Thursday, June 10, 2010

From rain to Rennes

After three nights and two days in rainy Paris, I was looking forward to our next destination--Rennes (|ren|). We didn't know much about this city except that it was going to be our jump off point to Mont Saint-Michel and Saint Malo. We also didn't know it was in Brittany and not in Normandy as we originally thought. I admit, I didn't even know there was a Brittany in France. The things you learn by traveling...

We took the 8am train from Gare Montparnasse in Paris to Rennes. It was a pleasant 2.5 hour-trip through the charming northern countryside. Lovely yellow rapeseed fields. Small villages. Vast green expanse. Old cathedrals. Very idyllic.

Upon arriving at the Rennes train station, we walked with our luggage to the Garden Hotel, which had a nice location near the heart of the city. It was prettier in photos though, but at least it had WiFi.

We were immediately impressed by the architecture surrounding it similar to the ones we saw in Paris.

A great fire destroyed most of medieval Rennes in 1720 and Parisian 
architects were asked to redesign the town resulting in 18th century 
buildings that can rival those in Paris. That was the reason for hiring 
them in the first place.

After dropping off our bags, the next order of the day was to find a place to eat. We walked another few blocks to the historic city centre. I liked Rennes already!

We found this little alley with bistros and a Subway one after the other, but we wondered why most were closed when it was nearly lunch time.

"A, alam ko na kung bakit sarado mga restaurant, (Oh I know why the restaurants are closed)", I ventured. "Kasi lunch break (It's lunch break.)" Haha! Strike one. Or two. I know some establishments in France do take siestas, but restaurants at lunchtime? I think my brain was having one.

We were allowed to enter Tante Yvonne and wait till they served lunch at 12 noon. Bob and I each ordered galette (like a flat crusty cake) with chitterlings. We thought chitterlings were sausages like the waiter described with difficulty. They turned out to be pig's intestines cut into rings and roasted. They stank like crazy but they were supposed to be a local delicacy.

I can't describe the taste but I can say its smell reminded me of my aunt's pigpen in the province in the Philippines. Still, I think I could enjoy this dish like our Filipino papaitan. But I chose not to finish my chitterlings because it was bad for hubby's gout. Sympathy dieting. After this, we learned not to order the same thing. Just in case...

From here, our group split. Nikki, April and Warren went back to the hotel to rest and catch on sleep. Noemi, Michelle, Bob and I decided to go to Parc du Thabor or Thabor Park. Along the way, however, we saw lots of nice shops along the streets, we decided to browse for an hour, mother with daughter, hubby with wife.

Bob and I enjoyed window shopping. We had a very pleasant stroll on little alleys with interesting shops and even more interesting facades. Very artistic! We were especially impressed by colourful half-timbered structures near Place St-Anne. I never saw anything like those in real life.

Timber-framed structures reveal Rennes' medieval influence.

Walking further, we chanced upon La Visitacion, a shopping mall. It had H & M!! That's our favourite store. I first came to know about H & M in Provence before I knew there was one in Vancouver. It was the most affordable clothes store I found in Avignon with styles even my sons could appreciate. Bob and I spent some time in the Rennes H & M.

Finally, the four of us met up near the Parlement building then walked towards Thabor Park. But first, we all went again to La Visitacion on the way. Back to H & M and other stores. I liked this mall!

Finally--really now--we were on our way to Thabor Park. I read that this park, ten acres in the heart of the town, is one of the most beautiful gardens in France that was first opened to the public in the 18th century. It is a formal French garden where you can also find an aviary, orangery (like a greenhouse or conservatory) and a rose garden.

Ahh, tranquility...

A stunning collection of flowers, trees and plants. I could just imagine this garden when the many varieties of roses are in full bloom.

(photo by Michelle)
(photo by Michelle)

One of the things I missed in Rennes was the nightlife in the city centre. With its large student population (one-fourth of the total), Rennes has a lively nightlife. I think my nieces and nephew saw some of that at Place Saint-Anne at night. I hardly went out after going back to the hotel in the evening. I think I only went out once to a nearby kebab place for dinner because I was usually dead tired after a long day. Young people will love and enjoy Rennes, home to two big universities and a prestigious medical school.

For me, Rennes was a pleasant surprise. A trip bonus. Or a bonus trip. I'm sure there's more to it than we saw.

For next time.

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