need to pinch yourself to be sure it's not a dream.
When your destination is France, there's no need to
flip a coin to decide where to go.
You just can't go wrong.
The challenge is always "after Paris, where?".
The region called Bretagne (Brittany) boasts one of the most
dramatic and wild landscapes in all of colorful France.
Rock, paper, scissors -- the adolescent game of spontaneous reflex and
random chance, might be one way to decide where to hang your hat.
Rock shatters scissors; paper covers rock; scissors shred paper.
In Brittany, with so many choices -- all of them sensational -- from back road
villages to enchanting islands and wondrous nature preserves, you may be
better served by leaving it to an arbitrary game of rock, paper, scissors.....
No worries, you'll always come out a winner.
Certainly the prettiest, most evocative name in Brittany -- la
Cote de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast), is a great place to start.
A heavenly landscape associated with seascapes, bird-watching and
peaceful leisure, this coast will make you feel cuddled and coddled.
You won't need any rose colored glasses to see why this is
a place you'll prize the instant you become acquainted ....
especially when crêpes are on the menu morning, noon and night.
Rock, paper, scissors, crêpes.
The outcome is certain.
On this coast, Lady Luck and Mother Nature are both on your side.
of heaven sporting a wide span of beaches and gargantuan boulders.
It doesn't take long to figure out why this stretch
of Brittany is called the Pink Granite Coast.
Feeling like you're standing at the edge of the world,
the glowing rose colored rocks form the backdrop of a setting
so surreal you won't believe your eyes.
Often precariously perched one on top of the other, the super-colossal stones
make regular human beings look like Lilliputian munchkins.
Little inlets stash secret sandy beaches and wooded coves, capped off by
a brilliant blue Breton sea filled with little sailboats teetering on the water.
There are a few fancy hotels and restaurants but mostly it's just a family resort,
the kind of place your kids will remember and talk about for years.
We chose to stay at the Castel Beau Site, a lucky hunch that paid off.
It has a perfect position on the edge of town.
Nearly hugging the beach, it's fun to watch the water's edge
as the tide changes throughout the day.
The restaurant was impressive, local seafood naturally being front and center.
And what a delight when a local choir showed up at the inn's doorstep,
serenading everyone with good cheer outdone only by
the rainbow that magically made its debut just before dusk.
Unprecedented views will leave you speechless, ready to toss away
all your earthly possessions for the little cottage on the horizon.
This is a calendar setting -- literally -- one of those scenes that often
turn up on those gorgeous pictorials of France.
It's a raw type of beauty, as far from Paris as you can get.
The Sentiers des Douaniers is the coastal path, also called the GR34,
a hiker's paradise that runs all along the coast of Brittany.
You're in good company -- serious hikers mix right in with couch-potatoes who
can't help but get up from their easy chairs to admire this field of dreams.
On this particular stretch, you'll see a lot in a short period of time.
A little chateau, a stone chapel, an imposing lighthouse, a doozy of a view - WOW! And best of all, the virtual sculpture garden -- watch as the pink tinged boulders
change color as the light of the day changes.
POW! Prepare for the spectacular, especially at sunset.
Thumbs up, too, for little inspirations that surround the beach.
Look for the diminutive stone shrine, The Oratoire de Saint-Guirec,
weather-beaten, covered by water during high tide, naked during low.
It has some impressive local lore to go with it -- typical of
the ancient stone survivors of Brittany.
Allegedly, Saint-Guirec, pulled by heavenly angels, landed on this beach.
A pretty little shrine honors this feat --- which, naturally, has magic to spare.
Legend has it that if you tweak his nose, you'll soon find a husband.
Match.com, you've met your match..... and then some.
After all, religion and superstition have long played happily
side by side throughout this primitive land.
And once you're married and living happily ever after, your sea-faring
husband will be protected by the same saint who lured him
into your arms with the tweak of his nose.
But I will wager the Pink Granite Coast should be
at or near the top of the list for natural beauty.
If you're looking for a sparkling nightlife or glitzy boutiques, don't bother.
This is all about rugged nature and the great outdoors, fresh air and natural history.
Truly, it's a spot that's one in a million, a real treat.
We took a boat from Perros-Guirec, bound for nearby les Sept-Iles,
the most important bird sanctuary in all of France.
It was fun to see the granite coast from a different perspective and even better
as we approached the world famous bird refuge.
The hump backed island looked like it was covered in snow -- but as we got closer, we realized the white-as-snow atoll was not some freak of nature.
This reserve is literally sheathed in birds -- nesting, carefree, self-governing feathered creatures, including gannets, kittiwakes and guillemots.
In fact, well over 25 different species find safe harbor here.
The highlight of our bird peeping adventure came with the help of a generous Norwegian couple who helped us get an eyeful with their fancy professional gear. Puffins -- adorable, magical, colorful showoffs -- were at play all along the coast.
Colonies of these winsome exhibitionists made the adventure
one for the books and ever so grateful for this unique opportunity.
We even spotted a couple of small gray seals,
a thrill for we landlubbers from the U.S. interior.
If you think bird-watching is just an activity for stuffy old retirees, think again.
Witnessing the safe harbor of thousands of seabirds is as thrilling
as watching"Star Wars" for the very first time -- Don't miss this chance.
is equal in the drama department.
The Ile de Bréhat is as striking an escape from the real world as you can get.
Often called Flower Island, this garden of green pulsates with beautiful blooms.
But for my money, its most powerful characteristic are not the gorgeous blooms
that envelop the entire island nor the ebb and tide of water
that sometimes separate the islets from one another.
Rather, it's the absolute and perfect quiet of the place -- a resolute rest for the ears.
This island is entirely car free -- and carefree -- a duet that's emotionally powerful. The occasional cry of a seagull is about the loudest sound you'll hear,
a feat and a treat that proved to be absolutely magical.
But back to those flowers!
My husband called this the Island of Doctor Moreau.
No, there's no diabolical plot like the movie of the same title,
but the island definitely seems to be blessed with some form of extraterrestrial
vegetation that you'd never expect in the real world.
The micro-climate somehow transforms everything that grows into
gigantic visions of green everywhere you turn.
Camelias, agapanthus, palm trees, eucalyptus, hydrangeas -- you name it,
they're growing taller and more robust than you can ever imagine.
Rose covered houses and nature paths complete the perfect picture.
Just make sure you watch the tide -- because the path you've taken
might be lost once the water edges back up.
The Ile de Bréhat is actually two islands connected by a little bridge.
This is the perfect spot to enjoy a break, perhaps savor one of the most satisfying
Breton treats -- crèpes -- or if that doesn't strike your fancy,
go for a mile-high seafood platter.
And just be.
Sometimes that's more than enough.
ask where they like to go for a great escape.
France is a big and beautiful country.
But I would guess, at least half of the time, the answer will be Brittany.
I encourage you to experience as much of this paradise as you can.
And I'm hoping, after seeing these pretty pictures, you'll be tempted to begin
in the locale where the rocks are pink and the crèpes brown and crispy.