For those attending a Brittany Tourism event, be prepared to dance. Within an hour of arriving at the first-ever Brittany Convivial Dinner at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth on Monday 27 November, hosted by Tourisme Bretagne and Atout France Australia, guests were already on their feet learning the steps of the an dro folk dance, circling the grand Sofitel ballroom while Breton folk-rock band, Red Cardell, provided the tunes.
It was an instant immersion into the warm-hearted welcome visitors receive in this vibrant region in northwest France, known for its French-Celtic culture, marvellous seafood (and crêpes) and restorative natural surrounds.
Anne Gallo, Chairman of Brittany Tourism, shared some of the similarities between Australians and Bretons, such as a distinctive identity, authenticity, natural and cultural attractions, hospitality and, above all, conviviality, the theme of the evening.
Bretons are said to be the best at welcoming tourists in France, inviting them to discover its traditions and art de vivre. While Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay is one of the best-known landmarks in Brittany, the region boasts UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including medieval cities, as well as forests steeped in Arthurian legend, networks of canals (ideal for heading inland at a leisurely pace), and beaches and islands to discover by sail along 2730 kilometres of coastline.
Active travellers can indulge in more than 1700 kilometres of cycling routes (the Tour de France will also spend three days in Brittany next year), walking and hiking trails beside the ocean, and water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing. Gourmands can tour seafood markets with a Michelin-starred chef and sample the region’s delightful sweet treats, while wellness-seekers can rejuvenate in the many thalassotherapy spas (Brittany is the home of seawater therapy) or an organic retreat at La Grée des Landes, the Yves Rocher eco-spa hotel. As Deborah Le Goff, communications and promotions manager at Tourisme Bretagne, shared, the delights of Brittany are manifest for luxury travellers in search of authenticity and connection.
The evening began in a traditional fashion with cider and oysters before guests took their seats at one of three trestle tables lined up under the ballroom’s mirrored ceiling. Jeremy Daunay, distributor of Armorik Whisky in Australia, lead guests through a tasting of three whiskies: the blended Breizh Whisky; the single-malt Armorik Classic and the Armorik Double Naturation, aged in two casks for complexity. Seafood platters, Breton tapas and fish soup followed, accompanied by Kérisac Cider, before a main of cider-braised chicken with apple, potatoes and cauliflower, served family style. Four Frogs Crêperie served up a dessert of traditional crêpes dentelles, complemented by gâteau breton, far breton and kouign-amann.
Guests took home a jar of Four Frogs’ salted caramel sauce, a Breton-striped scarf from Armor-Lux, two tickets to see French romantic-comedy Just to be Sure and a desire to discover more of Brittany’s infectious spirit.