We left our “Gite” Amboise at 6am, barreling down the steep narrow streets towards the Loire to catch the first of the four trains we needed to take to get to Dinan in Brittany. The Amboise train station is on the opposite side the river, but it only took us about 15 minutes to get there by bike early in the morning. The sun was a giant orange ball as we crossed the bridge over the Loire, and the sky glowed orange pink as we waited for the local train to Tours.
There are bike cars on many of the trains in France, and we settled into the velo (bike) car with our bikes and luggage for the short trip to Tours. At Tours, we were relieved to see that it would be easy to catch our next train, as the platforms were all together except one. The french train system is easy to navigate, especially if you purchase all your tickets in advance and just need to make the connections.
The station at Le Mans was busier, and a couple conductors questioned whether we could fit the folding bikes on the train, but we managed to find a spot for them. Someone was sleeping in our reserved seats, so we stayed near the bikes, settling in to vacant seats.
Our train was delayed leaving the station at Dol de Bretagne, but the conductor assured us that local train to Dinan would be held so that everyone could make their connection. Soon we were happily aboard the light rail line that took us the final stretch of our journey, arriving just before noon. Riding from the train station to our hotel the streets were busier and wider than we were accustomed to, but once in the old quarter the streets were narrower with less traffic.
We soon found our hotel, Cafe-Hotel du Theatre, a small bar/hotel on the Rue de l’Horloge (clock tower), a pedestrian street. The proprietors were very friendly and relaxed and we soon felt right at home. The hotel is opposite the Theatre des Jacobins, originally built in 1224. Our cozy room above the bar looks out at the theatre and square below where there is lots of room for tables and is a great place to sit and people watch. Along the street vendors sell crafts, as they have for 700 years.
The construction of the ramparts dates back to the 1200s and protected the town and its status as a center for trade for centuries. The fortifications continued to be improved through the 16th century when Dinan finally submitted to the French King Henri IV during the French Wars of Religion.
We spent the evening wandering the town, happy to explore its many narrow streets and ancient buildings.