Strolling the cobblestone streets of Dinan, France just after sunrise, before anyone else is up, is an enchanting experience. With difficulty I try to imagine this quiet north-western French town as a focal point of the tumultuous Medieval struggle between the Duchy of Brittany and the King of France. But the tall stone fortifications as well as the locals’—known as dinannais and dinannaises—strong sense of pride for their town remind me of this place’s rich past.
The town is recognized by the Ministry of Culture as a “city of history and of the arts,” and it’s easy to see why by simply wandering about for a couple hours. Visitors usually arrive by regional train (TER), or by car. A more original way to arrive is by small boat along the Rance, river dominated by Dinan’s castle and which snakes its way north to the English Channel. Renting a small motorboat is cheap, fun, and easy, but adrenaline buffs beware: your top speed isn’t going to be much faster than the serene pace of life here.
It was worth the effort to get up early to catch the morning light over Dinan’s port on the Rance from the top of the town. After taking in the view from a distance, I made my way down the steep Medieval streets, past 500-year-old stone houses with wooden beams—the typical Brittany style—to the port itself. Not another human being to be seen. The water was still and the sun making its way over the trees along the river, warming the whole scene. Automatically, I smiled as I took in a full breath of fresh air.
Dinan is a place to slow down, to forget the hustle and bustle of cities and work and deadlines. This is one of those rare places that make you feel happy by just being there. Great food and drinks (the cidre breton is not to be missed) included, of course. And Dinan’s inhabitants won’t let you leave before trying the regional specialty: the galette bretonne. Rather than attempting to describe this buttery goodness, why not just try it?