A year before it hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2019, France will stage the ninth edition of the U-20 world finals. While the seniors will be showcasing their skills in nine host cities across the country, their junior counterparts will be doing likewise in just one of the country’s regions: Brittany, which has been given the honour of hosting the competition in recognition of its status as a footballing hotbed. In looking ahead to the event, FIFA.com selects five of the region’s many attractions.
A rocky island measuring 960 metres in circumference, Mont Saint-Michel is one of France’s most distinctive landmarks and sits at the point where the Couesnon River flows into the English Channel, on the border between Brittany and Normandy. The mount is topped by an abbey, the spire of which is crowned by a statue of Archangel Michael, which stands 150 metres above sea level. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mont Saint-Michel is also famed for its restaurants and the views it affords of the surrounding bay. As the locals like to say, the sea rushes in and out “at the speed of a galloping horse” across the sandy plain that Mont Saint-Michel looks out over. When tides are high, this historic monument becomes an island, adding to its unique charm.
Pointe du Raz
A rocky promontory on the region’s westernmost tip, near the district of Plogoff, the Pointe du Raz is a wonder of nature, which explains why it is one of the most visited sites in Brittany. There is an end-of-the-world feel about the place, as the jagged cliffs plunge downwards to the sea, which is at its most majestic on stormy days. The beauty of the site is enhanced by the equally dramatic coastline that surrounds it. Sculpted by ocean and wind, the Pointe du Raz alone makes any trip to the region worthwhile.
The capital of Brittany and young and dynamic with it, Rennes lies three hours from Paris. A city of art and history, it casts a bright light over the rest of the region. Offering much in the way of culture, entertainment and architecture, Rennes is a city of many sides and is well worth taking the time to discover. Its many essential sights include the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre, the town hall, Les Portes Mordelaises, La Place des Lices and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Breton cuisine sources its authenticity from land and sea, with milk, which is used to make salted butter, fish, seafood and wheat all featuring prominently. The region’s star dish is the crêpe, which can be sweet (made with wheat flour) or savoury (made with buckwheat flour), though there is much more to local cuisine than that. Sweet delights include Kouign-Amann, which literally translates as “butter cake”; Far Breton, made from basic ingredients such as eggs, butter, flour, milk and sugar; and the famous Gâteau Breton, a deliciously buttery biscuit cake. On the savoury side, oysters, Galette Saucisse (a sort of Breton hot dog) and Andouille de Guémené (Brittany pork sausage) should not to be missed.
Ile de Brehat
Brittany is home to many islands that are worthy of a detour, among them Belle-Ile-En-Mer, Ile Aux Moines, Ile de Batz and Ile de Groix. One of the most beautiful of all the region’s isles, however, is the Ile de Brehat, which is actually made up of a number of small islets and two main islands. Also known as the “Isle of Flowers”, owing to the sheer variety of its flora, it is a genuine paradise. Situated a ten-minute boat ride from the coast, not far from Paimpol, Ile de Brehat has two very different sides to it. Home to heather and moors, the north island is wild, while the south island is more floral. The two are linked by the famous Pont Vauban. The islands are car-free, guaranteeing peace and tranquillity and the chance to hear the song of the many species of birds that populate them. Other sites of interest to the visitor are Guerzido Beach, old manor houses, and fine buildings such as the Croix de Maudez and Paon Lighthouse.