Back to the list

Hear from our experts: in the heart of Brittany sits the Glénac base

Located right at the heart of the region of Brittany, the Nicols base at Glénac is the perfect starting point for discovering this beautiful area of France.
Glénac sits at the crossroads of several waterways: the Nantes-Brest Canal towards Nantes or Josselin, the River Vilaine heading north towards Rennes or south towards Roche Bernard, and finally the smaller River Aff which meanders to the village of Gacilly. A boating holiday here also sees you in an area of outstanding nature as its Natura 2000 recognition confirms.

The Nicols Glénac base in Brittany is managed by base manager Patrice who is originally from the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-west France. Military service in the submarines, based at Lorient, is what brought Patrice to Brittany and after falling in love with the region he’s made it his home. 

Despite being trained as a wood sculptor and cabinet maker, this 53 year old has spent most of his career working on and around the waterways – from his very first experiences in Concarneau on the coast and doing boat mechanics all over France through to even setting up and operating a boat rental base in Ireland.

Today, travelling on Brittany’s rivers and canals remains his passion as he tell us “How can I advise our customers if I don’t know what I’m talking about?!” …and so when he’s not working he still spends a large amount of his free time enjoying the peaceful navigation on our canals and rivers here in Brittany.

The base team, from left to right:
Patrice, base manager, Gwenola, hostess, Benjamin and Pierrick, canal boat technicians

– No one leaves the base without being prepared

The Glénac base team recently grew to four people with the addition of a new canal boat technician and in peak season grows to five “to ensure that all of our crews receive a comprehensive briefing before setting off on their boating holiday” comments Patrice.

Being located on a former campsite means that there is plenty of space for all our needs (storage, wintering of boats, etc.) but also to provide parking for our holidaymakers.

What Patrice loves most about his role is the variety. “Meeting new people, exploring new places, finding new secrets and, with Nicols, the constant innovation of new boats and services makes my working day so interesting.”

– Nicols, one big family

For Patrice, there is no competition between the various Nicols bases. “Everyone lends a helping hand when needed. If we ever encounter a technical difficulty that we can’t solve here there are others who are ready to help identify and resolve the problem we’ve encountered. This ethos runs through the whole of Nicols and not just the base teams. We are one big family - from the head office management and reservations team to our base teams. We know that there is always someone to talk to or to ask a question.”

– An ideal location for an adventure in Brittany

For Patrice, he likes how Glénac is central within Brittany. “To the north you can go to Dinan and push on to Saint-Malo with a shuttle. To the east you can head in the direction of Nantes while to the south you’ll travel towards Arzal or if going west then to Pontivy and Lorient. The base is two hours sailing from Redon.”

“In total Brittany boasts more than 360km of waterways which are home to 240 locks. The region has invested well in establishing a good waterways infrastructure” adds Patrice. “There are lots of services for boaters all along the canals meaning that everyone can take advantage of this gentle mode of travel throughout our region.”

– Places steeped in history

Trying to create a shortlist of the best places to visit isn’t easy as there are so many good options. All of Brittany is beautiful but we put Patrice on the spot and asked him for his top three ‘must see’ suggestions...

“Let's be biased” smiles Patrice. “Glénac is superb! It is a Natura 2000 classified area and I highly recommend that you go to the Île aux Pies where rocky cliffs plunge down into the river which weaves in and out of surrounding woodland that boasts poplars, firs and a multitude of different trees.”

Cruising through the Île aux Pies site ©JJ Bernier

On the Vilaine River, at Rieux and with a little bit of walking, magnificent views over the river valley and the whole region can be enjoyed.

Finally, for history buffs “Saint Juste is located about ten kilometres from the edge of the canal. It's a beautiful place, there's a kind of magic in it.” This prehistoric site can be visited all year round and in summer there is a calendar of events and activities running.

Mysterious Brittany, must-see stone dolmens ©Berthier Emmanuel - CRTB

– Famous for buckwheat pancakes, but also so much more!

Even if the story that you’ll never struggle to find a Galette Bretonne (the regions famous buckwheat flour pancakes) as there is a creperie to be found in every village, the gastronomy of the area is wide and varied. “Here, we eat, we drink and we live well.” claims Patrice.

Among his favourites are several establishments found in La Gacilly. First on the list “Le Bout Du Pont” followed by “Végétarien”. For a slightly more unusual gastronomic experience try “Le Gré des Landes” which offers an original and surprising menu and can be found just a stone's throw from the Yves Rocher gardens.

