The Walled “City of Corsairs” ~ Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

Medieval buildings over a city wall, against a blue sky, flying a French flag. Saint-Malo, Bretagne

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.

View of Saint-Malo from a wet, smeary, Condor ferry window, Bretagne, France

 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.

View up a coble-stoned street, modern cars parked along the curb, Rue de Dinan, Saint Malo Brittany France

Rue de Dinan
Old cobbles lead into the walled city…

Overhead, window-pots of colourful flowers hand down, Saint Malo Brittany France

… while colourful flowers hang everywhere overhead.

View of Cathedrale St-Vincent; Saint Malo Cathedral under a blue sky. Brittany, France

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.

In the floor of the Cathedrale St-Vincent, Saint-Malo, Brittany, is a yellow plaque Commemorating Jacques Cartier

Commemorative Plaque
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.

Inside Cathedrale St-Vincent, Saint-Malo Brittany France

Gothic Ceiling
The inside of the old cathedral is quite beautiful, with vaulted roofs, lovely stained glass …

Modern looking burnished copper or bronze altar inside Cathedrale St-Vincent, Saint-Malo, Brittany France

… and some stunning, modern-looking additions.

Candles burning in glass containers, Cathedrale St-Vincent, Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

This is still a strongly Roman Catholic community, and many candles are burned for loved ones.

View of Place Jean de Chatillon on a sunny day, Saint-Milo Brittany, France

Place Jean de Chatillon
Back outside, tourists and students on their lunch break enjoy the sun …

High roofs around Place Jean de Chatillon, Saint-Malo

Place Jean de Chatillon
… while I admire the architecture.

Names inscribed in gold on a polished granite plaque, War Memorial, Saint-Malo Brittany France

War Memorial

View of La Houxaie the oldest surviving house in Saint-Malo  Brittany, France

La Houxaie
Mentioned in writings from the 15th Century onwards, La Houxaie is the oldest surviving house in Saint-Malo.

A group of young French people in the contrasting light of a narrow Saint-Malo street, Brittany, France

The Next Generation
The next street across, a group of young people with their iPods and cigarettes chat in a doorway.

View across the beach to Fort National, off Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

Fort National
On one of the tidal islands, Fort National sits a few hundred metres away from the wall.

View across the beach to Fort National, off Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

Fort Royal
Built in 1689 under the direction of military architect Vauban, it was originally called Fort Royal.

Seagull on a post, beach, Saint-Malo Brittany France

When the tides are out, the beach is popular with sun bakers and seagulls.

View over the flats of Saint Malo Bay at Low Tide, Brittany, France

Low Tide
The bay of Saint Malo has the highest tidal range in Europe; when it is out, the “islands” join up.

A couple looking through a Telescope over the bay of Saint-Malo, Brittany, France.

The views from the wall are beautiful …

The Roofs of Saint-Malo seen from the wall, Brittany, France.

Roofs and Balconies
… in both directions!

View along Saint-Malo

The Wall

Battlements, Saint-Malo Brittany France


Statue of Robert Surcouf, Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

Robert Surcouf
Robert Surcouf (1773 – 1827), privateer and slave trader, was another of Saint-Malo’s famous sons.

View of old Buildings from the Saint-Malo

Buildings from the Wall

Cannon on the wall of Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

Old Cannon

Bronze sidewalk plaque with the Coat of Arms of Saint-Malo: an ermine in a scarf, Brittany, France

Back at street level, we notice the ermine wearing a scarf, which is part of the city’s Coat of Arms and flag.

Inside the courtyard of the Château of Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

The Château of Saint-Malo

Painted Sculpture of Madonna and Christ in an alcove, city wall, Saint-Malo, Brittany France

Madonna in the Wall

Colourful bottles of alcohol on shelves in a shop window, Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

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.

Bon voyage!

Pictures: 03September2013

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