If you love all things arty then head out on the new Traversée moderne d'un vieux pays, a tourist route crossing Brittany from Nantes to Mont St Michel. Buy the €36 pass to visit lots of attractions along the way...
The new route, which translates as a 'modern journey of an old country', unites four stunning, historic and artistic cities from the south to the north coast: Nantes, Saint Nazaire, Rennes and St Malo. Along the way, you'll also visit some of Brittany's most beautiful natural environments too.
Whilst you can follow the 12 steps of the route whenever, for this summer you can buy a €36 travel pass to visit several attractions along the route. Available to buy until 31 August for use until 18 November, it's a great way to explore some of the area's top attractions.
Brittany's former capital is a spectacular place to start off your journey. Nantes is definitely the place to be for those who love creativity and innovation especially during the summer when the Voyage à Nantes really brings this vibrant city alive.
Voyage à Nantes
2018 sees the seventh edition of the festival hit the streets of Nantes with playful artworks hiding out all around the city. This time round, there's 54 installations - around half are new and half are permanent exhibitions from previous years such as the Paysage Glissé, a fun slide down the outside of the Château de Ducs de Bretagne.
You can find out more in my previous post about Voyage à Nantes 2018.
Château des Ducs de Bretagne
A beautiful building made from the white tufa stone for which the Loire is famed, this striking chateau was the home of the Dukes of Brittany when Nantes was the regional capital. Today, inside is the Musée d'Histoire de Nantes where you can uncover the history of the city including its ties to the slave trade, its role in the Revolution and how it coped during the world wars. Entry is completely free with the pass.
Musée d'Arts de Nantes
Reopened last year after 6 years of renovations, Nantes' fine arts museum has one of the largest collections in all of France. With masterpieces by de la Tour, Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Kadinsky, Ernst and many other artists, the museum has a great selection of both older and more contemporary atworks.
Head to the newly built Cube to discover the contemporary exhibitions whilst in the main building you'll find artwork from the 13th century onwards - in fact, the museum's collection is the only one in France to have such a large range of art, outside of Paris. Again, enjoy this museum for free with your travel pass.
Machines de l'Ile
Where Leonardo da Vinci meets Jules Verne in an incredible mix of machinery and fantastical imagination. Nantes is Verne's hometown and his legacy lives on in the marvellous creations that come out of the Machines de l'Ile. The Grand Elephant that strides up and down the quayside is just one of the wonderful mechanical creatures to emerge from its workshop.
The pass gives you free entry to the Galerie des Machines or visit the majestic Carousel des Mondes Marines instead.
Head down to the estuary of the Loire to spot some other fascinating artworks that have been place permanently throughout the area. Spot a part-submerged house in the water, a Dali-esque boat dripping down a seawall and even a giant sea serpent.
Famed for its shipyard where ocean liners were built, Saint Nazaire has a remarkable history so it's well worth having a day trip here. Popular during the Belle Epoque, it was also used by the Germans as a submarine base during WW2, which you can now visit.
Escal'Atlantic is a museum to Saint Nazaire's past inside the former submarine pen of the German WW2 base in Saint Nazaire. The museum brings to life the experience of travelling, and working, on one of the grand ocean liners that made the town's name such as SS Normandie and SS France. You can get a discount on entry with the pass.
Be sure to check out the exhibition of artist Krijn de Koning that's running until 23 September at Life as well.
Whilst there is so much to see in the towns and cities, don't miss some of the enchanting landscapes that this part of France has to offer. La Brière marshes are a beautiful area to explore so head for Saint-Malo-de-Guersac in the heart of the marshlands for a walking trail through this charming scenery.
Then, at the crossroads of the Nantes-Brest canal, check out a stunning 360 degree view from Fégréac where a wooden gazebo, created by Russian artist Nicolas Polissky, provides the perfect vantage point.
Discover some of the best-preserved medieval half-timber buildings in the world in Rennes' old town. But it's not all about the past with modern buildings such as the Champs Libres and Le Mabilay standing high against the skyline too. The palatial Parlement de Bretagne is also an unmissable sight.
At the Musée de Beaux Arts and the Jacobin Convent artworks from the Pinault Collection, one of the most important collections of contemporary artworks in the world, are on display until 9 September. Enjoy free entry with the pass.
On your way to the next town on the tour, St Malo, stop off at Hédé-Bazouges along the Ille-et-Rance canal that links the two places together. With wooded trails along the towpath, it's a lovely area to get some fresh air and enjoy the surrounding greenery.
Bécherel is also a pleasant place to stop off. It's a quaint town with lots of character where you'll find second-hand booksellers and ateliers operating out of the former houses of nobles and merchants. A walk along the ramparts leads to gardens and hidden squares as well as a view of the surrounding countryside.
Our port town of St Malo is perfect territory for those with a rebellious and adventurous spirit. With its history of pirates and poets, this distinctive town has been home to some enterprising and illustrious individuals including the privateer, Robert Surcouf. Travel between Dinan and St Malo for free by using the 'bus de mer' boat shuttle included in the pass.
Before reaching St Malo on the coast, head to Dinan where the river Rance passes through this picturesque medieval town. Wander its cobbled streets like so many writers and artists before you - Chateaubriand, Hugo , Proust and Turner among them. It's like stepping back in time.
At Plouër-sur-Rance are some striking artworks crafted by Denis Monfleur who, taking inspiration from the regions megaliths, carves his work in granite and rock. It's the sixth year running that art has been installed along the Rance at natural and historic landmarks in the area.
You can also enjoy a discount on entry to the Malouinière de la Ville-Bague in Saint Coulomb, just outside of St Malo. These types of houses grew up in the area thanks to the money to be made trading (and raiding) out of St Malo by merchants and privateers.
Mont St Michel
One of France's most well-known monuments with millions of visitors every year, the Mont St Michel is a World Heritage Site. With the travel pass, however, you can see it after the crowds leave with free entry to the mont at night.
Concerts and other cultural events happen throughout the summer and the abbey itself looks stunning all lit up. Stay the night and enjoy a delicious evening meal at one of the mont's charming restaurants.
To find out more about Traversées moderne d'un vieux pays and buy your €36 travel pass visit voyage-en-bretagne.com. You can also pick one up at the tourist offices in Nantes, Saint Nazaire, Rennes and St Malo.