Ille et Vilaine the Emerald Coast

Ille et Vilaine is not one of the most visited regions in France, but that’s part of its considerable charm. One of 83 departments created during the French revolution in the 18th century, it is in the northeastern part of Brittany province known as Haute Bretagne.

The little slice of coastline on the English Channel that belongs to Ille et Vilaine is called the Emerald Coast and is undoubtedly the best-known attraction for tourists. With its craggy cliffs interspersed with white sand beaches and small coves, its name comes from the color of the waters (named Emerald on the lines of the Cote d’Azur; this is the Cote d’Emeraude.)

St. Malo, once a bastion of French corsairs who were infamous for pirateering, is now Ille et Vilaine’s biggest tourist attraction. In the Middle Ages it was a fortified island that controlled the mouth of the Rance River and the sea beyond; the old fortifications are still evident, but another major attraction is the profusion of restaurants serving oysters from nearby Cancale. It’s on record that Louis XIV had his oysters brought from Cancale to his court in Versailles.

Inland you will find the ideal climate and terrain for exploring, with something over 1,850 hours of sunshine annually and a wonderful array of towns and villages, many with the architecture of centuries ago still intact and in use for everyday living. The town of Vitre is described as ‘a perfect example of a town 500 years ago’, but the original is well over 1,000 years old – with the added attraction of modern amenities.

The Medieval fortress Chateau de Forgeres – actually one of the largest castles in Europe – is located not surprisingly in Forgeres, a ‘Town of Art and History’ with about half dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries and half almost completely rebuilt following a major fire in the 18th century. This is a wonderful place to walk about; beautiful landscaping graces both the old and the ‘new’ town, and a forest at the edge of town offers lovely trails for strolling and picnicing.