I had the privilege of doing volunteer work through Workaway at an equestrian center in Pays de la Loire where I also got to explore a bit of Bretagne. Which deserves its own post where I write about towns like Saint-Malo, Dinard and Nantes. And as always, I’ll list my fave food spots and what I ate in beautiful (and butter covered) Brittany, Bretagne in French.
Workaway is for travelers who want to live, work and eat like a local. My work at the center included teaching English, helping with the stables, assisting in the kitchen, as well as supervising and entertaining the campees. In exchange, I received free lodging, all 3 meals a day (including plenty of French cheese!), beach trips, private equestrian lessons and most importantly, I practiced French everyday. Also, my amazing host was gracious enough to drive me around to explore the surrounding towns.
I arrived at the St. Nazaire train station and my lodging was located at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins. My work schedule was so flexible that, some mornings, I could run to Plage L’Ermitage, a beach next to a small forest, or to Plage de Saint Michel. Neither beach was ever overcrowded despite it being the middle of summer. Not even on Bastille Day where we had an evening picnic to watch the fireworks.
Among some of the most memorable towns I visited were Pornic, Le Croisic and La Roche. Each town has its own water views, landmarks, boutiques, cafes and ice cream shops that are best exploring on foot since the summers are pretty tempered here due to it’s northern location. You’ll find delicious strawberry ice cream everywhere as well as affordable Belgian beers at the bars and cafes. Pornic was busy with Parisians during the summer making it a bit more expensive, but still beautiful. Le Croisic is famous for its WWI US Naval base and Le Roche is a bit more local and small, a hidden gem.
Being that I am the product of the Disney generation, I’m a fan of castles, especially medieval looking castles. Guérande is a medieval town next to Le Croisic where you’ll find several castles and old churches, mostly used for events such as weddings but open to the public when there are no events. Here is a list of several castles in Guérande.
My Workaway host has a sweet tooth and I’m grateful because French pastries quickly became my addiction. Cheese already was, I totally adored that French people have cheese for dessert! If it wasn’t for my horrible pronunciation, I could so fit in with this culture.
If you’re craving some sweets or damn tasty bread, I recommend Fournil du Pays Blanc and Christophe Roussel. On Sundays, we also visited the market where you can find every local product imaginable such as bread, pastries, jams, all kinds of cheese, coffee, cider, hand made jewelry, etc. Definitely visit and bring cash to the Marché de la Pierre Couché. I have videos of the market and the pastry shops in my Instagram Highlights of Pays de la Loire.
There’s so much to see, do, drink and EAT in North Western France. I’m sure no matter where you go, you’ll have a delicious time. When visiting, keep in mind this area of France is not too far from the UK. Don’t expect a lot of people to speak English but do bring an umbrella, even in the summer. I found the weather would change dramatically one week from the other. En fin, also remember to always BE PRESENT!