What are the ingredients that make up a good family travel destination? I’ve been thinking back to our summer trip to Finistère, Brittany (in France), and asking myself this question. If, like us, you want to explore and discover new territory, it’s comforting to know there are some things about a destination that will definitely appeal to kids. Finistère, Brittany had bucketloads of reasons to recommend itself to family holidaymakers (in fact, France in general is a great place to take the kids). Here are just a few.
Food and drink
Finistère, Brittany lies on the west coast of France, with a rugged coastline that’s dotted with hundreds of ports, from the department’s largest city, Brest, to tiny places like Raguenez, near Pont-Aven (which just has a jetty for a landing). And into these ports sail some of the most delicious seafood on earth: lobsters, langoustines, oysters and award-winning sardines, to name but a few. The French know how to make the most of their home-grown cuisine: in Finistère, the larger ports all have rows of restaurants with sea or harbour views, like Le Tour de Monde in Brest, where I enjoyed some plump, fleshy moules with frites and white wine while watching the yachts sail in and out of the harbour.
That’s fine for adults, but kids aren’t known for their love of fish and crustaceans. Brittany, though, has plenty to tempt the palates of the fussiest eaters. Along with the fresh croissants and other pastries on sale in the rest of France, Brittany specialises in crèpes (thin pancakes, eaten savoury or sweet, with a dusting of icing sugar, nutella or fruit); galettes (sweet biscuits made with butter, a bit like shortbread) and delicately flavoured local apple juice.
And, of course, for the adults, there’s cider, good enough in quality to rival the wine that’s grown in other regions….
Beaches are usually good value for family travellers. Building sandcastles and splashing in the waves can keep kids occupied for an hour or two….but then what? As all parents will know, holidays change immensely when children come along. If you were the sort of holidaymaker who used to like lying on a beach towel all day, with a margherita in one hand and a good book in the other, you’ll know those days are long gone. No child under the age of ten is going to allow their parent to lounge for longer than five minutes, before the sand-kicking and clamouring for food begins. Finistère has the answer: a number of combo-beaches, like Raguenez and Plage de Gwendrez, with wide sandy stretches, but also plenty of rocks. When the youngsters have grown tired of fort-building, this means there’s ample scope for scrambling across the boulders, fishing for tiddlers and periwinkles in the rock pools, and trying to scrape barnacles or limpets off their hard, flat homes.
Hours of fun.
As Kate Moss and most other UK fashion leaders know, Breton style is pretty happening right now. It’s not just in metropolitan Mummy circles that they wear Breton-inspired clothes; in Finistère, every third man and woman can be seen sporting a version of the classic striped fisherman’s top. Even with the relatively low strength of the £GB, for UK customers Brittany is a good place to pick up less expensive, authentic versions of the French designs on sale in Britain – for children as well as adults.
But it’s not all about fashion. There were at least four shops selling striped tops and bright yellow fisherman’s jackets in the village of Pont-Aven, but the place is best known for being an artist’s haven. It was the home of post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, as well as other influential artists like Émile Bernard. A new museum has opened in Pont Aven to celebrate their works, and the town is picturesque personified: around every corner there’s a scene worthy of capture.
It’s easy to see how the Finistère coastline inspired the artists’ creativity. The terrain juts out into the Atlantic ocean; as well as reaching high temperatures on summer days, the department sees plenty of wild, stormy weather and some snow in winter. It’s a land of extremes: fine sand combined with jagged rocks, and a proud sense of its own identity as part of the Celtic group of nations (which, as well as Brittany, include Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man). Of all the the departments in ‘Breizh’ (the Breton name for Brittany), Breton (the celtic language) is most widely spoken in Finistère, and some schools even teach through the medium of Breton. Youngsters can learn a lot from a trip to Finistère and Pont-Aven.
Finistère has a slew of other places that make for great family day trips. I’ve already written about our remarkable visit to the Glénan Archipelago, a set of islands ten nautical miles off the coast. There’s also Oceanopolis, in Brest, an impressive collection of marine and freshwater life, with seven types of sharks, otters, rays, seals, giant turtles and a fish-petting area. I’ve posted about the aquarium here.
This only scratches the surface of what’s on offer to families in Finistère. Have you been on any day trips there? Would you recommend them? We’re keen to travel back to the department soon, as it had enough variety to keep the whole family happy.
Here’s a little video I made, showing a couple of highlights from our stay in Finistère.
Pin for later:
We were invited to stay with Siblu at their Domaine de Kerlann holiday park, near Pont Aven. We travelled in collaboration with Brittany Tourism.
If you’d like to read more on this blog about Brittany, check out some of our other posts:
A photo tour of Pont-Aven
Family Fun at Siblu Domaine de Kerlann, Brittany, France
Discovering aquatic life at Océanopolis, Brest, France
Are the Glénan Islands the most beautiful in Europe?