Brittany Travel Tips from Audrey Le Goff, French Food Writer

Conversations with Locals

Audrey Le Goff is a French food writer at Pardon Your French and the author of Rustic French Cooking Made Easy. Audrey talks buckwheat crepes, the proper French greeting and Brittany’s rainy weather.

Photo: Pardon Your French

What do you feel defines the cuisine in Brittany? 

To understand Brittany cuisine, you have to understand its land. Brittany is a peninsula extending into the Atlantic Ocean. On one side, L’Armor (the sea) provides an abundance of fish, seafood and shellfish, which are all prominent on Brittany’s tables. On the other side, L’Argoat (the inland) has rich soil fields and a mild climate prone to growing sturdy produce like artichoke and cauliflower, root vegetables, apples and a wealth of buckwheat – a star ingredient of Brittany cuisine.

With a strong farming heritage, Brittany is also known for its excellent meat and dairy production: milk, cream and amazing butter which gives way to lots of very buttery baked goods. Compared to the idea of what most people have of French cuisine, Brittany cuisine is far more rustic, humble and often focuses on the taste rather than the look. Simple techniques, uncomplex dishes, no fancy pastries… It’s all about celebrating the sea and the land, honouring the local ingredients and keeping things laid-back.

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Brittany without trying? 

Crêpes, of course. But make sure to go for the authentic savoury buckwheat crêpes. Those made with wheat flour are only meant to be enjoyed with sweet fillings, for dessert. When dining at a crêperie, order a crêpe complete. The most classic buckwheat crêpe filled with ham, cheese and egg. For the whole Breton experience, eat it alongside a glass of cider, plus a mug of lait ribot (the local buttermilk).

That said, you can’t leave Brittany either without trying a kouign-amann or a gâteau breton.

Photo: Pardon Your French

What about your favourite restaurants?

I am partial to my hometown Lorient which has a good dining screne, including great restaurants like Le Tire Bouchon, L’Alsace à Quai, Le 26-28 and Le Jardin Gourmand. Although sadly, my absolute favourite local crêperie La Rose Des Sables did not survive the Covid-19 lockdown and permanently closed just last week. Local chef Jérôme Le Teuff makes great chocolates and pastries. When living in Rennes during my university years, my favourites spots were Crêperie St Georges and the crêperie La Rozell. But do know that just as important as the restaurants are, markets are equally as important in Brittany. The Lices Market in Rennes on Saturdays, is one of France’s most bountiful markets. Here you will find the best galettes saucisses – an iconic street food in Brittany – which are buckwheat crêpes wrapped around pork sausages.

Photo: Pardon Your French

Name one best kept secret of Brittany

I think my hometown Lorient is one of Brittany’s newest best kept secrets. Up until a few years ago, Lorient didn’t have a great reputation and never struck as a must-see site. The town was almost entirely bombed during WWII and re-built in the 50s and 60s with quite plain, unappealing architecture. Forget cobbled streets and medieval charm. But recently, Lorient has experienced a wonderful revival, with plenty of tasteful renovations, new restaurants, and a major new sailing hub attracting sailors from worldwide. It is today an attractive sea-side town with marinas, beautiful surfing beaches and lots of bars and cafes. And because this revival is quite recent, Lorient still isn’t as touristy as other sea-side towns, which makes it even more enjoyable for a relaxing stay in Brittany.

Name one French etiquette most travellers miss

Well, of course this rule doesn’t apply anymore in the Covid-19 era, but in France, kissing on the cheek is the proper way to greet someone, even between two male or female friends. Don’t try to hug or you’ll likely get pushed back in bewilderment. Hugs are perceived as a quite intrusive gesture, and you will never see people hugging to say hi, except lovers. To make things even trickier, you’ll need to judge how many kisses should you bestow, as the number can vary from one French region to the other. Four kisses in the South, three in the North and in Brittany, it’s two.

What’s the perfect itinerary to explore Brittany? 

