Introduction to La Roche-Bernard
La Roche-Bernard is a small town in Southern Brittany. It is a very interesting place to visit for many reasons. The town is situated on the River Vilaine, and plays host to a myriad of small boats in its natural harbour. Two superb bridges span the river here, along with the remains of an old bridge which was destroyed during the second world war. There are a number of interesting shops and good restaurants, including a Michelin-starred establishment, as well as the small port and old quarter to explore.
There are many differing accounts of the early history of the town. Most popular is the belief that the area was originally settled by Normans around 919. Their chief “Bernard” considered the prominant rock (“Roche”) overlooking the river to offer a good strategic position in what was then a very unsettled Brittany.
The priests of La Roche-Bernard were persecuted during the French Revolution in the 19th Century, resulting in an attack on the town by country folk from the surrounding areas, and subsequent repraisals (including the introduction of the guillotine) by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Peace returned to the town in 1802.
During the 2nd World War, La Roche-Bernard was occupied by the German forces. After the Normandy landings, the Allied forces attacked the town from the air. Then, following the destruction of the bridge over the river during a violent storm, the town found itself on the front line, with the German forces in retreat on one side of the river, defending the “St Nazaire Pocket” and the french forces on the other.
Eating Out around La Roche-Bernard
La Roche-Bernard is a superb place to visit if you like to dine out. The town describes itself as a Ville Gastronomique, priding itself on the quality of its restaurants and locally sold produce. Here is a selection of what is on offer……..
The grill restaurant on the bridge offers very good quality food at reasonable prices, plus it has superb views over the town and river.
Les Deux Magots, a high quality restaurant situated in the Old Quarter.
La Couronne (An Kurannan) – small restaurant offering high quality traditional french cuisine, at the top end of the main street in La Roche-Bernard. Wonderful desserts!
Creperie Gatin – superb galettes and crepes in an oak-beamed restaurant with large open fire in the Old Quarter of the town.
For a truly gastronomic experience, why not try L”Auberge Bretonne de Jacques Thorel? This is a restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef, and requires deep pockets (or a very special occasion) with menu prices starting at over 100 euros. It does have a very very good reputation, though.
Bee Keeping and Honey – there is a small exhibition of bee-keeping, where you can also purchase some interesting bee/honey products, as you walk down to the port from the old quarter.
Boat trips – “Les Vedettes Jaunes” run pleasure trips between La Roche-Bernard and the barrage at Arzal in the Spring and Summer months. This is very relaxing – just sit back and enjoy the scenery for an hour or so. You can also take dinner on board if you like. Booking recommended!
Canoes can be hired from the activity centre next to the campsite “Le Patis” down by the main port. Tuition may also be arranged. Booking is recommended.
Swimming – there is a public swimming pool in the town. Check locally for opening times.