Having satisfied my craving for oysters in Cancale, I took the coastal road passing through a number of seaside villages to the city of Saint Malo. Like a lot of people, I had only ever thought of this city as a ferry port; ferries arrive here from, and depart for, Portsmouth and Poole in the UK. Anyone who has approached St Malo by ferry will have been struck by the striking and impressive walls that surround what was once an attractive medieval city; destroyed in the second World War, but since sensitively restored. And anyone who has taken the time to explore Saint-Malo will have found walking on the city’s ramparts and looking out to La Manche (the English Channel) as powerful.
The Saint-Malo that attracts many tourists today owes its origins to a monastic settlement that dates back to the sixth century; the name of the city deriving from one of the followers, Saint Malo. The fortifications derive were built in medieval times when the town was but an island on the River Rance – and the mouth of the river is still dotted with islands and strategically-placed forts.
Now, St Malo is attached to the mainland and is the most visited ‘attraction’ in Brittany, and not just because of the ferry port. Most people arriving by ferry simply drive off and head on to their European destination, missing out on an interesting place to spend their first night in France. Karen has also recommended spending time in a Channel port in her post, “Calais: More than just a booze cruise destination“.
St Malo is a wonderful place to visit, the highlight of St Malo sightseeing being walking the medieval ramparts and the reconstructed city, itself a warren of cobbled streets with great shops and restaurants. In fact, it is said that this European city has the highest concentration of seafood restaurants in all of Europe. Yes, I did have lunch in one; but given my mid-morning oyster snack I had a glass of rosÃ© and a healthy (cheese) salad.
My travel tip for this week for anyone passing through Saint-Malo via the ferry port, at whatever time of the year, is to stay a night or two and start as you intend to go on.The photographs used in the post were taken by Susan Hazelwood, a friend living and blogging in northern Brittany.