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  • A short cruise across the Channel

    On my recent trip to Brittany the ferry was very busy with both vehicles and foot passengers. Hardly surprising, as people stranded by the flight ban were, of course, taking to the sea instead.On my recent trip to Brittany the ferry was very busy with both vehicles and foot passengers. Hardly surprising, as people stranded by the flight ban were, of course, taking to the sea instead. Sea travel seems normal to me as I once lived on a Greek island and had to get a boat to go anywhere, but I was still reminded of just how easy and pleasant it is. On our outward journey from Portsmouth to Le Havre with LD Ferries we travelled overnight and managed to sleep well in calm seas. For the return we allowed time to stop in gorgeous Honfleur and resisted an expensive harbour view to enjoy one of those typically fantastic French lunches at a little restaurant called Relais des Cyclistes, close to the tourist information office. I can heartily recommend the set menu of three generous courses for just 12.50 euro, made all the more delectable for being eaten outside in warm sunshine. Once on board, the five hour crossing seemed to fly by. We found a nice sheltered spot on the top deck, watched the port and town disappear, dozed in warm sunshine, came inside, chatted and played cards and watched a glorious sunset across the sea. Ferry companies report increased bookings this summer after the ash crisis and no doubt train services to France will be popular too. If you’ve never tried these alternatives to flying, perhaps now is the time to –er- take the plunge?
  • A visit to Dinan in Brittany - Photo Friday 18 June 2010

    On a recent trip to France I stopped off in the medieval town of Dinan having heard that it was a place well worth a visit.

  • Activity holidays – added value for visitors and property owners in France

    Activity holidays have become very popular among visitors to France, not least because many take several breaks a year and are looking for a new experience each time. This is a great time of year for all sorts of activities in France from arts, crafts and photography to French language, from golf, fishing or cycling to therapies and relaxation. The weather is warming up, the countryside is fresh and beautiful and the evenings are long.

    An activity holiday is so easy at a gite or self-catering house, where all members of the group can mix and match the way they spend their days with flexibility. Many breaks are offered by owners who started with a desire to pass on their own passion or hobby. As an owner of  French holiday let, what could you do?

    That’s the question asked in the May-June issue of Britmag, the popular magazine aimed at British residents in North West France  and among the answers is advice from our own Glynis Shaw, joint MD of French Connections.

    Glynis gives her own five top tips for running successful activity holidays in the article, which also features French Connections auberge Le Mesnil at Creances, Normandy. Here, owners Jan and Dave Tarbuck offer B&B along with painting holidays. The tutor is Joe Cousin (shown in our photo), a well known local artist whose paintings have been purchased by the Beckhams, Caron Keating and members of the Arsenal and Chelsea football teams.

    Britmag is available at French supermarkets with a press section and at “Marchands de journaux” in towns with substantial British populations in Basse-Normandie, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire.

  • Adventures in Brittany

    This time next week I shall be exploring new French territory for me – the land and seascape of Brittany.This time next week I shall be exploring new French territory for me – the land and seascape of Brittany. Another first is my method of travel, as I’m going with a friend in her camper van, the whimsically named Mazda Bongo. Our adventure has been easy to organise. We booked a crossing overnight from Portsmouth to Le Havre and searched this site for Brittany B&Bs and hotels on a map. We’ll use those for overnight stops and our home on wheels for lunch and tea breaks. We’ve driven through France together before and know that my friend is good at route planning and navigation while I’m more confident at speaking French - and that we both like markets, harbours, churches, views and history, so we’re optimistic that all will be well. Luckily, we also both love French food and wine! I really enjoy Cornwall so I’m sure I’ll appreciate the rocky coastline and wide open spaces, the sense of an ancient land whose spirit and traditions survive. Our ultimate destination is the medieval town of Vannes and the prehistory of Carnac, with its miles of standing stone and Megalithic wonders. Carnac is on the Golfe de Morbihan, which boasts gorgeous islands, wild beaches, a seabird sanctuary and a mild micro-climate. Brittany, here we come!
  • An unusual weight-loss weekend in France

    An innovative strategy to start losing weight can now be combined with a luxury weekend in Brittany.  The non-invasive virtual gastric banding therapy is available during a three-night stay, commencing 30th March 2012, at La Longère, a boutique B&B retreat in a restored 18th century farmhouse with log fires and a jacuzzi. La Longère sits in an acre of tranquil countryside close to the village of Languidic in southern Brittany and handy for exploring sandy beaches, historic towns and the standing stones of Carnac.

  • August family saver fares on Brittany Ferries

    Brittany Ferries is offering 7 days in France for a car plus four people for £259 return during August - but you must book by 9th August

  • Banish those Winter Blues!

    With Christmas well and truly behind us and an icy start to the New Year, we thought what better way to banish our winter blues than booking an early summer break.As Brittany was so perfect last time round, we thought we would plump for the region again, but venture slightly further into the department of Finistere. Late May/early June has always offered reliably good weather, both in Britain and abroad and co-incides with school holidays. Also being just out of season, it makes an affordable alternative to the peak summer breaks. With the villa now booked, we can turn our attentions to the warmer climate that awaits us in May/June and close our curtains to the snow and ice!
  • Beat the crowds, see the wedding and enjoy the long break at a holiday home in France

    Around one fifth of the British workforce will be looking to escape the UK for the long Easter and bank holiday break. But many will also want to avoid battling through the major airports or missing the big wedding.

  • Brittany Mussel Soup

    In this blog, a trip to Dinard in Brittany and a delicious recipe for Mussel soup.

    A short break to France is welcome at any time of year and November is no exception as there is much to do and see in many regions. We had a refreshing break in Brittany recently which was very much needed and I would say has revitalised me completely. Yes, just a short break in France is enough to charge my batteries for a while.  The coastal scenery in Brittany along with the heritage of castles, churches and historic towns and villages is what makes it such a wonderful place to visit. Along with the splendid sea food it is perfect heaven for me.

