In 1065 the Normans besieged Dinan, at the time little more than a feudal mound overlooking the River Rance. During the War of Succession in the 1300s, the English conquered Dinan twice, drawn there by its strategic position. Several decades of enduring peace followed, attracting religious orders and the building of monasteries inside the ramparts that had been erected around the city over the centuries. Today, fifteen towers and four gates still stand and have become listed monuments. Every summer, local authorities organize the Fête des Remparts, a festival where scenes from daily life, tournaments, troubadours and processions recreate the town’s former medieval atmosphere.
Dinan is one of two locations we visited in Brittany and we arrived three hours ahead of the Tour de France, which was en route to the coastal town of Saint-Malo in an early leg of the famous bicycle race. Escorted through the city by our guide from Brittany’s tourism office, we walked the ramparts in the upper village and passed by several half-timbered houses and shops built in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Dinan is by no means small and evidence of a massive fortification are everywhere you look. It was a crowded beginning to our tour of French towns and villages, the main street lined with onlookers and race enthusiasts. The anticipation levels were at a high as I stood next to a man from Belgium who had come to Dinan for the race with his entire family. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he told me. When the procession of cyclists finally arrived and whisked through town, it was a loud and raucous celebration that lasted all of three minutes.
There is plenty to shoot in Dinan, although a busy thoroughfare runs directly through the center of town. The lower village along the River Rance is exquisite and holds several cinematic opportunities. Hotel accommodations and places to eat would be no trouble, but I would be concerned with the heavy traffic. A four-hour drive from Paris, or two and half hours by train, makes it accessible.