Monday, June 2, 2014, St. Malo, France

20140602_104649 Jacques Cartier statueOur Camino friends Jean-François and Josette showed us highlights of St. Malo and the surrounding area. We stopped to see the statue of Jacques Cartier, the St. Malo sailor who, in 1534, claimed Canada for France. His statue points towards the Atlantic towards Quebec.

Afterwards we toured the St. Malo, the walled port city of Brittany notorious for its pirates. The weather was overcast, but the occasional sunshine brought the temperatures into the mid 60s F. which made it comfortable for us to walk the 1.2 mile circuit (1.754 km) on the  ramparts around the city. The original medieval walls were extended in the 17th century to accommodate the expanding city. From the top of the 12-foot wide walkway, we could see the bay and the islets at the mouth of the Rance estuary.

Tall granite edifices with enormous windows provide the homes on the west side of town with a great view of the sea. 20140602_105248 ramparts of St. MaloThe western exposure and tall  buildings prevent sunlight from entering the rooms; this might be ideal in summer, but  I imagine the rooms are damp and chilly in the cooler months. Many of the apartments are rented for the tourists, mostly from the UK.

Dennis was amazed by the hugeness of this well-preserved medieval city. Everything is big and heavy. We later learned that the city was destroyed in WWII, and then reconstructed from the rubble, following the original plan and spirit of the ancient city.

20140602_111603 St. MaloDescending from the wall, we strolled along the narrow and cobbled intramural streets. There are still a few timber-framed buildings that add color and contrast to the Renaissance-style structures.

Since the port receives many ferries from Portsmouth, Poole, and Weymouth, there are many shops that cater to the tourists and the town has one of the highest concentration of restaurants in Europe. In spite of the tourism, the prices for eating and clothing were reasonable. During the summer, the town’s population increases to 200,000.Other parts of the city have small and colorful buildings.

20140602_120117 shot up bunker 300Next, we visited the promontory fort of Cite d’Alet, an ancient Celtic city. During WWII, the Germans built concrete bunkers and defenses here. We did not visit the memorial museum, but walked around the site, seeing signs of the struggle here. I imagine how frightening the bombardment must have been for the solders in the tunnels and underground bunkers.

It felt good to walk on the grounds and along the bay. There we saw jelly fish and various shells strewed on the pebbly beach. There are also remains of an ancient stone church, dating to pre-Roman times.

20140602_122559 Tour SolidorThe Tour Solidor (Solidor Tower) was built between 1369 and 1382 to control access to the Rance Over the centuries the tower lost its military importance and became a jail. It is now a museum celebrating Breton sailors exploring Cape Horn.

We returned to our friends’ home to enjoy a traditional regional meal: Galette au Blé Noir. These are thin buckwheat pancakes, fried egg, ham, and grated Swiss cheese sandwiches served with a salad and sparkling apple cider. I can’t wait to make this recipe for my parents, I am sure they would enjoy it.

20140602_132333 Galette de Ble noir

 

After lunch we visited San Suliac, a typical fishing village. Nets still hang on the front of the homes as in the olden days. Flowers seem to grow from every crack in the slate making the town very inviting.

In the harbor stands a statue, La Vierge de Grainfollet. Ships leaving the harbor would pray for a safe return as they passed by.

20140602_150859 typical fisherman's home St Suliac in 30020140602_162219 St Suliac church window 300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stain-glass window in the church reflects the fisherman’s life with a boat, a lighthouse, and a pilgrimage to the neighboring town.

On the way to Cancale, 20140602_171952 Brittaqny coastline near St. Malo 300we stopped to admire the coastline with the emerald waters. At low tide, the water almost disappears on the horizon.

Due to its location, The “Bay of Saint-Malo” has the biggest tides in Europe. The tidal range – the difference between high tide and low tide – is on average, more than 40 feet (12m) at the full-moon, the greatest for all Europe.

When we got to Cancale, the largest oyster farm in France, the tide was out. As we had supper in a restaurant overlooking the bay (yummy oysters and fruits de mer), we watched how quickly the waters returned. 20140602_180912 oyster farm CancaleIn no time, boats that were grounded, were able to leave, and the oyster beds disappeared.

It takes three years for the oysters to mature and they must be turned daily.When the tides recede, trucks and farm implements drive out to tend to the oyster beds.

In the past when the men were at sea, it was the women who harvested and sold the oysters. Based on this tradition, only women are permitted to sell the oysters.

 

About The Author

Jane V. Blanchard

I am an award-winning author of the “Woman On Her Way” book series, writing about my travel adventures. For more information on the books, please visit janevblanchard.com.

I started the “Woman On Her Way” travel blog in 2013 to share my experiences as I explored 13 countries with my husband, traveling by ship, foot, bike, bus, train, and plane. Dennis and I continue to make memories and hope you will enjoy following along.

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