Friday, April 12, 2013


I had heard great things about Rennes, and so I thought Rennes would be a good spot to spend a couple days doing nothing. From Le Mans I caught a 2:30 train and then checked into my hotel. Again, not fancy, but clean and warm. I was especially valuing the warm at that moment. Then out into the city. On the recommendation of a friend who had studied abroad in Rennes, I stopped at Chocolaterie Durand. It was a small place, but believe you me it was packed. The line was soon out the door, but I held out for a special prize (eaten the next day, for Easter). 

My special prize: a beautiful chocolate egg!
Then I headed over to Le Haricot Rouge (the red bean), another recommendation. The place was filled to brimming with students, all nationalities. This place offers only two things: drinks (coffee, tea, milkshakes, smoothies, and especially hot cocoa) and cookies. That's it. And they're awesome. I got a banana hot chocolate (because I wanted something "unusual") and two cookies. Can we make this a thing in the US please? Thanks. 

I then walked around a bit, and picked up emergency sandwiches for Sunday and Monday (they ended up not really being entirely necessary after all). For dinner I went to a creperie in the old (read: medieval) part of town and it was so delicious. I wolfed it down, seriously. In a 'just go for it' moment I ordered Breizh Cola, thinking it would either be really great or really gross. I ended up liking it pretty well; it was like Coca Cola but with a sort of root beer like flavor. 

One thing that struck me was the atmosphere. I remember last summer in Charleston going out to lunch with friends and admiring the character of the historic home-turned-restaurant. It struck me as funny that last summer we were having lunch in a 'historic' home and here I was having dinner in a building with timbered walls that was probably built before Charleston was even a town. It's all about perspective!

Breizh Cola, a brittany specialty

The timbered creperie
On Easter Sunday I did go to church; in fact, I went several. I even attended part of a service (before realizing that it was in latin). Mostly I walked around and enjoyed the city. Rennes is a really lovely town and I had some very nice weather. If it had been just ten degrees warmer it would have been perfect.

This is a high school...and I thought Milton was nice!

Palais St Georges
 The Palais St Georges: once an abbey residence, it has been a government building since the French Revolution.

the St. Germain church

Palais de Parlement de Bretagne

Town Hall

the Theater

A nice building

St. Aubin

Pretty colors for Easter!

The old section of town

More really old buildings

Mayor of Rennes, a really long time ago

Notre Dame de Rennes (I think)
 I spent a lot of time in the Jardin du Thabor. The grounds were once owned by the monastery and then made public after the Revolution. Different sections were added on over the years, and it's just beautiful. They have typical French gardens, big open green sections, wooded areas, and pathways to roam. I spent a good bit of time sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine. If it had been just a little bit warmer I probably could have spent all day there.

A little bit of spring
 The cathedral St. Pierre is worth a visit if you get a chance. It's relatively modern because the old cathedral collapsed (in multiple sections) and by the mid 1800s the whole thing had been rebuilt.

the Rennes cathedral, St. Pierre

The monstrous organ of St. Pierre cathedral

The beautiful ceiling of St. Pierre

This guy. Ok, so St. Amand, according to the sign (and confirmed by the Catholic Encyclopedia online) was bishop of Rennes in the 6th century. He was from a wealthy family but ran away to be a monk, later going on to spend 15 years in complete solitude. He did the usual requisite pilgrimage to Rome and then was named a missionary bishop. He took it upon himself to convert the idolatrous people of Ghent (in northern Belgium); he was mostly persecuted and largely unsuccessful until he miraculously brought back to life a criminal who had been hanged. That tends to get attention. After setting up some monasteries there, he headed back to France to save King Dagobert from his sinful life. Dagobert apparently liked his sinful life because he subsequently banned Amand from the country. Dagobert changed his mind later and apologized and asked Amand to tutor his son. He refused, on the grounds that life at court was just too dangerous. He wandered around a bit converting people, calming storms at sea, and founding monasteries. I'm not really sure how Rennes ended up with his, uh, relics, considering he was bishop of a variety of different places. At any rate what they chose to do with his 'relics' was to encase them in a leather 'body' dressed up in bishop clothes and then display this in a glass coffin. It's the creepiest thing you've ever seen. I'm not sure I could properly focus on God with that just a few feet away.

Then there's the basilica Saint-Sauveur. It's only a minor basilica according to the catholic hierarchy, which I don't pretend to understand, but it's a pretty cool church. It's not a very large building, but has a couple points of interest. First there's the huge altar that let's you know this place is more official. Second, a 350 year old organ that is officially classified as a historic monument of France. I actually got to hear this play; I slipped in the church just as the service was letting out and their organ player (who was incredibly talented) was evidently intent on cleaning out the pipes. Third, they have a statue of the virgin Mary that some say has performed miracles. During the war of British succession, the bells of the church suddenly started ringing by themselves and the statue was found indicating a mark on the floor. When they dug there, they found a tunnel the British invaders were using in an attempt to attack the town. Then in 1720, despite a huge fire in the church that consumed the roof and a nearby building, the little wood statue survived. Many locals attributed the end of the fire to the statue. A few decades later the statue also apparently healed two people, one of a bad left knee and the other of a gangrenous foot.

Gigantic altar

Massive historic organ
Pretty stained glass
The miraculous statue has
its own dedicated chapel
Monday morning I did a little more walking and then caught a train home. I really liked Rennes; if you want a beautiful city to wander around, I'd highly recommend it. The only things I didn't get to do were to visit the museum of Rennes and the inside of the Parliament building; both were closed for the holiday. Next time!

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