French Delight: Love at First Sight in Delightful Dinan

Late April 2016

We have to be honest and say that France did not figure high in our must visit list. When it came to planning our travels through Europe I was all for getting through France as quick as possible. That’s before Julie found a gem of a place.

A quick two and half hour drive from the port of Cherbourg, is the beautiful medieval town of Dinan. Situated above the River Rance and full of cobbled narrow streets, Dinan was home for three nights. In fact our sat nav had us drive up a narrow ‘residents only’ street, trying hard not to scatter the meandering tourists.

The River Rance and part of the old wall of Dinan

Our accommodation was a very cute one bedroomed apartment off the Rue Jerzual, a great location to explore both the old and new parts of town.

A day’s drive through Normandy saw us visit Saint Malo and Mont St Michel. Saint Malo was another surprise. A beautiful picturesque port with a walled centre. Tourists flowed everywhere but the city still maintains its charm especially inside the walls.

Mont St Michel on the other hand was a major disappointment. Maybe our expectations were set way too high from seeing stunning sunset images of the Mont. Maybe it was the grey overcast day. Maybe it was just tiredness from a long day’s driving. Maybe it was the scaffolding that shrouded the top spoiling photos. Maybe it was the Disney like feel to this ancient commune. The Mont is best viewed from a distance unless you like tacky Chinese made souvenirs and basic fare at over priced restaurants.

The Mont complete with scaffolding

Our next stop was Orléans to catch up with fellow travel buddies Yannick, Prisca and their gorgeous daughter Maëwenn. We met these guys two years ago in Thailand and then again as they traveled through NZ. Prisca gave us a brief tour of the historic centre complete with Loire riverside walk and a stop at the imposing cathedral. An enjoyable dinner followed.

Fellow travel buddies

From Orléans we headed to Begnins in Switzerland to stay with an old work colleague Dave Cockle, his wife Susanne and Sam the dog for a couple of nights. They have an architecturally unique home overlooking Lake Geneva. The afternoon we arrived was beautiful and sunny with views all the way across to Geneva. In fact we could make out the 140 metre high Jet d'Eau. The following day the clouds descended and the lake disappeared completely

Our exit through to Italy took us through the town of Grand St Bernard. Here the snow started to come down in ginormous clumps. Please not another white knuckled ride over a snow covered pass. On this occasion the pass was closed but the Grand St Bernard Tunnel was open. We entered the tunnel and left the snow blanketed landscape behind, exiting to bright sunshine in Italy.

Our time in France was short and sweet and surprisingly good. Next time we will stay longer, exploring the historic towns and supping up all the Bordeaux wine region has to offer.