Paris Blog: A Road Trip to the French Coast

IMG_5928

As I alluded to earlier in the week, The Girl and I headed out of town Sunday afternoon to enjoy a bit of a road trip. Things have been crazy busy the last few months with my work travel and for her with the cupcake shop, so now that she has employees – it’s nice to be able to do a bit more enjoying of Europe. Oh, and it’s finally warm out.

So Sunday afternoon after she baked a gazillion cupcakes we grabbed the rental car and headed out of town. We decided to rent a car instead of the train because it gave us more flexibility to take what we wanted (bikes), as well as go wherever we wanted. The train is great in Europe getting from Point A to Point B, but less ideal when you want to poke around at different places between Points A and B.

Our first stop would be Rennes, which was about 3ish or so hours outside of Paris by car. We got there just a bit before sunset and The Girl went off on a run around the city on some bike paths. I was going to accompany her via bike, but the bike vending machine wasn’t really cooperating.

IMG_0800

The next morning we spent a bit of time exploring the city, mostly on foot. As with almost everywhere we’ve seen in France, the French take great pride in any garden space they can create. Everything is always near-perfectly trimmed and in order.

IMG_5619

IMG_5624

IMG_5626

After wandering around a bit we found some food. Obviously, we’re all about the food. Especially when the prices are nearly half that of Paris. Appetizers for 3€, and full entrees for 10€? Dang! Everything we saw food-wise for the rest of the trip was like this. Awesome!

IMG_5630

Unfortunately, it became clear that despite a well put together menu (and dish presentation), the food was definitely cooked the night before and microwaved. Not at all good. Never would have thought.

IMG_5631

Don’t worry, we made up for it later on with dessert.

After wrapping up in town, we got back in the car and headed towards the coast. It was about an hour or so away to Saint-Malo. The majority of the town is along a long sandy beach, with the old walled in town (like castle) off to the left of this photo.

IMG_5638

IMG_5636

Yesterday’s post covered all of my swim related endeavors there, which you’ll want to check out to see more of that fort.

Despite being fairly windy on the main sections of the beach above, once you were protected by the old city’s castle-like walls, it was just like summertime:

IMG_0829

IMG_0824

We hung out for a while on top of the castle walls and just enjoyed sitting in the sun. It was while I was sitting there that I noticed these stairs to nowhere out in the ocean (in front of the sailboat):

IMG_0832

At this point, we’d really only seen high tide thus far. So I didn’t realize how far the tide actually went out. The next day, upon returning – it was crazy. This is taken from the exact same spot:

IMG_0865

Holy cowbells! There’s a swimming pool there! And a diving platform. It’s crazy! And this isn’t a small pool either. Look at the people. This is easily 100-200m across!

IMG_0877

We headed out to explore the islands that weren’t really islands anymore. At super-low tide (we were about an hour or so late), you can walk all the way out. You can kinda see the stone path below the water to the right.

IMG_0907

IMG_0891

Instead, we just looked at the mussels. This area is known for them (as well as oysters up a bit further). I definitely had my fair share of them the next night. They don’t cheap out on some portions of them here!

IMG_0909

On the walk out to the island there was a sign warning you that once the water was within 10 meters of the walkway you needed to return pronto, due to the incoming tides. From on top of the hill, we were only a 2-3 minute jaunt back across. So we headed back out before the tide washed over and returned it to island status.

IMG_0912

However, as we did so, people were still walking outwards onto the island. It became clear this was going to turn into an awesome spectating opportunity. And in particular, a great time-lapse video one. The tide was coming in very fast – such that it would only take about 5-10 more minutes from the above photo until the walk-way was covered.

So we scrambled up a big rock and I set my phone to take a 20 minute timelapse. Obviously, the goal was to watch as those ignoring the picture signs had to get rather wet coming back (including all the cold-water screaming like a little 4 year old girl that would accompany it).

Unfortunately, the time-lapse app crashed upon processing. But, that didn’t diminish watching probably a hundred tourists get wet. Nor did it take away from watching as the remaining dozen or so had to be ferried back onto shore – where the boat captain made them jump in up to their knees (some wearing jeans). I thought that was fair punishment.

