The Walled “City of Corsairs” ~ Saint-Malo, Brittany, France
Bienvenue à Saint-Malo, Bretagne
About an hour into our trip south across the English Chanel from the Bailiwick of Jersey to Brittany, France, everything outside the ferry windows disappeared. It didn’t seem an auspicious start to our day trip to Saint-Malo, the mediaeval walled city of explorers, privateers, and pirates.
But, just like magic, dolphins appeared – leaping and diving along-side the boat – and we exited the fog bank. There it was: a fairy-tale city, with the sun glinting off the golden beaches and the cathedral steeple rising high above the ancient walls.
Once we are out of the fog we can see through the wet windows to the medieval city in the sun.
Saint Malo is an easy trip from Saint Helier in the south of Jersey where my daughter has been working on contract. So, yesterday, to celebrate her last day off before returning to England, she and I took the morning trip across – knowing the afternoon ferry back would have us “home” in time for dinner.
While that leaves very little time on the ground, the old port city on its island, fortified during the Middle Ages, is very compact. We were easily able to walk around the walls to take in the magnificent views – and still have time for stops for coffees, savoury galettes, sweet crêpes, wine, and to browse the countless shops that line the narrow cobbled streets.
Rue de Dinan
Old cobbles lead into the walled city…
… while colourful flowers hang everywhere overhead.
Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Saragosse de Saint-Malo
This gothic cathedral dates to the 13th Century – the original monastery on the site goes back to 1108.
An integral part of the history books I grew up on, Jacques Cartier (December 31, 1491 – September 1, 1557) set sail from his native Saint-Malo in 1534 and again in 1535 and 1541, exploring what is now Newfoundland and into the St. Lawrence River, leaving a small colony and claiming the lands for the French.
The inside of the old cathedral is quite beautiful, with vaulted roofs, lovely stained glass …
… and some stunning, modern-looking additions.
This is still a strongly Roman Catholic community, and many candles are burned for loved ones.
Place Jean de Chatillon
Back outside, tourists and students on their lunch break enjoy the sun …
Place Jean de Chatillon
… while I admire the architecture.
Mentioned in writings from the 15th Century onwards, La Houxaie is the oldest surviving house in Saint-Malo.
The Next Generation
The next street across, a group of young people with their iPods and cigarettes chat in a doorway.
On one of the tidal islands, Fort National sits a few hundred metres away from the wall.
Built in 1689 under the direction of military architect Vauban, it was originally called Fort Royal.
When the tides are out, the beach is popular with sun bakers and seagulls.
The bay of Saint Malo has the highest tidal range in Europe; when it is out, the “islands” join up.
The views from the wall are beautiful …
Roofs and Balconies
… in both directions!
Robert Surcouf (1773 – 1827), privateer and slave trader, was another of Saint-Malo’s famous sons.
Buildings from the Wall
Back at street level, we notice the ermine wearing a scarf, which is part of the city’s Coat of Arms and flag.
The Château of Saint-Malo
Madonna in the Wall
Calvados and Vin Chaud
Time for some last minute shopping?
It is a charming town, and I could have spent a lot more time there.
I had wanted to visit a few of the sites outside the walled city –
Maybe next time.