It’s hard to believe we’ve only been in Rennes for two months. Hasn’t it been much longer? We’ve been very active, and we’ve paid the price. We got worn down, and feel a bit tired, but overall we are happy at what we’ve seen and done. I have my favorite café, market stalls, craft beer pub, Tunisian patisserie, photo shop and cider maker. Not far from Rennes we have our preferred beach, canal walks and fish soup restaurant.
Our main objective in spending time here was to explore smaller, less expensive and cooler (in terms of temperatures) alternatives to Nice and we succeeded. We now know they exist, and that Rennes is a good candidate. So is Nantes. And furthermore, we realize there are many such candidates if we only look. Might we become as enchanted by the Occitanie if we spend a summer there? So many smaller French cities, so little time and money.
What we like about Rennes/Nantes:
- smaller, less complicated to get around and manage
- lots of countryside and natural spaces nearby
- gorgeous coastline nearby in three directions
- cooler summers
- beautiful old and new architecture
- very friendly people
- relatively safe
- city populations are younger than those on the Riviera, and feel more energetic, on the move
- good airports
What makes us nervous about settling in Rennes:
- fewer cultural offerings to our liking (only one movie theater with films in original language, not dubbed)
- smaller social circle
- winter weather
Our social circle in Rennes is very small, and social capital is an important criteria for where to settle. We do know one couple, Ruth and John, who helped make us feel more than welcome and at home, guiding us through various bureaucratic processes (btw, we are now official residents of France) and pointing us to choice events.
We met a few friendly expats in Nantes, and a local French woman with whom we’ll stay in touch. At least that’s a start, just in case.
It’s worth remembering that we have been under the spell of unusually fine weather, even for summer, during this stay. The normal is more rain and cooler temperatures. If we were to spend January and February here, we might feel less reluctant to leave.
No question, we have formed an attachment to Brittany. I am certain we will return, for a summer or for longer.
Such an informative, enlightening entry,, Kathleen. Thanks for your candor, your clarity. Enjoy your new surroundings. Hugs to you and David.
so glad you liked Rennes — i absolutely adored Brittany and loved to go there when i wanted to get away from paris and the city. I used to pretend i was descended from Anne of Brittany. i remember feeling a bit afraid that crossing to mont st michel many times hoping i made it before high tide — i’d vote for rennes/nantes myself — but see what happens on this grand adventure! you both are such good travelers – you really know how to live!…. all the best,.ann
You were at Mont St. Michel in the wonder years. We went on a weekday last week and left shortly thereafter. Too crowded, too touristy.
oh my crowded!– yes the wonder years — i went there purposefully as i didn’t think people were going to that area — i think i was almost the only one crossing to mont st michel most of the times
There’s no place like France. Rennes, as you say, is only one of so many. Keep the impressions coming! Can’t wait to hear your impressions of Nice in the winter!
Hopefully it won’t be too rainy!
We will be adding both Nantes and Rennes to our lengthy list of “must see” towns in France. About the weather: the winter in Bordeaux can be rainy and damp, like Vancouver, i.e., a place to avoid during the chilly months. Perhaps it is the same, and worse, in Bretagne? A query: do you have a checklist of criteria to help in deciding which towns are worthy of a protracted stay? In the meantime, keep on travelling and posting!
Hi, Ian. I don’t have a checklist, but I would choose Rennes if you plan a lot of day trips. It is much closer to St. Malo, Dinan, Dinard, Mont St. Michel, Cap Frehel and the Granite Coast than Nantes. There are also wonderful villages and small towns nearby to see like Rochefort-en-Terre, and lots of chateaux. Then there’s the canal, with lovely walkways at Josselin and Onze Ecluses. However, Nantes is worth a couple of days on its own, for its Chateau, cathedral, estuary boat trip and all around beauty.
Loved St Malo when I visited there in 2015. Could one survive in Brittany on only high school French? Seemed like less people spoke English.
Yes, you can, if you are just visiting. More and more speak English, especially in the more touristy areas.