    We stayed near Dinard which is a former fishing village in the north east coast of Brittany. It is so pretty there and is a great place for a holiday. It has a mild climate and it is said by many to be very much like the Côte d’Azur. In fact it is often called the ‘Nice of the North’ as it is compared to the beautiful city of Nice in the South of France.

    We were very happy spending our time simply strolling around and taking in the ambience. This is my idea of a relaxing break. Doing what you want when you want and not having any restrictions. I did miss our little Jack Russell though and he is the reason for the break being short!

    Dinard has several beaches, Plage de L’Ecluse being the most famous. It is ideal for family holidays as the kids will love the beaches and there are some lovely walks along the bays which we enjoy, taking in the sea air and brushing off the cob-webs.

    I love the markets wherever we go in France and Dinard is no exception as they have a market each Thursday and Sunday which are popular with tourists as well as the local people.  They have such a wealth of fresh foods and specialities and if you are self catering you will have good food for your family for the week.

    Some of the specialities of Brittany are of course are crepes or little pancakes which you will find everywhere. They are delicious with either sweet or savoury fillings so the choice is yours to enjoy.

    Brittany is also famous for its fresh fish and shell fish and is France’s most productive fishing region. One of my favourite shell fish are mussels and from October to March they are at their best. They are often cooked in traditional ways in Brittany, usually in wine or cream and they may be cooked in cider too.

    We had a trip over to St Mont Michel’s bay where they are famous for their mussels. When the tide goes out in the bay you can see the ‘stakes’ as far as the eyes can see where they grow the mussels. These are called bouchots and there are over thirty two thousand of them – so I was told.

    They are extremely high quality mussels and they are very proud of the fact that this year they were awarded protected origin status by the EU and so supporting producers and protecting the reputations of their local foods.

    They were awarded an  Appellation d'origine Controlee (AOC) in 2006. The AOC is usually bestowed upon a food, usually a wine or a cheese, however, the St Michel Bay mussels are the first seafood to be awarded the French “appellation” label. This award only applies to the mussels from St Michel’s Bay.

    Mussels are a very healthy sea food, slightly salty in flavour and full of iron and calcium. They also contain vitamin b12 and omega3 fish oils which we hear a great deal about these days as they are so good for us.

    I can remember my grandmother telling us to eat our fish as it was good for our brains! It seems she was quite right as now it has been researched and they say that the omega 3 fish oils are so good for the health of our brains as well as our teeth and bones etc.  Research now indicates that they help with mood levels so if you suffer from depression eating oily fish may well help with this. They say we are not getting enough of the omega3 fish oils nowadays as we once did.

    Apart from the research, I just love sea food so have no problem when it comes to any recipes with the fruits of the sea. Many people are afraid to cook mussels and are not sure if they are going to end up with food poisoning. Well, this is very rare and if you only buy them in the winter months, or from October to March you should be ok.

    You will need to buy about 1 pint of mussels for each person for a first course which may seem a lot but when shelled the mussels are very small. When you buy them, make sure they are tightly closed. Any that are open do not buy. If you do find any are open when you get them home – throw them away.

    Wash them well in a bowl full of cold water. If any of them float to the top throw them away. Rinse several times, scrape of any bits of barnacles and trim off the little hairy beards. Leave them in a bowl of clean water until you are ready to cook them. After cooking it is important to throw away those that have not opened.

    If you do manage to get away to France this month I hope you enjoy your stay and get to eat some of these wonderful shell fish. I have an easy recipe for cooking mussels which should please all the family and it makes a great starter if you are entertaining. If you are still worried about cooking mussels you can cheat and buy ready cooked mussels in many good supermarkets. Either way you will have a lovely warming winter soup.

    Mussel Soup
    Serves 4 for a starter

    Ingredients

    • 3 pints (about 7 cups) small mussels
    • 2oz, (4 level tablespoons) butter
    • 4oz, (115gm) onions chopped finely
    • 8oz, (230gm) ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
    • 8 tablespoons dry white wine
    • Black pepper
    • Parsley, chopped for garnish.

    Method

    • Clean the mussels well by scrubbing and scraping them in several changes of cold water. (Throw away any that do not shut tightly!)
    • Fry the chopped onion in a heavy bottomed pan, in the melted butter, until soft and golden.
    • Pour the wine into the onions
    • Add the chopped tomatoes
    • Boil for one minute
    • Add the mussels, cover the pan and cook quickly for about five minutes, shaking the pan until the mussels open
    • Remove the shells as they open
    • Place the mussels in a serving bowl immediately with the liquid strained over them.
    • Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

    This is a fabulous soup with a wonderful flavour of the sea. It is delicious served with crusty French bread spread with creamy French butter.

  • Complete guide to the Tour de France now published

    'Tour' is a fat, glossy magazine with fabulous photos and all the low-down on the 2011 Tour de France - and it features French Connections places to stay close to the Tour locations.'Tour' is described as the ultimate fans' guide to the great race. It includes exclusive interviews with Bradley Wiggins, the great British rider and Geraint Thomas, the Welsh superhero, and gives tips on bikes and equipment for cycling enthusiasts.  There is a complete rundown on the stages, teams, favourites and bikes and a detailed stage analysis by Chris Boardman.

    An article on 'Grand Tourism' reminds readers that going to France to watch the action unfold is an unbeatable experience with the bonus of riding some of the race's legendary routes.  Among the suggested places to stay are French Connections' Old Salt House in Port Launay, Brittany (ID 152560), Grange du Devezou in the Auvergne (ID 154964) and some 300 properties within 30 miles of Serre-Chevalier for the Alps stage.