My mom and I traveled to France in late August, 2014 together. We went to Paris for several days, then went to Tours and old castles, Mont Saint Michel and then Saint Malo. My mom already visited Paris before so she suggested to go outside of Paris for a couple of days and it was indeed a nice break from cosmopolitan Paris.
Many of you would have heard Mont Saint Michel but Saint Malo might be new. Saint Malo is one hour drive from Mont Saint Michel. If you have enough time before or after going to Mont Saint Michel, it would be a great small city to stop by and enjoy the view.
If you are riding public transit, you can take a bus from Renne for one hour to get to Saint Malo. But as far as I know, there was not a bus going from Mont Saint Michel to Saint Malo or vice versa. So, if you want to go both places by bus or train, you should go back to Renne and take the bus to the other one. In this way, we arrived Saint Malo when there was sunset going on.
<Saint Malo aerial View from ThinkLink>
Saint Malo is a port city with long and interesting history and it’s famous for its surrounding wall. The history of this city actually goes back to 1st century BC and the city was founded by Gauls. This city has quite interesting relationship with France monarchy and Bretagne government. In the 11th century, the city had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities. From 1590 to 1593, Saint-Malo declared itself to be an independent republic, taking the motto “not French, not Breton, but Malouin.” Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. During the 17th and 18th centuries, under letters of marque from the king of France (who shared their booty), the corsairs of St Malo roved the seas taking whatever they wanted from English, Dutch and Portuguese ships unfortunate enough to encounter them.
So, Saint Malo is known as “Bretagne’s pirate heaven.”
My mom and I walked about 20 minutes from the station to the main part of Saint Malo(inside of the wall). Inside of the wall looks like Mont Saint Michel without hill and it was much less touristy than Mont Saint Michel.
<One of the restaurants in Saint Malo- that’s how French people do marketing. Who doesn’t love French sound?>
<Streets in Saint Malo in the afternoon>
<A giant old ship in front of the wall>
Unluckily, I don’t have pictures of Saint Malo during the night but it has certainly different vibe from walking in the morning and afternoon. With some street musicians playing music at night, it is even more romantic. In the afternoon, the city is quite and pleasant with fresh breeze from the ocean.
There are not many historical or touristic monument in Saint Malo. However, it’s definitely a highlight to walk around the wall. In French, it’s Les remparts de Saint-Malo.
<Pictures: View from Les remparts>
In World War II, during fighting in late August and early September 1944, the historic walled city of Saint-Malo was almost totally destroyed by American shelling and bombing as well as British naval gunfire.Saint-Malo was rebuilt over a 12-year period from 1948–60. Now we should appreciate to those people in the past who put effort to rebuild this city. Thanks to them, many visitors can enjoy a nice stroll around the wall with gorgeous views.
In this picture, you can see a small island and it’s Grand Bé island. It is famous for Chateaubriand’s tomb, the famous and influential Romantic writer. You can get to the island only when the tide is out. When I saw this island, it was totally inaccessible. Chateaubriand was born in Saint Malo and he wanted to stay in Saint Malo after his death since he was young. In his epitaph, he wrote “Un grand écrivain français a voulu reposer ici pour n’y entendre que la mer et le vent. Passant, respecte sa dernière volonté” meaning that he( a great French writer) just wanted to stay here to hear nothing else besides the sound from the sea and wind. It seems like a great way to enjoy the solitude with fresh air and sound from the sea.
After one night trip in Saint Malo, my mom and I had to get back to Paris. It was August 31st and the train was so packed with people going back to the reality from long vacance. Although it was very short trip, my mom and I talked about this trip and remind the time that we spent together in beautiful Saint Malo.
Even if you didn’t read this book, you might have seen it in the bookstore. After reading this blog, you will be able to recognize that the book cover is the picture of Saint Malo. Indeed, Anthony Doerr, the author of this book, was inspired by the trip to Saint Malo and its history and started to write this novel. The novel takes place in Paris, Saint Malo and Germany during the WW2. Marie Laure, a blind girl living in Paris before the war flee to Saint Malo to escape from Nazi. Meanwhile, Werner, an orphan boy from a mining town in Germany, joined Hitler Youth and tracked the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.