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

Florence Travel Tips from Franco Mazzetti, Florentine Menswear Consultant

Conversations with Locals

Florentine menswear consultant Franco Mazzetti gives his pick for the mandatory schiacciata stop, where to find Italy’s long lost tailors and how you can avoid eating unsavoury food in Florence. 

Photo: Men In This Town

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

The richness and abundance of choices in Florentine cuisine make it quite difficult to find a single dish to recommend. Let’s say that those who come to Florence should not leave before having tasted a Fiorentina steak. Obviously you can’t even give up tasting the famous ribollita soup.

In any case, walking through the streets, I would highly recommend stopping at one of the kiosks scattered around the city and ordering our street food for excellent food, the famous sandwich with lampredotto.

What about your favourite restaurants?

A very large space would be required for this answer. To mention one restaurant rather than another is really difficult also because there are many extremely valid places in Florence, where you can eat well at fair prices. Notwithstanding the fact that Florentines prefer to go to restaurants around Florence that are out of the tourist crowds of downtown, I will answer this question simply by citing the places I most love to frequent in the city.

I’ll mention three places where I like to eat and would recommend to a friend – Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, All’Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi and La Buca dell’Orafo.

As for the cafés, I can only recommend a good glass of wine and a small truffle sandwich at Procacci, after which an obligatory stop at Caffè Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica.

Obviously, a visit to the Antico Vinaio, the most reviewed restaurant in the world by Tripadvisor, is mandatory, where you can give room to your imagination by ordering your schiacciata with any filling you want and where you will be amazed by the quantity of ingredients you will find inside. 

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Florence

To tell the truth, I could not say that there are real traps in which tourists can fall. Rather, I would say that there are many places, especially restaurants, that sell ingredients that very often come from large-scale supermarkets and come with very high prices as Tuscan cuisine. Here, what I would like to recommend is to always pay attention to what you eat. Thank goodness today there are websites like Tripadvisor that manages to warn the most unwary.

Are there still many of such restaurants in Florence?

Unfortunately, it is very common to come across restaurants or trattorie that sell ingredients that are of low quality as high quality products. Obviously, the main problem that is worth pointing out concerns the main dish of our kitchen, the Fiorentina steak. The quality of the meat must necessarily be the Chianina loin. Unfortunately, some use other types of beef, often from foreign countries which obviously have a lower price but are passed off as meat of this quality. My advice is to ask for the certificate of origin of the steak when ordering. Every restaurateur is obliged to show to those few customers who know they have this sacrosanct right to know before ordering.

What’s the perfect itinerary to explore Florence? 

Florence is the tourist’s dream because its entire history is contained in a few square kilometres. The most beautiful monuments and buildings are all very close to each other and it is extraordinary to walk through the streets of the historic center, because it is a succession of emotions.

The only place outside the center that a tourist should visit is the splendid view from Piazzale Michelangelo, easily reachable in 20 minutes by bus, alongside which stands the wonderful Basilica of San Miniato a Monte. Even the museums are close to each other even if, given the large crowds, booking via the web is essential.

In my opinion, all a tourist has to do is reach the center and walk calmly through the streets of the city and they will be amazed to see how much history will pass under their eyes in a very short period of time.

Is being well-dressed part of the Italian culture? 

Absolutely yes. The Italian elegance that gave rise to “Made in Italy” is still very much present and deeply felt today. Cities like Milan, Naples and Florence are still tied to the tradition of being well-dressed.

Milan, the undisputed Italian financial capital, still sees extremely elegant men and women wandering the streets of Brera today. The great sartorial culture of the Neapolitans is still well rooted. In my personal point of view, the elegant Neapolitan man is the best expression of a relaxed elegance, not showy but absolutely full of charm. Florence, which still has a strong sartorial tradition, underwent strong Anglo-Saxon influence after a very high number of British citizens in the period following the Second World War decided to move to the surrounding countryside, especially in Chianti, which later became famous as Chiantishire.

As can be easily understood, this peaceful invasion has given life to a mix of style between the rigorous Florentine style and the English country. Hence the birth of the Anglo-Florentine style.

Photo: Fabrizio Di Paolo

Where do you go for tailored suits in Florence?

Unfortunately, the evolution of modern times, let’s call it globalisation, has decimated the myriad of small tailors that were once well represented in town. Many of my older dresses have been expertly crafted by the expert hands of tailors who unfortunately had to stop their activities. Currently, my outfits are supplied by companies and tailors based from various parts of the world.

Among the few safe addresses for tailors still present in Florence, I would mention Liverano and Liverano, l’Antica Sartoria Cisternino and, last but not least, the small Sagliano tailoring where the young Rosario, tailor of Neapolitan origins by family tradition, operates in the historic center of Florence in the Oltrarno area.

I would also like to give some advice for those looking for a highly prestigious pair of shoes that are meticulously and completely handmade. Roberto Ugolini Shoemaker, also located in the Oltrarno area, is one of the few remaining artisans of indisputable mastery.

