Paris-based Lionel Raffray is a fashion and luxury industry veteran, having worked in Paris for Hermès and then in Australia, developing commercial and wholesale strategies for Prada, Yves Saint Laurent to The Row, and currently for Thom Browne.
Born in Dinan, France, Raffray grew up in Brittany. At an early age he acquired an eclectic eye for the refined and urbane. He combines that trained eye and culturally aesthetic savvy with a longstanding sixth sense for what women want. Living in Sydney for eight years, Raffray fell in love with the city; the beauty of the landscape, especially the south coast always reminded him so much of his hometown of Brittany.
Located in France’s northwestern region, Brittany is dotted with beach resorts, hilly peninsula and rugged coastlines. Lionel passionately shares a guide on what to expect in this charming region.
Describe Brittany in three words (or more!)
Brittany is a country of legends. It is mysterious, authentic, savage and full of surprises!
Where should one stay when in Brittany?
The Northern coast where I grew up. With its colours and unique tides, the Côte d’Emeraude (Emerald Coast) is one of the most beautiful European marine sites.
The best hotels or resorts, and why?
The Castelbrac Hotel - this hotel is situated in a 19th century villa which became a marine research station and aquarium in 1934. Now, it is a place for healing and wellbeing, where beauty and history meet, facing the sea and sky. This is my favourite place to have a drink before dinner to appreciate the sunset and the view. The Hotel Castelbrac has its own yacht that can anchor directly on the beaches of the bay islands or set off for Chausey or the Channel Islands. The captain also offers guided walks to discover the forts of Vauban around Saint Malo, as well as the entire coast between Cape Fréhel and Mont-Saint-Michel. It is just the best way to visit the area!
Les Maisons de Bricourt (Bricourt’s Guest Houses) from the Roellinger’s family in Cancale. Owned by chef Olivier Roellinger, this hotel is very well known on the coast and feels like being ‘at home’.
Hotel du Fort et des Iles - from Dinard or Cancale, this is an authentic hotel in Chausey islands - a magnificent place to go for the day or to stay overnight. Chausey is a permanent feast of paradisiacal sites and unspoiled nature. Every moment offers light and landscape in constant motion. I try to stay there once a year at least for a weekend after busy fashion week periods to breathe and to enjoy the surrounding sea’s bounty. Don’t forget to ask for their fish, shellfish and crustaceans! My must: Chausey blue lobster – just divine.
What can one expect in terms of shopping in Brittany?
Brittany is not a fashion place but somewhere where you find authenticity from and with locals. On Brehat island (the Verreries of Bréhat), you will find a factory located in the Citadel which is an old fortress. It is a magical place to buy beautiful glassware and plates for home. The island is located on the north coast of Brittany a little bit further west of Dinard on the way to Brest.
List your top dining locations.
Crêperie de l’Hermine - these famous savoury and sweet French crêpes and galettes are commonly complemented with a bowl of local cider. Ideal for children with its beautiful secure garden!
La Gonelle’s Restaurant - another one of my favourite spots for dinner (more than lunch, though but really depends on you). It opens only from April to end of September. This restaurant is an open place where you can eat in or out and is great with chilly weather. The best place to eat fresh fish and seafood caught daily by the chef himself.
Le Benetin - for the best view and great food, you must go to Le Benetin located in Rotheneuf (suburb of Saint Malo). This is a great spot to view all the small islands with delicious food and great staff. A must - go either with your partner or family and friends to appreciate the view!
Le Coquillage - the best gastro restaurant of the region is located near Cancale. It is such a romantic place for special occasions. A surreal experience!
Grain de Vanille - if you like pastries don’t miss the famous patisserie in Cancale nearby le Coquillage restaurant (same chef by the way) for its specialties; the traditional Kouign Amann cake - crispy and full of sugar and butter… also their Millefeuilles, a real delicacy.
What is exclusive to Brittany? What makes it special?
Relax and take in the country air. Its seafood and crepes. The mystery from the savage landscape and uncontrollable weather. Once you visit, you will feel the need to go back there again to recharge.
What are the best cultural or art experiences to enjoy in Brittany?
Fest-Noz - a festive, collective practice of traditional Breton dances, accompanied by singing or instrumental music. Beyond the practice of the dance, the Fest-Noz is characterized by an intense camaraderie among the singers, musicians and dancers. It is a significant social and intergenerational diversity, with total openness to all. It is unreal!
Where do you recommend for breakfast, brunch and lunch?
The best of the best is eating crepes and galettes with a bottle of cider.
Don’t forget to have as a dessert the famous Far Breton – cake with prunes inside.
I love going to Cancale early in the morning with friends to the oyster market.
Have a glass of wine with some oysters and enjoy the beauty in the view of Mont Saint Michel from far away.
Have a famous ‘galette saucisse’ (grilled sausage with a galette) which is a specialty from Brittany's food markets. You queue at the truck food waiting for your turn and you eat it while walking through the food markets or sit in a café around with a glass of cider! This is our typical breakfast or snack before lunch…. a must try, early on Wednesday and Saturday morning.
What historical attractions or activities should we explore?
Brittany is bordered by the English Channel to the north, the Celtic sea and the Atlantic ocean to the west, and the Bay of Biscay to the south. It has some of the world's oldest standing architecture.
Côte d’Emeraude (Emarald’s Coast) located in the north of Brittany between the bays of St-Brieuc and Mont St Michel is one of the most exclusive destinations in Brittany. There are many famous seaside resorts like St Malo, Dinard or St Cast le Guildo Cancale Chausey and Brehat Islands. The beaches of Côte d’Emeraude are one of France’s treasures.
The Fortified city of Saint Malo - walking through the cobbled streets of the old town feels like you’ve stepped back in time.
La Pointe du Grouin in Cancale - on a sunny day, the views are spectacular. I am always inspired looking at the vastness of the sea. You can often see the Îles Chausey, though the best way to get to them is from Granville. Even on a not so sunny evening, when you look at the water you can see why this part of the Brittany coastline is called the Emerald Coast.
Promenade au Clair de Lune in Dinard is a relaxing walk with its gardens, natural greenery and views of the bay. The exceptionally long Promenade du Clair de Lune offers one of the finest coastal walks after the beach to watch the sunset or early in the morning to run.
Cap Fréhel, its Castle and birds reserve - the atmosphere is intense. Soaring cliffs and stunning views over the Emerald Coast and the Channel Island. There is a historic lighthouse and a fortified castle which wraps around the wild and windswept area of Cap Fréhel.
Ploumanac’h - part of the Pink Granite Coast. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of Brittany’s coastline with the Cote d’Emeraude (Emerald Coast). The area is renowned for its unusual rock formations, the best of which can be found on the coastal path between Perros-Guirec and the port of Ploumanac’h. Sailing through the islands for days or just for a day trip and drop your anchor in front of Saint Malo or go with friends to Cezembre island across Saint Malo and eat the catch of the day at the Ephemere restaurant open from May to September. A great experience!
For those with luxury interests, where would interest them?
Going for a Thalasso Spa to relax either in Dinard, Saint Malo or Ploumanac’h – however the luxe of Brittany is the simplicity of its beauty.
When is the best time of the year to visit?
All year long to be honest. If you like the warm, avoid November to February as days are too short and the weather is not that great however it is always beautiful….
What do you love most about your hometown, why is it so special?
I love walking along the coast and in summer time taking the family on a speed boat and going for picnics with friends on the islands just few minutes away from the main coast!
Keep connected with Lionel and spy his chic and special #MyBrittany movements via Instagram.