Our Condor Ferry arrived into Saint-Malo at 4.45pm after losing an hour on the water from Guernsey to France due to time zones. As we approached Saint-Malo, we got our first glimpse of the old walled town – amazing. We had only decided to go to Saint-Malo as a place to visit Mont Saint-Michel from. We had no idea the former was so stunning.
Unfortunately not a taxi in sight after leaving the ferry, and a queue of travellers waiting if a taxi did arrive, so we donned our 20kg backpacks (now travelling for two seasons) and walked the 2kms to the IBIS Budget Hotel. The room sorted, basic but clean (although no jug to boil for a coffee or tea) we walked back to the old town to explore as still plenty of daylight.
The Walled Town of Saint-Malo
As we approached the walled town, we were in awe at the height of the walls. Built as a privateer (govt. employed pirates) stronghold – anyone trying to scale up those walls would not have gotten too far. We decided to explore the buildings, harbour and beach outside of the walls first before the daylight faded. The tide was out so some people were clambering over the rocks to some of the outlying fortifications. We took a stroll to look at the old pirate ship moored in the harbour, before returning to an older section of the old town, now housing the Hotel de Ville (aka Town Council Building). A lovely French lady offered to take our photo in front of the castle.
Once through the main town gates, the restaurants were buzzing with people enjoying their drinks in the mild evening air. We instead walked up onto the wall to do a circumference walk with views out over the harbour.
Our first ever Gallettes
Starting to get a little peckish we came across a restaurant on the wall “Creperie Le Corps de Garde” specialising in “Galettes” aka crepes with a difference. The crepe is flipped on itself exposing the centre, or like the locals next to us, their crepe completely enclosed the ingredients. We chose one savoury and one sweet to share with a local beer and a French red for Maura. Curious as to what the locals were drinking in a large cup, Maura’s question in French revealed it was local cider. Something for us to add to our list to try.
A walk to finish the wall and explore a little more of the town walking along the cobbled streets, before heading back to our hotel.
The hotel offers a continental buffet for Euros6.50 ($9) giving us a good start to the day as we walked back to the old town to take a bus at 9.15am to Mont Saint-Michel for the day (Euros22 each return) the bus returning at 3.45pm and not available Sundays. We were really looking forward to seeing this place as we had missed it 30 years ago.
The drive out took us along the coast and through villages, taking about an hour before arriving at the designated parking area. Access to Mont Saint-Michel is via a long curving bridge accessible on foot (yes us), a free shuttle or a horse drawn carriage at E5.30 each way.
The walk takes about 40mins and allows lots of opportunities to take amazing photos, and to absorb the sight of this wonderful place. Once we arrived and found the tide out, we made our way around the outside of the fortification – no one else in sight as they all hurried into the streets – taking in views up to the Abbey and finding a small chapel on the rocks.
We clambered up more rocks and to find ourselves in the Gendarmerie (Police) base, so wandered through to the entrance of the Abbey walls where there is a military presence. Once through the gates we were taken back in time.
A Step Back in Time
The Benedictine Abbey (Unesco site) built from the 11th century has about 40 monks still in residence. The abbey entrance fee is E9 and is accessible walking up and along the street of shops and restaurants. You can spend a good hour or more following the designated areas of old living areas, church and cloister taking in the history and views. We had a laugh when we read the abbey restoration started in 1874 and continues still today.
The top of the Abbey spire is St Michael the archangel, protector to the French as fortified mount was impregnable against the English attacks in the hundred years war.
Lunch today was at a restaurant with views across the mudflats to the sea – the tide still out. Seats at a premium we waited for a table and tried another local beer and cider. The cider was dry, not sweet and very pleasant to drink.
Back to Saint-Malo
A great day day out exploring a bucket list item and we were not disappointed. We made our way back to the parking area to catch our bus back to Saint-Malo at 3.45pm.
With a lot of walking done today we decided we would stay near the hotel for dinner. But on the advice of our concierge, we walked back to Saint-Malo old town in search of another local dish. He suggested “moules” (small mussels) and another Galette along with cider at the recommended Les Korrigan’s. We finished our meal sharing a buttered crepe – sooo delicious.
A walk after dinner with many people enjoying the restaurants. We exited the side entrance gateway with a grotto of “Our Lady” above.
Tomorrow we take the train to Paris. Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel are amazing places to visit, and we have enjoyed taking the time to explore both places.