So, if you go visit here, be sure to check out the tide tables and then plan about 2 hours after high tide to watch the circus unfold.

IMG_0918

After all this, it was clear there was only one thing to do: Eat some ice cream. Or rather, a lot of ice cream.

IMG_0924

Don’t worry, I didn’t leave anything behind. And actually, on the scale of ice cream creations from this establishment – mine was somewhat tame. They had a 12-scoop version too! There was a cake place next door (with equally as impressive cakes). But we decided we were in more of an ice cream mood.

IMG_0925

Actually, it was interesting. Normally in France portion sizes are small compared to American portion sizes. And we’ve grown used to that (it’s probably a good thing!). But in Saint-Malo, everything was a big portion (yet still relatively inexpensive). I’m not 100% sure of the reasoning. However, the region has three high-speed ferry routes to the UK, which is just over an hour away by boat. Thus, the majority of the tourists here are from the UK.

We did find that when we went out of town a bit to a more local place to eat, portion sizes returned to French normalcy. On a totally unrelated note, our salt shaker that night was made by a French car company:

IMG_0954

Given our ice cream, we headed out the next day for a bit of an easy ride/wander up the coast for a few hours. Not a workout, just a ride. Don’t worry, we got in both runs and bikes on other days too – attempting to even things out (and Mr. Scale said they were even at the end of the trip, woot!).

IMG_0935

IMG_0937

P1100759

P1100739

IMG_0944

(Note below, big portions again – we split this salad)

IMG_0946

On Thursday we started working our way out of town. We ended up stopping in at a grocery store, mostly to try and pick up some stuff for the CupCakery. All of our grocery stores in Paris are the size of a 7-11 in the US. So this looked massive from the outside.

IMG_0955

And indeed it was massive on the inside too. On par, if not bigger than a typical US Walmart, but half-grocery, half-not-grocery.

IMG_0957

We picked up a few things, but I did marvel at the selection of mustard here (and I don’t even like mustard!). Note the huge tubs at the bottom:

IMG_0959

And, I also couldn’t help but notice the Paris themed toilet seats. Fear not, this is not installed in our apartment.

IMG_0958

And then we have the Tour de France themed ‘tubular’. Pay particular attention to the 14 recommended methods to wear it, including bank-robber biker style.

IMG_0963

After leaving behind the bank-robber, we made our way to one of France’s most famous sites – Mont Saint-Michel. The focal point of it being the church. For anyone who’s ever watched the Tour de France on TV, this always seems to make the television promos.

Here it is, from the parking lot – several miles away still.

IMG_0995

Wait, parking lot you say? Here, let me help illustrate:

IMG_0964

Oh, and that’s only perhaps 25% of it. In effect, we had arrived at Disneyland and didn’t know it. I guess I thought we’d just sorta drive up to the thing and walk across the tidal lands and enjoy a quiet afternoon in the walled island.

I was wrong.

Instead, we walked for a while, and then boarded a shuttle bus (which, btw, had two fronts and could drive forward or backwards).

IMG_0967

After getting off the bus, we joined a few dozen-thousand others marching to or from the castle.

IMG_0970

Now, the castle looking thing (well, technically a church) actually sits out in the middle of the tidal lands. So at high tide it’s completely surrounded by water. Up until about two years ago, there was a large parking lot at the base of it, some of which would become submerged. Around then they started a project to completely return it to its original state – ultimately removing the road and the parking lot. Much of that is completed already (hence the massive parking lots back on land).

At this point they are building the elevated bridge platform that will connect the main visitor area (way off in the distance to the right). Once completed water will be able to freely flow under/around the bridge. Completion is scheduled for roughly spring of next year.

IMG_0973

IMG_0968

Once we stepped inside the walled island, it was crazy packed. There’s tons of places to eat, and even about 8 small hotels on the island. A few thousands of tourists.

IMG_0972

We wandered around a bit, but decided that we’d prefer to come back and really explore the place in the winter when nobody is around. One of the perks of living here is being able to explore when it’s low-season.

IMG_0987

IMG_0976

IMG_0977

With our stay there complete, we got the car pointed towards Paris and started the drive back. About a mile later though we noticed a windmill amidst a bunch of bright yellow flowers. In fact, these fields of yellow flowers literally blanket the French countryside right now. I’d love to know what they are.