Brittany is a large region with incredibly varied landscape, so try to see a bit of it all. Start with Rennes, the capital and biggest city of Brittany, which has an exciting cultural scene and a lively medievel old quarter with lots of typical taverns. After that, venture in-land to experience a more bucolic Brittany living. There a plenty of small medieval cities in-land such as Dinan, La Gacilly, Locronan, or Pont-Aven that’ll make you feel like you stepped back in time. The city of Quimper is also a must-see, with cobbled streets and superb slanted half-timbered houses – traditional Breton architecture. Lastly, and most absolutely, head to the coastline. I would recommend a stay in Carnac on the Southern coast, home to beautiful beaches and an impressive Megalithic site; or a stay in the walled city of St-Malo on the Northern coast, filled with history and pirate legends.

What is one travel tip you would give to travellers heading to Brittany? 

Definitely pack a rain jacket. Brittany is known for its changing weather and iconic crachin breton (Breton drizzle). The cliché of Breton people wearing thick blue stripes sweaters and yellow rain coats exists for a reason. Even in the Summer, you can get rain and wind on a daily basis. But don’t let the weather stop you! I actually think a hike on a craggy coastal path is far more typically Breton when done under a drizzle and gusts of wind.

Where is the perfect weekend getaway in Brittany?

Brittany’s coast has islands aplenty, and they all make for the perfect weekend getaway. Belle Île, Brittany’s biggest island, Ouessant or Île-de-Bréhat are popular islands with stunning beaches and untouched nature. But my personal favourite is perhaps l’Ile de Groix, off the coast of Lorient. It is a tiny huddle of slow-living, accessible by a 45 minutes ferry ride from Lorient. It offers tall cliffs on the north side of the island and a famous beach of turquoise water on the east side, called Les Grands Sables, that’ll make you feel like you are in the Caribbean. You can eat amazing mussels and frites at Port Tudy, the island’s main town, while watching the fishing boats entering and exiting the harbour. If you’re like me, you’ll never want to leave.

WHERE TO EAT IN BRITTANY


Le Tire Bouchon
Where: 45 Rue Jules le Grand, 56100 Lorient, France
For: Traditional French cuisine

L’Alsace à Quai
Where: 19 cours de la Bove, 56100 Lorient France
For: Fish and chips

Le 26-28
Where: 26 Rue Poissonnière, 56100 Lorient, France
For: Contemporary seasonal cuisine

Le Jardin Gourmand
Where: 46 rue Jules Simon, 56100 Lorient France
For: Well-dressed dinners

Pâtisserie Jérôme Le Teuff
Where: 4 Rue Joseph Rollo, 56100 Lorient, France
For: Chocolates and pastries

Crêperie St Georges
Where: 11 Rue du Chapitre 35000 Rennes, France
For: Crêpes
 
La Rozell
Where: 14 Rue de Penhoët, 35000 Rennes, France
For: Crêpes
 
Lices Market
Where: 3 Place du Bas des Lices, 35000 Rennes, France
For: Galettes saucisses

WHERE TO GO IN BRITTANY

Lorient
Where: 56100 Lorient, France
For: Beaches for surfing and an up-and-coming dining scene

Rennes
Where: Rennes, France
For: Culture

Quimper
Where: 29000 Quimper, France
For: Traditional Breton architecture

Carnac
Where: 56340 Carnac, France
For: Beaches and the coast

St-Malo
Where: Saint-Malo, France
For: Beaches

l’Ile de Groix
Where: Groix, France
For: Weekend getaways

Paris Travel Tips from Lindsey Tramuta, Parisian Journalist

Conversations with Locals

Having lived in Paris for more than a decade, ailurophile Lindsey Tramuta is well-versed in the ins and outs of the city and chronicles her Parisian life on her blog. She is a writer for Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times. Lindsey talks about why you should skip Chartier, where to get the best pastries in Paris, and about the museum you can’t miss. 

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Photo: Joann Pai

What do you feel defines Parisian cuisine?

Parisian cuisine today isn’t hemmed in by Escoffier, heritage or ethnocentrism but rather an openness to outside influences and cultures. The food scene has never been so refreshingly diverse.

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Paris without trying? 