Will the art of the tailored suit disappear from Italy?

No, I don’t think so. Although many of the old tailors have disappeared and despite also a sort of small “invasion” that in recent years has seen some of the most important Italian tailoring “brands” acquired by Japanese and Korean tailors, I would say that the Italian tailoring tradition is now well alive and rooted.

This is thanks to a generation of young tailors, who in the vast majority of cases, have learned this art from their family tradition. Not only that, I can also say that I see more and more interest in the tailoring world, almost every day on Instagram, I receive requests for information from young and very young followers, which gives me hope for a return to this beautiful way of dressing.

Do you have a tip for men who want to be well dressed?

The same advice that I always give to those who ask me this question is to seek their own style without forcing or unnecessary refinements. ALWAYS feel comfortable with what you are wearing, whether it is a tailored suit or an inexpensive suit, it is always necessary to try to convey the same message. Security, kindness and understatement. As I always say, however, the use of good manners comes first because they are by far your best business card.

WHERE TO EAT IN FLORENCE


Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi
Where: Via del Porcellana, 9R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Florentine steak

All’Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi
Where: Via Sant’Onofrio, 1R, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tuscan cuisine

Buca dell’Orafo
Where: Via dei Girolami, 28/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tuscan cuisine

Procacci
Where: Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Wine and truffle sandwiches

Caffè Gilli
Where: Via Roma, 1r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Coffee and pastries

All’Antico Vinaio
Where: Via dei Neri, 76R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Schiacciata
 

WHERE TO GO IN FLORENCE

Liverano and Liverano
Where: Via dei Fossi, 43, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tailored suits

Sagliano Concetti Sartoriali
Where: Borgo S. Frediano, 47 rosso, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tailored suits

Roberto Ugolini Shoemaker
Where: Via dei Michelozzi, 17/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Handmade shoes

Piazzale Michelangelo
Where: Piazzale Michelangelo, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
For: A view of Florence

London Travel Tips from Camille Kenny-Ryder of Thoroughly Modern Milly

Conversations with Locals

Camille Kenny-Ryder is the blogger of Thoroughly Modern Milly and a writer for the Weekend Journals. Milly talks about the places to go for fine dining, getting up early, and where to head to for a weekend getaway from the city. 

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Photo: Thoroughly Modern Milly

What do you feel defines the cuisine in London?

Diversity. You can eat any cuisine whenever you feel like it. Many of the world’s best chefs have come to London to open restaurants so you can have the world’s best restaurant experiences here. There are also great markets to enjoy international cuisine all over the city. 

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

I can’t think of just one dish. British cuisine has become interwoven with so many other culinary influences. I would say go to Borough Market and try anything there or head to St John and enjoy a thoroughly British and very special meal.

What about your favourite restaurants?

It changes every month. Currently, I love Lina Stores for a quick Soho meal of homemade pasta. Duddell’s serves amazing smart Chinese in a beautifully transformed chapel and Core and Roganic are unbeatable for a fine dining meal out. 

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Duddell’s. Photo: Thoroughly Modern Milly

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Core by Clare Smyth. Photo: Thoroughly Modern Milly

Do you have a favourite spot for an afternoon tea?

I tend to prefer a classic afternoon tea but at the moment The Lanesborough is offering a wonderful Frida Kahlo inspired tea!

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

Don’t try to do everything in one trip, it’s too big! Pick a couple of neighbourhoods to conquer and have fun getting lost while wandering the little streets. 

Name one best kept secret of London

Get up early on the weekend and explore before the crowds get there!  

What is one thing you feel travellers must do in London?

I love the Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday morning. 

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in London

Try to avoid the touristy restaurants round Leicester Square and Piccadilly. There are brilliant small eateries just round the corner that are much better value and offer much better food! 

What about your favourite spot for a weekend getaway from the city? 

If you have a little longer than three hours, I recommend Cornwall, where I wrote my Weekend Journals book on. The produce is amazing which means the restaurants are great – visit Coombeshead Farm. Less than three hours I’d recommend Brighton (eat at Silo) or Suffolk (visit the Pump Street Bakery). 

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Cornwall. Photo: Thoroughly Modern Milly

WHERE TO EAT IN LONDON


St. John
Where: 41 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, United Kingdom
For: Classic food 

Lina Stores
Where: 51 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 4EH, United Kingdom
For: Homemade pasta

Duddell’s
Where: 9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY, United Kingdom
For: Chinese food

Core by Clare Smyth
Where: 92 Kensington Park Rd, London W11 2PN, United Kingdom
For: Fine dining

Roganic
Where: 5-7 Blandford St, Marylebone, London W1U 3DB, United Kingdom
For: Fine dining

The Lanesborough
Where: Hyde Park Corner, London SW1X 7TA, United Kingdom
For: Tea

WHERE TO GO IN LONDON


Borough Market
Where: 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL, United Kingdom
For: Food
Columbia Road Flower Market
Where: Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG, United Kingdom
For: Flowers