IMG_5928

With that, road trip over and back home. Thanks for reading! And hope everyone is enjoying their weekends!

Retweet 18Like 90Google +1 12

34 Comments

  1. Josh Smith

    That banana split didn’t stand a chance. You guys are taking the trip my wife and I want to do someday when the kids are a little older.

    Reply
  2. Baptsite

    Hi Ray,

    If i see well the flowers are rape (to make rapeseed oil).
    By the way, the Mont Saint Michel is not a castle but an abbaye

    B.

    Reply
  3. Alice

    The yellow flowered fields are of rapeseed, which they use to make oil :)
    It’s a shame there were such crowds at Mont Saint-Michel, probably because the winter was so bloody long this year, so the tourists got accumulated somehow :)
    Thanks for another lovely post, and have a great weekend!

    Reply
  4. Martin Smith

    Those yellow flowers look like rapeseed oil flowers….there are fields of them here in England to…..to me the signal the start of hay fever season :-(

    Reply
  5. Stephane

    Ray,

    FWIW there is a pretty large Auchan supermarket in La Defense, Quatre Temps shopping mall. It is actually what we call a hypermarket (hypermarche)

    To get there, take Line 1 to La Defense, the mall is on the left side when looking at the Arche. You can also take the RER but watch out as the RER is actually in Zone 3 while the Metro is on Zone 2.

    Auchan inside the mall is close to the Arche, it is under the UGC movie theater. It is open until 10PM from Monday to Saturday.

    You can obviously get there by car, La Defense can be a bit crazy to navigate the first time, you may want to do some scouting on Sunday first to figure out the maze around there.

    See the access details there: link to les4temps.com

    – stephane (french in nyc)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Awesome! We’re always looking for the bigger stores (in part because they sometimes have better deals that the restaurant supply store for the Cupcakery, and also because they’re just cheaper for our household items). Thanks!

      Reply
    • Irina replied

      Yeah, Les 4 Temps de La Defense it’s like 5 minutes from my mom’s. I can’t believe that you haven’t made it there yet. The mall is a bit of a maze. I bought my wedding gown there in 1997, haha. Anyway, one thing I wanted to say about Auchan is that you can do your grocery shopping and go to a special cashier where they put everything in bins which can be delivered to you the same day. It is very convenient for people who don’t have a car. Excellent liquor selection there!

      Reply
    • Stephane replied

      FTR the name of hypermarches in France are:
      Carrefour – http://www.carrefour.fr
      Auchan – http://www.auchan.fr
      Leclerc – link to e-leclerc.com
      Geant Casino – link to geantcasino.fr

      You can shop online or via your phone and can get delivered.

      There is a Geant Casino Boulevard Massena in the 13th, not sure how big it is.

      Another big supermarket to know about is Tang Freres, this is said to be the biggest asian supermarket chain west of china. It is also in the 13th, close to Bd d’Italie. See link to yelp.com

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Wow, I’ve been clicking away on and off all day. Figures I’d get these links on the one day that nothing is open in Paris – Sunday! :)

      Reply
    • Stephane replied

      Something worth knowing too, especially as your wife is in the food business is Rungis. This is about 10km from the center of Paris and not that far from Orly. This is where all restaurants typically get their fresh food from.

      This is said to be the largest food market in the world. See link to rungisinternational.com to get a sense of the massive scale of this place.

      typically for example the fish is shipped straight from the ports to Rungis, we always say the freshest fish in the world is in Rungis, it is just a massive marketplace. There is typically 24h elapsed for the logistic chain from where the ships come back to port as to when it is either in the kitchen of a restaurant or on display in shops.

      See the details to become a buyer.
      link to rungisinternational.com

      Reply
  6. John

    Those tubulars are actually great running accessories, when the weather is chilly.

    Reply
  7. Manuel

    My family being from St-Malo, I get to know the region quite well.

    For Mt St-Michel, three tips: 1- it is NEVER tourist-less. It gets ugly in high-season but there’s nothing like a real low-season. 2- Sleeping on the Island is quite expensive, but definitely worth the price. In short: you pay to be there at the moment tourists are gone and allows you to, e.g., have a walk alone on the walls on your way back from the restaurant to the hotel. 3- Once, you are there, go for a sea-side room, again expensive, but the tide effect is incomparable!

