July 8, 2011
Summer is here and the crowds are starting to flee Paris for the coast. As I tend to do things in reverse and will be staying in Paris this July to enjoy all of the amazing summer festivals and events, I hit Brittany for a two-week jaunt in May, just before the summer throngs descended upon its lovely shores.
After searching long and hard, mere days before our departure, for last minute lodging that would be not only earth-friendly and green, but appealing and available, I stumbled upon two different eco-homes in Brittany that were, amazingly, available for our dates. Note to self: Planning in advance can be helpful, but if you are willing to chance it, great places that are still available are often ready to discount in the spring. Plus the weather is fabulous and the beaches are empty!
Our first week was spent in the Ground House , located in the center of Brittany’s rolling green farmland in the town of Mellionnec, one hour from the ocean. This completely self-sustaining eco home, built into the earth on one side and full of huge windows overlooking the garden on the other, was just the thing we were looking for. Built by its English owners and featured on the famous UK show ‘Grand Designs‘, this passive solar house was built with salvaged materials and features an organic garden, a compost heap, dry/composting toilets, and solar heated rainwater for hot water.
Not well known, the center of Brittany (Centre Bretagne) offers an abundance of hiking, walking and biking options. Additionally, we were pleased to discover that the area immediately surrounding the Ground House is a serious haven for bio (the French word for organic) fans, with an organic grocery store, a couple of organic restaurants, local artisans, organic shops, and markets where local farmers sell their produce, meat and dairy directly.
Nothing beats a week of eating local food, sleeping, reading, walking, biking, hiking, and cooking. We were even able to arrange for a few delicious home cooked French meals to be prepared and delivered by the caretaker of the house.
Not to be missed: walking along the Nantes Brest Canal; Tremargat and its potter; the organic baker and organic food coop in Mellionec; and lovely hiking in the Foret de Quenecan followed by a visit to the Abbey of Bon Repos.
The second week of our vacation was spent in another eco home built by its French owners in the small village of Tremeoc in the Finistère region of Brittany. This time we were just minutes from the ocean.
The owners of this lovely and comfortable home made sure that everything in the house was as green as possible. It was built completely of wood with solar panels, an organic garden, and rainwater collection on the roof. Even the natural foam mattress was made nearby in Brittany… We were comfy, cozy and eco-friendly. There were certainly no microwaves, dishwashers or dryers in either of these green homes.
More hiking (the GR 34 was right outside our door), reading, market shopping, cooking, lots of ice cream, buttery regional biscuits (a specialty), crepes and cider were on the menu.
Outside the sleepy (in May) beach town of Benodet, we stumbled upon a friendly cliff-top spa overlooking the ocean in the Pointe St Gilles campground, where we went for sauna, massage, hamman, pool, jacuzzi, and more.
Some local highlights not to be missed: Locronan, one of the most beautiful villages in France; Pont D’Aven; hiking on the GR by Benodet,; the GR 34 in Pont D’Aven; a sundae at the restaurant on the port (Les Mimosas); and the Crêperie Bio by the church in Quimperlé.
Two weeks flew by …. and not one day of rain. Who said it rains all the time in Brittany?
Local links near Ground House:
- Ground house website
- Link to the book on building your very own Eco Earth friendly House!
- Abbeye du bon repos
- Coriandre – organic restaurant in Tremargat
- Local tourist info
- Another great looking place to stay
Local links near Tremeoc:
Site for Eco lodging in France and elsewhere
Another site for amazing looking vacation spots
Written by Erica Berman
Erica Berman grew up in Lexington,Mass. After graduating from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Journalism and an intensive summer at Middlebury College (Vermont), Erica came to Paris with hopes of submerging herself in French culture and perfecting her French -- and she never left. Erica is the founder and owner of Haven in Paris and the blog HiP Paris. She now splits her time between Paris (Montmartre), Maine (Damariscotta), Massachusetts (Lexington) and Italy (Genova). In her all-too-rare free time, Erica likes to travel off the beaten track, explore Paris, read, take photos, cook, ski, hike and enjoy long Sunday brunches with her friends.
Website: Erica Berman