Ramparts around the old town of Vannes in Morbihan, Southern Brittany

Ramparts surrounding the old town of Vannes

George East”s latest book “French Impressions – Brittany” was published several months ago. I read and enjoyed the book and thought it would be a great idea (with George”s permission) to publish passages from the book here, in a series that we are calling “On the trail of George East”. The excerpts are George”s opinions of places in Brittany that he has visited and we would like you, our readers, to add your comments, letting us know if you agree or disagree with George.

The latest excerpt is George”s view of Vannes, a small town on the edge of the Golfe of Morbihan in Brittany…

Going on our first inspection, Vannes has all the virtues I found missing at Lorient.

Founded by the Romans, it is satisfyingly ancient, which is always a good start. The old centre has also not been mucked about with. It has a proper working inland port, and the surrounding area is nicely ungentrified. From at least one direction, the town is easy to get in and out of. A nice touch and further echo of an old English university town is the cycle scheme, with ranks of bikes for borrowing at strategic points. There is a nice wrought-iron bandstand near the river, and, like a bike scheme that survives without them all being nicked, I always find that a good indicator of sophistication levels.

Like many towns that we find attractive, Vannes looks a bit like several smaller dwelling places joined at the edges, which means you can go to the area that matches your mood. There are some beautifully landscapes gardens alongside the castle, and some interesting road layout patterns. I had heard that the rules of the roads surrounding the old quarter were unusual (“insane” was the exact term) and we twice found ourselves following street marking which led to nowhere but a sheer wall. On the third occasion, we did what we thought we were told, and ended up in the ancient pedestrianised area of old Vannes.

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