As a pastry fanatic, I’m keen to cite a handful of exquisite desserts or treats. The chocolate and pistachio escargot from Du Pain et Des Idées, the Lily Valley from Carl Marletti, the ricotta cheesecake with seasonal fruit from Acide which is also available at Fou de Pâtisserie, the Ispahan croissant from Pierre Hermé, sablés from Bontemps Pâtisserie. As you can see, it’s impossible to narrow the selection to just one speciality!

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Bontemps Pâtisserie. Photo: Lindsey Tramuta

What about your favourite restaurants?

Many of them are concentrated on the east side of town – Tannat, Le 52, Anahi, Le Richer, Café Méricourt, La Fontaine de Belleville. But I do have a few favourites elsewhere – Kitchen Ter(re) on the left bank and Balagan near the Tuileries Gardens to name a couple. 

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Café Méricourt. Photo: Lindsey Tramuta

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Kitchen Ter(re). Photo: Lindsey Tramuta

Name one Parisian dining etiquette most travellers miss

Making a concerted effort to speak French, at least greeting restaurant staff in French. It isn’t all that difficult to show them you’re trying your best.

What is one travel tip you would give to travellers heading to Paris?

Go beyond the obvious. My book dives into so many other neighbourhoods that are worth exploring. 

Name one best kept secret of Paris

The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. It’s in all the guidebooks and yet it never seems to earn the attention it deserves. It’s unusual, for one – it’s the hunting and nature museum. On top of that, it feels like a cabinet of animal curiosities. It’s fascinating! 

What do you feel are the most common misconceptions about Paris?

There are two – that it’s a city that never changes and that Parisians are unfriendly. I’ve had plenty of chilly service in London and New York! 

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Photo: Lindsey Tramuta

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Photo: Lindsey Tramuta

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Paris

Please please please stay away from Chartier off the Grands Boulevards. Go to Bouillon Pigalle instead. Chartier has terrible quality food, comically poor service, but because it’s an institution, it still gets traction. 

What’s your favourite day trip to take from the city? 

I love going to Chantilly for the day, walking around the gardens and visiting the Château

What should travellers bring home with them from Paris?

Something French! The new gourmet food hall from Printemps department store, called Printemps Du Goût, offers a selection of 100% French products so you can be sure to take home something, whether it’s caramelised hazelnuts from the south of France or a small jar of regional honey, truly unique. 

WHERE TO EAT IN PARIS


Du Pain et Des Idées
Where: 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
For: Chocolate and pistachio escargots

Acide Macaron
Where: 24 Rue des Moines, 75017 Paris, France
For: Ricotta cheesecakes with seasonal fruit

Carl Marletti
Where: 51 Rue Censier, 75005 Paris, France
For: The Lily Valley cake

Pierre Hermé
Where: 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France (and others) 
For: Ispahan croissants

Bontemps Pâtisserie
Where: 57 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
For: Sablés

Tannat
Where: 119 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, France
For: French fusion food

Le 52
Where: 52 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris, France
For: Tradtional french food 

Anahi
Where: 49 Rue Volta, 75003 Paris, France
For: Argentinian food

Le Richer
Where: 2 Rue Richer, 75009 Paris, France
For: Bistro food

Café Méricourt
Where: 22 Rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 Paris, France
For: Brunch

La Fontaine de Belleville
Where: 31-33 Rue Juliette Dodu, 75010 Paris, France
For: Breakfast

Kitchen Ter(re)
Where: 26 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris, France
For: Set menus

Balagan
Where: 9 Rue d’Alger, 75001 Paris, France
For: Shakshuka

Bouillon Pigalle
Where: 22 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France
For: French food
 

WHERE TO GO IN PARIS


Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
Where: 62 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris, France
For: Museums
Printemps Du Goût
Where: 21-25 Cours de Vincennes, 75020 Paris, France
For: Local French products
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Paris Travel Tips from Alex, Youtube Chef of French Guy Cooking

Conversations with Locals

Alexis Gabriel is the man behind the Youtube channel French Guy Cooking, where he showcases his food hacks and cheat sheets to classic French recipes. The witty Parisian reveals where to find the ultimate croissant, his favourite view of the city (it’s not from the Eiffel Tower), and what “l’art de vivre” is to him. 

