arc de Triomphe. Arc de TriompheThe monument is located in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, a large rotary in which 12 different avenues meet. Inaugurated in 1836, the monument honors the French soldiers that died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

Eiffel Tower
Paris Eiffel towerPerhaps the most iconic structure in all of Europe, The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champ de Mars. The tower was completed by engineer Gustave Eiffel and his company in 1889 to serve as the entrance to the World’s Fair. During your visit you can access the observatory for panoramic views of Paris from over 900 feet high—the highest man-made access point in the European Union.

Notre Dame de Paris
This historic Cathedral—translated as “Our Lady of Paris” is located on an island in Paris notre dame facadethe Seine River in the heart of the city. It is known as one of the greatest examples of French Gothic architecture and serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Paris. Its treasury claims to house the circlet of rushes of the Crown of Thorns, which is displayed on the first Friday of every month.

To read more about our vacations in France please click here. To request a catalog or learn more about any of VBT’s other exciting destinations throughout the world visit www.vbt.com. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868, available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST.