Every so often, we carefully pack the MG, I pretend to know what’s going on under the bonnet, declare that it’s ready for a long journey, then we set off to France. This time, it was towards the Côte de Granit Rose on the northern Breton coast.
After arriving on the early ferry into Saint-Malo, we fired up the MG and headed towards Perros-Guirec, a town that bustles with holidaying Parisians in the summer, but falls quiet in October. We stayed in a lovely little hotel high on the cliffs above the town, Le Relais du Silence Les Costans. The hotel is a serene, calm retreat from the cold coastal winds, and we were upgraded to a suite with a beautiful panoramic view of the Plage de Trestraou from the terrace. Like Perros-Guirec, the hotel was also extraordinarily quiet, which meant we had the place almost entirely to ourselves (and also possibly explains why they gave us such a nice room).
That evening, tired after the long-ish drive along the spectacular coastal roads and some less spectacular motorways, we headed to a nearby restaurant, La Crémaillère, to treat ourselves to local oysters and good steak. The cosy little restaurant was packed, and had a crackling log fire which mixed with the smells of rich red wine and baked camembert from the kitchen. I pretended to speak French and nodded knowingly about a bottle of wine before we crept back through the silent streets to our cosy room overlooking the blustery bay.
We had specifically chosen Perros-Guirec as it is home to the striking Côte de Granit Rose, an outcrop of vivid pink granite which juts into the Channel. The ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ is a route that skirts the granite coast, and winds 1,800 km along the Breton coastline; we picked up the trail in Perros-Guirec, following it to the small town of Ploumanac’h further along the coast. The Sentier des Douaniers was created in 1791 to prevent smuggling, and it seemed to have worked; we didn’t see a single smuggler during our 15km hike. As we walked along the path, the rocks became pinker, and sand on the small beaches and coves turned a rich red. It’s like being on Mars, if Mars looked a lot more like the northern French coast. We stopped at a hotel in Ploumanac’h for a drink, and, with a casual Gallic nod when asked if we wanted water, accidentally ordered a bottle that cost well over 15€.
The next evening we headed out to a restaurant by the beach, La Suite, and we both shelled out for some freshly-caught crab. But rather than doing anything clever with butter and garlic, they simply brought the crabs to the table exactly as if they had just walked out of the sea. They sat there, intact, staring up at us from the middle of their porcelain plates. The waiter then arrived with two trays of various surgical tools, before disappearing into the kitchen and leaving us to tackle our dinner. I grappled with my crab’s sizeable claws for a good five minutes before snapping one off triumphantly, poking out a pathetic amount of meat from the smaller of the two. Nicola, meanwhile, was attempting to tether her crab with a napkin, to stop it ricocheting off the walls at high speed.
Taking the nutcracker from the surgeon’s tray, I nicely splintered the main shell into a thousand small razor-sharp shards, which swiftly embedded themselves into the crab meat. At this point, the waiter came over, so we smiled and assured him everything was absolutely fine thank you very much.
After half an hour of tackling the crabs, we had both amassed enough crab meat to furnish a heaped teaspoon, which we duly ate. And here’s the thing: the crab meat tasted exactly like a Sainsbury’s seafood stick. As this was sinking in, the waiter brought the bill over, and we realised, much to our dismay, that we had once again bought a bottle of water that cost 15€.
Next stop, Dinan.