As avid travelers, Shark and I could not decently come back to France and stay at just one place. We had to go on an adventure! I seized the opportunity of my participation to the Travel Bloggers’ Fair at Saint Malo to rent a car from SIXT, my favorite rental car agency, and organize a long road trip through Western France.
What I love about road trips is the freedom to stop by anywhere and anytime I see a beautiful landscape or feel that my dog needs to walk. Try that in a bus or a train! As most of people, I had planned my itinerary quite well days before and chosen the must-seen spots. Well, I had to admit that I had underestimated the size of France! So clearly there are spots I had planned to visit that just disappeared from my map, but the good side is that I discovered so many other wonderful spots that I had never heard about! That is the magic of road trips and encounters on the road. So there are our 10 favorite steps for a road trip in the West of France, from Bordeaux to Mont Saint Michel. If you have a dog like me, you will find some doggy tips for each step. Let’s go!
Don’t miss the video of the road trip at the end of the post 😉
AN ADVENTURE OF 1832 KILOMETERS
1. LA ROCHELLE
La Rochelle, also known as the Rebel city, is anchored to the Atlantic coast and has many ports. Among them, the lively Old Port in the city center is a must seen! We parked the car at the municipal parking lot in front of the Aquarium and walked along the Georges Simenon quay to reach the Saint Nicolas Tower. This 42-meter-high military building symbolizes the wealth and power of the city in the past. Then, from the Quay de Carenage, we admired the view on the narrow entrance of the port, between the Saint Nicolas Tower and the Chain Tower from where the movements of the boats were watched. We went along the quays till the third tower, called the Lantern tower since it is the last medieval lighthouse of the Atlantic coast (55 meters high).
Doggy tips: very nice dog friendly walk along the quays! Dogs are not allowed to visit the towers. Lots of outdoor restaurants and cafes along the quays to have lunch with your dog. We especially liked the restaurant Le Mistral for its good 15-Euro menu and its quiet terrace upstairs.
2. ILE DE RE
It would be a shame to stop by La Rochelle without visiting the famous Ile de Ré, an island connected to La Rochelle by an outstanding bridge of 2.9 kilometers. The island itself is 30 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide and offers various beaches, villages and lighthouses to stop by. Among our favorite spots: the small beach of La Promenade Theodore Porsain at the beginning of the island. There is a beautiful viewpoint on the bridge and a pier with fishermen. The second must-seen is the ruined Abbey Les Chateliers in the middle of a wide green field. Absolutely gorgeous! At the end of the island, there is le Phare des Baleines. You can get to this impressive lighthouse through a nice walk.
Doggy tips: the 3 spots are dog friendly. Your dog should be on leash, especially during high season when Ile de Ré can get really crowded.
Noimoutier is another island on the Atlantic coast in the region of Vendée. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge built in 1971. The island covers 45,000 hectares with two thirds of it being below sea level and offers a variety of landscape: low lying fields, salt pans and marshes protected by sand dunes, dikes and forests of pine and holm oak trees. Apart from tourism which is the island biggest industry there are fishing and sea salt production industries. We especially enjoyed visiting the main village called Noirmoutier-en-Ile and its charming port, the wood of la Chaize (a charming forrest by the sea) and of course the legendary way of Le Gois, a 4 kilometer long cobble paved causeway which is covered twice a day by the sea.
Doggy tips: Dogs must be on leash. You can stop while crossing the way of Le Gois to let your dog run free on the sand. Just bring a towel to clean your dog before he goes back into the car.
4. POINTE DU RAZ
The magnificence of the region of Brittany is well-represented at La pointe du Raz, a promontory that extends into the Atlantic ocean. It is the second westernmost extent of France, after the Pointe de Corsen just to the North, and offers breathtaking viewpoints on the dangerous stretch of water between it and the island of Sein. Nature lovers will appreciate the strength of both the ocean and the wind, the vertiginous cliffs and the lighthouse called La Vieille at the horizon. If you want to admire the entire Pointe du Raz, you can go to La Pointe du Van, less touristy.
Doggy tips: Dogs must be on leash on both sites but I let shark free as there was almost nobody when we went there.
5. MONT SAINT MICHEL DE BRASPARTS
Not to be confused with Mont Saint Michel (see below)! This one is also a mountain but it is located in the middle of the National Regional Park of Armorique in Brittany. It was named after the chapel Saint Michel which was built on its 380-meter-high top in the 17th century. You can access it by car until the parking lot then climb some stairs to reach the windy top. We could enjoy a 360-degree view on the peaceful surroundings and a beautiful lake.
Doggy tips: Dogs are allowed on leash on the site.
6. SAINT MALO
Saint Malo was founded in the 12th century on a close rocky island. It is also called the Corsair city because of its famous privateers like Duguay Trouin and Surcouf who gave it a considerable prestige. The old stone walls and buildings witness the historic wealth of the city. Today, Saint Malo cultivates its sailing image and hosts many events like La Route du Rhum. We loved walking through the charming alleys of the historic center, admire the view from the top of the walls and watch the Fort National from the beach De l’Eventail.
Doggy tips: There are poop bag dispensers along the old walls of the city. Some places like the pier that leads to the lighthouse are forbidden to dogs, but most of the beaches are dog friendly. Dogs are also allowed on the walls.