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Photo: French Guy Cooking

 

What do you feel defines Parisian cuisine?

The Parisian cuisine has got to be associated with the restaurants. From a humble but decent café where you can have a sandwich at the counter, to a busy brasserie where you’ll get an entrecôte with french fries, then to a bistrot where you’ll be dining out of hearty modernised dishes, to finally a Michelin starred restaurant which will always remain a proud icon in our city.

What do you feel are the most common misconceptions about French food? 

People see French food as a posh, high-end and overcomplicated affair. And I believe it is not their fault but ours. Expensive ingredients, chef’s whites, the white table setting and expensive silverware can be appealing, but in my opinion it can be repulsive.

How is Parisian cuisine different from other parts of France?

Paris takes influences from all around the country, so you can taste many different and authentic French specialities in the city. But Paris also takes influences from all over the world. Being an international capital, this city sucks in all the latest food trends that can be found, be it from Asia, Africa or America.

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Photo: French Guy Cooking

 

Which parts of Paris is the best for food?

I believe the East of Paris, especially the 11th arrondissement, produces the best food. This is not based on any kind of fact, but on something arbitrary – I was born there! (laughs)

What are some local food you feel travellers can’t leave Paris without trying?

Don’t leave without trying a baguette; go for a traditional baguette. Also, the jambon-beurre sandwich, which is the most classic Parisian sandwich you’ll find. If you feel adventurous, go for the raw steak tartare.

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Pastrami and kalamata olives tapenade in traditional baguette. Photo: French Guy Cooking

 

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Jambon-beurre sandwich. Photo: French Guy Cooking

 

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French steak tartare. Photo: French Guy Cooking

 

What is a typical Parisian breakfast for you?

Croissant and coffee at the counter in a busy café.

Where are your favourite cafés in Paris for a good croissant?

When it comes to the almighty croissant, the best place would not be at a café, but at the most amazing boulangerie – Blé Sucré, located on 7 Rue Antoine Vollon.

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Photo: French Guy Cooking

 

Where are your favourite restaurants or cafés in Paris?

I’ll give you three of my favorite foodie streets in Paris. They are the Rue des Martyrs, located in the 9th arrondissement. It is a beautiful foodie street with plenty of places to eat but mostly takeaway.

Rue Paul Bert, located in the 11th arrondissement where you can find a few of the finest Parisian bistrots. For an authentic French meal, I would visit Bistrot Paul Bert on Paul Bert street.

Rue du Cherche-Midi, in the 6th arrondissement, where you can find many foodie spots and great Italian food as well. Let’s stay open minded shall we?

What do you feel most travellers miss out on when they are visiting Paris?

Tourists – and I can’t blame them for that – prioritise the famous attractions such as the Notre Dame, the Eiffel tower and the Champs Elysées. These are all great and superb places, but from a foodie point of view they are definitely not. My advice is to take some time, walk off the beaten paths and you’ll find gems in the side alleys.

Wander and get lost in the alleys of the 10th and 11th arrondissements, instead of walking straight into the beautiful yet massive and overcrowded avenues of the 8th arrondissement.

Where can we go to see your favourite view in Paris? 

It can be a bit dark at night so I would prefer a day visit to le Parc de Belleville, where there’s one of the most beautiful views of Paris, and a café where you can enjoy l’art de vivre.

What do you mean by l’art de vivre? 

“L’art de vivre” is a French expression which literally translates into “the art of living”. It means to take the time to embrace life with your eyes, your ears and your mouth. Savour each and every moment, instead of wasting them.

What is on your travel bucket list?

They would be: getting cooking knives in Seki, Japan; visiting and eating in the 23 provinces of China; learning Persian in Teheran; jumping high with the Maasai in Kenya; cooking on an Asado in Argentina; walking sleepless on a bright night in Iceland.

 

WHERE TO EAT IN PARIS


Blé Sucré
Where: 7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 75012 Paris, France
For: Croissants

Bistrot Paul Bert
Where: 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris, France
For: Authentic French food

 

WHERE TO GO IN PARIS


Le Parc de Belleville
Where: 20th Arrondissement, 75020 Paris, France
For: A panoramic view of Paris