Mont-St-Michel is the second most visited tourist attraction in France, after the Eiffel Tower, and is so beautiful, I've always wanted to go there. So, seeing as we were in Normandy, and that's where it is (although the furthest point in Normandy--a stone's throw from Brittany), we decided to take a day trip there. Luckily, we planned some adventures along the way and back--because as soon as we pulled up, there was a line to get into the parking lot. Then a wait to find a spot. Then pushing through crowds of people to get into the city walls. And then so many people inside the tiny little town, all pushed up against each other. We lasted all of five minutes--not even long enough to get a treat--it was that miserable. And we were there in low season! I swear, the best way to see Mont-St-Michel is from the car--when it's far enough away that you can't see all the tour buses. But here's the good news--there are some really magical spots not so far away, so if you want to make the journey, you can buffer it with these other adventures.
Villedieu-les-Poeles: This is a town known for its copper pots. And they have a bell foundry that is open to the public and gives tours (albeit in French). Charming town and well worth a stop. About 10 minutes further down the road is a sweet/mediocre zoo which also has a number of bouncy play areas. This was a hit with Clara.
We didn't make it to Cancale or St. Malo in Brittany, but I sure wish we had the time to. We were coming from the north and had to go back that way, so it didn't make sense. If you can, stay over in this area. We always wanted to stay at this place, Les Maisons de Bricourt.
An entire town devoted to pottery. We found latte bowls and egg cups, even with my name, albeit the French version: Yolande. Our favorite was the Atelier Ceramique Turgis, and the town is called Noron-la-Poterie.
The Chateau de Balleroy is well worth a stop. It's a 17th century Mansard chateau that is super impressive, and was bought by Malcolm Forbes in the 70s, when the Balleroy family couldn't afford to keep it anymore. Forbes was obsessed with hot-air balloons, so there is also a very cool museum with amazing pictures and drawings of them. The tea room there is nice, with Mariage Freres teas, and the gift shop has nice balloon motif objects from notebooks to mobiles to china.