Thursday, 30 May 2013

Brittany Ferries - the Bretagne

Or, a night on the ocean waves...

In my previous post on Brittany Ferries I left you climbing the steep stairs from the car deck to find your cabin. I would always advise that you book a cabin. There are reclining seats in an area that is provided for passengers to  snooze, and showers for when they wake all stiff and groggy, but really, if you want to enjoy your crossing then a cabin is a must.

So you locate your cabin and drop your overnight luggage by the hanging space, place your book on the little metal table between the bunks, grab the pillows from the spare bunks if you have a four-berth, pop your toiletries in the little ensuite shower/toilet, grab your handbag and, remembering to take your cardboard door key, set off to explore the ship....

You'll notice that the Bretagne has, of course, a very Breton feel to it. And if you're unfamiliar with Brittany then the pictures at the top of the central staircase on Deck 6 will be your first introduction to the culture of this region of France.

The locals do not generally sport such elaborate lace hats, not as they go about their daily business, but you will see such costumes at Breton festivals.  

Music features very prominently in the lives of the Bretons. The Fest Noz are wonderful evenings when everyone gets together to dance.

Even if, like me, you have two left feet and can really only perform well to old Rolling Stones and Saturday Night Fever music, you'll still manage to dance at a fest Noz  because you all join hands, form a circle and stomp in time to the music.

The shops are located in the central part of the ship.

On board you can buy perfumes and skin creams, I do recommend choosing a new fragrance for your holiday, because when it's only a distant memory wearing the scent will provide you with Proustian moments and remind you of the lovely time you spent in Brittany.

There's a little kiosk where you can buy continental adapters, battery chargers, headlight adapters all of the useful items that you often forget to pack. Also books. One day perhaps my fledgling novel, 'Flies in the Ointment', will find a publisher and be on the stand on Brittany ferries ships and you may like to select it and read it and recall how you first heard of it on a stranger's blog.  A nice thought.

Of course you can also buy wines and spirits, cigarettes, chocolate and gifts...

This shop sells handbags, purses, chunky bangles and necklaces. It's a little pricey but the brown leather 'Lollipop' bag that I bought for the Ragazza is lovely and we share it from time to time. She fills it with make up, her  mobile phone and girlie stuff, I fill it with books, pens, a camera and half-written letters to friends.

à chacun son goût

Now to eat.

There are several options, sandwiches and snacks on Deck 8, which is where you'll also find the children's play area and the bar/entertainment...
A self-service restaurant that does salads, hot dishes, desserts and drinks....
Or, for seasoned travelers who like to dine well, The Restaurant.

You need to book a table, or turn up early because The Restaurant is very popular and you really don't want to delay and arrive to find that your fellow-passengers have snaffled all the langoustines.    

I recommend the buffet option because you can chose your favourites and eat as little or as much as you please, but do exercise a degree of moderation when faced with those langoustines and save room for the desserts...

My fishy first-course on a crossing in November 2011...

That crab claw was absolutely delicious.
Well, it was all absolutely delicious. 

My main course on that same crossing...

The chocolate sauce that was served with the beef features in 'Flies' when the main character is fleeing to France. They do say 'write what you know', don't they? 

I don't have pictures of the desserts, the fruit salads and cheeses, the rich, creamy concoctions. I'll leave them for you to discover for yourselves. 

 Now that you've eaten I recommend you go up to Deck 8, walk through the bar and to the outside seating area where you can sit and admire the sunset as the ship sails past the Isle of Wight...


Perhaps indulge in a cocktail from the bar....

You are on holiday, after all.

This is the bar where there may be a magician performing, perhaps a singer, and then later music to which you can dance.

I danced once, with a group of over-excited children whose parents sat smiling indulgently as they slid around the polished wooden floors and I worked off some of those langoustines...

Some pictures that adorn the walls of the bar

A Breton horse, solid, sturdy and sensible...


A Breton lady, solid, sturdy and sensible....   


When the Ragazza and I moved to Brittany in 2006 we were disappointed to discover that we'd missed the local annual onion festival.

No, really, we were. We're that kind of family!

So, you've eaten well and indulged in a few drinks...
You've treated yourself in the shops...
You may have listened to the piano player in the bar by the restaurant...
Perhaps you've enjoyed the entertainment and danced a while...
Or maybe you've been to one of the two cinemas on Deck 5, and enjoyed a film...

Now it's time for bed. Buy a nice cup of tea/coffee/chocolate and take it to your cabin. Enjoy a nice hot shower. Curl up in your bunk. Switch off the lights and prepare to sleep well because...

Tomorrow you will really want wake early

To collect your breakfasts, on a tray if you want to treat your daughter to hers in bed... 

so that you can be out on deck in time to enjoy the approach to St Malo  

I don't know how they manage it, but each and every time that I have traveled from Portsmouth to St Malo with Brittany Ferries they have arranged a sunny-skies, blue-seas, bobbing-boats arrival. 

With grateful thanks to the crew of the Bretagne, the Brittany Ferries team, and to St Malo for such a lovely homecoming each time I cross the Channel...

Practical Info and Tips:
You should arrive at the port an hour before the boarding time. The last time we sailed we were eighteen hours early but only because I broke the car and wanted to be sure we made it, even if we did have to turn up on a breakdown truck! (St Malo has some lovely hotels)   
You need a breathalyser kit, a fluorescent jacket, a warning triangle, spare headlamp bulbs and all of your car's documents to drive legally in France
There are kennels on the Bretagne for your dog. Do arrive early in order to complete the formalities for taking a pet abroad and remember that a vet must apply a tick and flea treatment within 24 hours of your return to England. A rabies blood test is no longer mandatory but the vaccination is 
Currency - Euros can be bought on board from the desk near reception
Seasickness pills can no longer be obtained from reception, French law now forbids it
Book early for dinner in the restaurant
The pina coladas are delicious
Ditto the 'sex on the beach' cocktails, not to be confused with on-board entertainment
Prepare yourself mentally and your car physically for The Ramp. Seriously, foreign breakdown cover is a good idea for your car and in future mine will be serviced and checked before I leave the country, and no I will never again break the clutch on a beach in Brittany
Remember to drive on the right, really, I have followed English cars as far from the port as Lannion, who were merrily driving on the wrong side of the road. Best to have a French car that knows its way home!
Join the Brittany Ferries club. It's £90 a year but you get a reduction on the ferry price, plus discounts in the restaurant and shops, free breakfast and a day cabin for £5. Even if you only go once a year you can easily save more than £90.

and above all

Bon voyage!


  1. Hi, fantastic report! Just a little correction, it's 'Le Bretagne' as you're referring to the ship not the region.

    Glad you enjoyed this fantastic member of the fleet!

    1. oops, thanks for the correction
      I'd assumed that the ship is feminine :)

  2. Hey, I found you! Since Google Reader died and I moved to Feedly it's been hard to follow anyone, but I thought of you the other day and wondered why your posts hadn't shown up from your old blogs. Anyway, love your new site - and added you to my feed. :-)

    1. Hello Leslee. Nice to find each other again :)


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