Cider is a well known drink from this region, but it’s not the only one produced here. We offer each holidaymaker a bottle from the Cidrerie Le Clos de la Ruaudaie.” But make no mistake, the Bretons make excellent whiskeys too as Patrice will confirm! “The Kornog, one of my favourites, is made in a very small distillery in Larmor-Pleubian. And it deserves to be tasted.” This comes from the mouth of the man who opened a base in Ireland - what more can we say!

“You will never be short of places to eat and drink as in most of the mooring stops along our waterways you will find a guinguette or a restaurant. Another of my favourites is La Ciboulette in Peillac.”

Breton crepe and cider ©Gratien Jean Patrick

– A successful boating holiday is a well planned one

If you’ve never been on a Nicols canal boat before  you can be forgiven for thinking that you need bring a lot of food, clothing and other accessories. “We often find that crews never get round to eating the food they brought with them as all along the waterways you come across bakeries, grocery stores and a whole range of small shops where you’ll find new and local products which look far more exciting!” explains Patrice.

And proper planning is the key to a successful boating holiday in Brittany... “Make a detailed plan or itinerary before your holiday to know where you want to stop and what you want to visit there. In addition to helping build excitement about the holiday to come, this prior preparation makes it possible to identify who wants to see what in the family. And more importantly who doesn't want to do certain things too!”

“Also, whether your trip is for just a weekend or for a month, the waterways guide/map is a must” says Patrice. This is great advice as it allows you to see at scale the places and distances along your route - therefore we recommend you order this well in advance!

And lastly, keep the trip fun for everyone in particular younger crew members. “Children, especially teenagers, can sometimes find the time navigating long so keeping everyone involved is a great idea. Often I propose that there is a captain, a captain’s mate and cabin boys who each will have specific tasks at specific times. This has double benefits…it saves parents from doing everything…but also involves everyone in the holiday, stopping those teenagers feeling bored and will actually make great memories of an adventure too.”

Plan games for everyone ©julius noemi

– Who’s in your boating holiday crew?

While a romantic boating holiday for two sounds idyllic, if it’s your first time out on the waterways you might find it harder than you thought if you don’t choose the right boat and right route. Going through the locks, getting off the boat, getting on board again…as Patrice tries to explain… “There are things to do off the boat as well as on the boat and, together, you can quickly have the feeling that you don't stop. For a first experience, I recommend going with a smaller boat, with at least three people, so that everyone has a moment of rest.”

“And, above all, don't overload yourself, because a boat is a finite space which we tend to clutter up. Life on board is not Robinson Crusoe!” adds Patrice. The key is to travel light and simple.

Don't take too much luggage on board! ©JJ Bernier

– Museums and places of history

Patrice has selected two very different places as his regional secrets. “First there is Malestroit which is situated directly on the canal itself. This small city has plenty of character with half-timbered houses and whitewashed walls. You can feel history, the past and life in Malestroit at the same time.”

Malestroit, a small town full of character ©LEGAL Yannick - CRTB

“And then also I’d recommend a visit to the Breton resistance museum, in Saint-Marcel. Little is known about this period of history in the region, but it is a well done museum, not boring at all and with something for everyone.”

– An anecdote? Here’s a sheepish story!

Over the years Patrice has built up a list of anecdotes and stories, most of which are often amusing. “The most surprising thing to happen was finding a sheep stuck in the engine! With a crew made up of a whole family on board we made sure not to show too much about what was happening, but to this day we still don't understand how it ended up in such a position!”

Another time, when a crew set off without their boat's sheets, Patrice took chase to catch up with them and deliver them... but as he approaches he sees that they have forgotten to turn in front of a lock and are now stuck. The story ends well for the crew with their sheets now onboard…but not so well for Patrice who ends up in the water to try and free them!

“That's what I love about my job, never quite knowing what’s going to happen but giving everything to making sure our crews have the best time possible.”

– Brittany - a very beautiful region

Patrice's conclusion on Brittany is easy. In love with his region, his base and his customers, he talks to us about beauty, nature and discovery. “And surprise too, otherwise we miss things.” he adds.

– The surprise, the kindness and the absence of stress

Are you ready to come to Brittany for a boating holiday? Let Patrice, base manager at Glénac convince you: “When you arrive at Glénac you‘ll find that the base is nestled within its beautiful surroundings. At first you might miss it but slowly everything appears by surprise, among the flowers and the trees, like magic.

"Once out on the water, it's the same. You have the feeling that everything is simple." adds Patrice. “The lock keepers are all friendly and helpful; they take away the stresses and have an abundance of useful knowledge to share with you. Brittany is waiting for you and your crews to explore it.”

Approaching a lock on the Canal de Nantes à Brest ©JJ Bernier

Why not find out more and see the full range of boating holidays in Brittany offered by Nicols by looking at our dedicated Glénac base pages.

Share article

Read too