As we journeyed through Europe, people would ask us – why Vannes? For a typical tourist coming all the way from New Zealand, Europeans didn’t expect us to prioritise a trip to Vannes over more popular destinations. And our answer was always the same – family!
Vannes is a small city in Brittany on the west coast of France. Brittany is famous in France for having it’s own culture related to the Celtic culture, and Vannes is famous for it’s historical buildings and historical port. But in my family, Vannes is famous because my cousin Patrick lives here with his fiancee Katie.
When we arrived we’d finished a whirlwind trip of Costa Rica, a rushed couple of days in London, lots of activity with family in Germany, and lots of walking around exploring the amazing city of Lyon. I think our friends in Lyon were surprised we didn’t want to visit more of the sights even thought we were there for a week. We were starting to tire of sight seeing and exploring and were looking forward to slowing down and getting back into a routine. That’s one of the disadvantages of constant travel and not setting up roots, it can feel disorienting and exhausting.
By the time we reached Pat and Katie, they were a haven where we could slow down and recover from two months of busy-ness. They really allowed us to be sloths and didn’t push us to do more sight seeing, even though Vannes and it’s surrounding areas has lots of beautiful places to see. They made sure we had lots of food, access to movies and plenty of space to lounge. We pretty much took over their two bedroom flat. For a young couple living on their own, it must’ve been overwhelming to take on a family of six for a week, but they made us feel at home, and we savoured it.
We loved going to the market in Vannes. The kids favourite part was the crepes. Pat would sometimes meet us here after his morning training. There was a central market building that was open every day and then there was the street market that runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays til lunch time. We found the seafood market fascinating because it had a different variety of fish to what we would get back in New Zealand. It’s in it’s own separate building that was built in the 1800’s because the fisherman wanted more sanitary conditions to sell their seafood.
There is part of an old fortress that has survived in Vannes dated around 300AD when Romans were ruling the region and were starting to lose control of the France region. Next to the rampart are manicured gardens. Because we arrived at the beginning of spring, the flowers were just starting to bloom from the blossom trees. These gardens are special because Pat proposed to Katie in here.
The rampart can be walked along and still has some buildings alongside it. It was on top of this wall that Pat’s friends were hiding to light fireworks when he proposed to Katie. It also has parts of a remaining castle built around the 1300’s.
There is a moat that runs through the garden and it still has the old washing house from the 1800’s where it’s said the townspeople could go to the water to wash their clothes.
There’s a small part of the town that still has medieval homes. Some of them are half-wooden buildings built around the 1400’s that line narrow cobblestone streets. They’re easy to spot because these streets are not parallel.
The main town has a port that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. Alongside this estuary are play areas for children and adults. There was also a carousel which we noticed was in each French town we visited. The top of the carousel is decorated with paintings that are specific to the town.