Dog friendly hotel: At Saint Malo, the 2-star hotel La Bonne Etoile allows dogs in their rooms with an extra fee of 7 Euros per night. The owners have a handsome dog themselves and I was allowed to eat inside their restaurant with Shark.
Cancale is a picturesque fishing port that lies along the coast to the east of Saint-Malo. It is very popular for being the oyster capital of Brittany. There is a pleasant coastal path which permits a circular walk from the town to the rocky finger of la Pointe du Grouin. After visiting the city center and its harbour, we went to the Pointe du Grouin by car. There is a free parking. From there we found the hiking footpath along the ocean for a very nice walk: great viewpoints on the green-blue sea, the island of Landes and across the bay towards Mont Saint-Michel on a clear day.
Doggy tips: Dogs on leash are allowed. There is a restaurant&café with a large outdoor space where dogs are welcome. It is called Brasserie La Pointe du Grouin. They even offered a bowl of water to Shark.
Dol-de-Bretagne is a small medieval village with a defensive 13th-century cathedral. It is reputed to be the origin of the royal House of Stewart who became the monarchs of Scotland and later England and Ireland. In the very close surroundings of the village, we found the Mont-Dol, an incredible rocky outcrop that emerges from the flat landscape. Its 65-meter above sea level summit offers stunning views across northeast Brittany. Must-seen: the two windmills and the Notre Dame tower with a large statue of the Virgin Mary on its top. South of Dol-de-Bretagne, in the middle of a yellow colza field, stands the Champ Dolent Menhir. It was erected in the beginning of the Neolithic period, weights about 120 tons and is 9.30 meters high.
Doggy tips: Dogs on leash are allowed at Mont-Dol. I even went up the Notre-Dame tower with Shark to admire the view. As to Menhir du Champ Dolent, there is absolutely no sign so I let Shark run free through the fields.
9. MONT SAINT MICHEL
One of the most famous and visited places in France: the stunning Mont Saint Michel island topped by its fabulous medieval abbey! Located at the frontier between Brittany and Normandy, the Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights and inspires awe to every visitor and pilgrim. It stands in the heart of a wide bay invaded by the highest tides in Europe. The ramparts at the base of the island were built to keep English forces out. There is a huge parking lot 2.5 kilometers from the entry of the Mont Saint Michel but it coasts 12 Euros no matter if you stay one hour or the whole day. Then you can take a shuttle bus or a horse carriage, or walk along the path to the Mont. Personally, I chose to park my car in the close village of Beauvoir for free and walk around 3 kilometers.
Doggy tips: You can visit the village of Mont Saint Michel with your dog but not the Abbey. Be careful if your dog doesn’t feel comfortable around people. The village can get very crowded on weekends and holidays.
If you are looking for a charming, delightful and absolutely adorable town in the countryside of Nantes, well this is the place to stop by! Surrounded by vineyards, Clisson is crossed by two rivers, the Sèvre and the Moine. Must-seen: the ruins of the Clisson caslte which was built on a hill in the 11th century, the bridge of La Vallée on the Sèvre river built in the 15th centruy, the old city with its Italian style architecture, the church Notre-Dame.
Doggy tips: Dogs on leash are allowed into the ruins of the castle for free (Individual entrance: 3 Euros). There are plenty of dog friendly outdoor restaurants and there is a beautiful river that crosses the town if your dog feels like swimming.
Are you ready to take your dog along on a road trip? Enjoy the video below to see how fun it is to travel with a dog 🙂
As I don’t own a car, I rent one from SIXT. Thanks to a last-minute upgrade, Shark and I could make this long road trip in the comfortable, safe and modern SUV Opel Mokka X with an integrated GPS. I had already rent cars from SIXT many times before and have always been satisfied of their service. That’s why I chose them for this adventure. I thank them for the upgrade and for being a dog friendly company!
I planned this road trip to participate to the French speaking Travel Bloggers’ Fair at Saint Malo. It is the only event of this nature in the world and gathers both travel bloggers and actors of the e-tourism to initiate more collaborations and partnerships. Conferences, workshops, speed meetings and parties during 2 days… A real stepping stone for me as a quite new travel blogger! I thank the organizers Xavier & Florence from WE ARE TRAVEL for this amazing opportunity and hope to participate next year again!
What I love about traveling is meeting new people on the road! Before my departure, I had posted my itinerary on The Tropical Dog’s page on Facebook and asked my followers if anyone was living on my way. That’s how I got to meet Anne Quemeré (on the picture with her dogs) and Emeline Coic. Anne Quemeré is a great French navigator and sportswoman who loves the ocean and challenges. Among them: rowing the Atlantic on the Trade winds route, kiting across the Atlantic Ocean, and the first solar polar crossing, everytime alone and without assistance! As to Emeline Coic, she is a young and generous animal lover who works at a senior center. She hosted us for a night and introduced us to her dog, cat, rabbit, fish and her horse! Both Anne and Emeline invited us for a walk with our dogs, Anne at Pointe du Van and Emeline at Pointe du Raz. We thank them so much for the happy moments we sharerd and hope our roads will cross again!
Photos & contents @ The Tropical Dog 2015-2017.