    Reply
    • Stefani replied

      Absolutely agree – it’s the only way to truly enjoy Mont St Michel!

      Reply
  8. No no no… You got it wrong… The cars are made by a salt & pepper mill manufacturer, not the otherway around :D

    Reply
    • Mark replied

      And remember, they also made bikes for 7 years before cars.

      Reply
  9. Eric

    Nice week-end trip. Being a Frenchie living abroad (Toronto) I enjoy your Paris/France blog even more than your techie blog.

    Reply
  10. If you want a much lesser touristy area, you should go to Belle-Isle and maybe rent a room on the island for the weekend. That’s one of my most favorite places in France. You can bike across in all directions and the views are pretty spectacular.

    I never made it to St. Malo and I don’t regret it after seeing all that sea of people. Crazy!! However, now that I could swim around it too, I would have been tempted. And that pool, for sure it looks cool. Have you tried it?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Belle-Isle looks great! May have just escalated onto the next long-weekend trip (we’re a sucker for small islands).

      Reply
  11. The natural swimming pool is actually so big some people kite surfed it!
    Here’s a cool vimeo video: link to vimeo.com

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Very cool video! Thanks for sharing!

      What’s interesting is that a few of those falls inside the pool near the shallow side would really have hurt. That side has tons of rocks in it that are just below the waters surface.

      Reply
  12. Christian

    Hi Ray,

    Like many others have remarked, the flowers are rape – for the production of rapeseed oil. In the US you’ll know them canola – which is a genetically modified rape (GMO is illegal in France, as the rest of the EU).

    The funny thing about the salt/pepper-mills is that they are actually part of the original Peugeot brand. Peugeot produced coffee mills and later spice mills long before they started making cars, and they’re the best you can get in the world. I’ve been considering replacing my Peugeot mill, but the lifetime warranty makes it kind of hard :-)

    Reply
  13. Pascal

    Hi Ray,
    Probably even closer to your home, there is the new So Ouest shopping center (Levallois-Perret link to soouest.com), the mall hosts a large hypermarket Leclerc (reasonable prices) and Marks & Spencer with a medium-sized grocery strore (less affordable but it could be useful in case of nostalgia for certain products … ;-p).
    Pascal

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Awesome, thanks! The Leclerc was what we were in, so that’s a good point of reference.

      Reply
  14. Monica

    Great post! I love reading about your adventures in France! Beautiful pictures too-especially the windmill and flowers.

    Reply
  15. Dr. D

    +1 for a great post. Many thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  16. Amedeo

    Great post!

    p.s.: wow, nice giro d’Italia shirt (I’m Italian ;-) )

    Reply
  17. teapea

    Peugeot actually produced coffee grinders and salt and pepper mills a long time before cars. This was actually how the company started.
    So the cars are made by the same company which makes salt and pepper mills would be a more accurate description ;)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Ok, so salt/pepper mills, bikes, then cars.

      Next someone’s going to tell me they made umbrellas too!

      Oh wait, what’s that you say Wikipedia? They do?!? Sigh…

      Reply
  18. Brett

    ahhh…. the amazing mustards of France. We picked half a dozen or so when we there in March.

    Mont Saint-Michel – Was there in the 90s, Crazy crowded back then so not much has changed.

    Tell The Girl we loved the cupcakes and so did our French friends!

    Thanks for the great photos!

    Reply
  19. Adrian

    May I ask what photo camera do you use?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      The first 7 photos were with a Canon 7D DSLR (excluding bike rack pic), but the remainder with with an iPhone 4S. Enjoy!

      Reply
  20. jjanerney

    After reading your blog for a while I realize that you look quite a lot like Sep Vanmarcke. Just saying:)

    Reply
  21. andy zhou

    it’s so beatuful,i love it .

    Reply
  22. Pulkit

    Ohh man..I did pretty much the same trip exactly 3 years ago. Hired a car with few friends and drove to all these places (squeezed in La baule as well)
    And I remember parking the car close to the base of Mont Saint-Michel back then.
    Thanks for refreshing my memories.
    Cheers

    Reply

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>