Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

September 2009 : Saint-Malo

This visit to Saint-Malo, in Brittany, came about as a result of the latest in the series of FlyerTalk Tour de France Dos. I had very little idea what the town would be like and was delighted when it turned out to be an unexpectedly excellent destination, the undoubted highlight of which is the original walled city that juts out into the sea and indeed was once an island. The city was founded by the Welsh monk Maclow (French : Maclou, Breton : Malo) in the 6th Century. Brittany's Celtic traditions continue to set it apart from the other regions of France in much the same way that Cornwall remains distinct from the rest of England. It felt a bit odd for me, as a resident of Grande-Bretagne, to be learning a little of the history of this other Bretagne.

Apparently, however, independent-minded Saint-Malo has always set itself apart even from the rest of Brittany, at one time officially proclaiming its citizens to be 'Not French, not Breton, but Malouins!' The city has certainly punched well above its weight throughout its history, causing major headaches for English shipping in bygone days, exerting influence as far away as Quebec and being first to colonise the Falkland Islands (whose Spanish name, Islas Malvinas, is a translation of Les Îles Malouines).

These days, the city can seem surprisingly awkward to reach, albeit well worth the effort. My preferred option was to fly to the Channel Islands - either Jersey or Guernsey will do - and catch the fast ferry from there.

The Walled City

The organised Do events began with a walking tour of the old walled city, led by a very knowledgeable English-speaking guide (of Welsh extraction, just to underline the Celtic influence!)

Excursion to Mont Saint-Michel

In the afternoon, we travelled along the coast by coach to Mont St-Michel, passing just minutes before the end of the journey from Celtic Brittany into Viking-influenced Normandy. I first heard of Mont St-Michel at the age of 11, and was captivated by the descriptions of racing tides and the abbey and village that would suddenly become an island, thanks to the influence of the moon. Although the tidal range in these parts is an impressive 43 feet, Mont St Michel is currently always accessible from the mainland, due to silting up of the bay. In 2006, a project was announced to clear some of the accumulated silt, which should return Mont St-Michel to tidal island status.

Mont St-Michel is shown in the famous Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. As a reward for its support of William the Conqueror, the monastery was gifted a small island near Penzance in Cornwall, which the monks proceeded to turn into a similar St Michael's Mount.

The original Mont St-Michel remains an impressive attraction, although parts of it have become very touristy. Its self-styled moniker The Marvel of the Western World is, however, perhaps a trifle overblown.

The day ended with a nice dinner, although it was an exceptionally late one for my constitution. Many thanks as ever to Chris and Marc for all the organising!

Tour de France

(2005: Strasbourg)

(2006: Lyon)

2007: Toulouse

2008: Reims

2009: Saint-Malo

2012: Montpellier

Base : Mercure Front de Mer

Linked report from same trip :-