Sunday, December 25, 2011

La Pointe du Grouin and Cancale

From St Malo we took the coastal road to Cancale, first passing a small undeveloped bay and then la pointe du Grouin, the departure point for the Route du Rhum, a trans-atlantic race that take place every 4 years between St Malo and Guadeloupe.  I was happy we didn't visit it during the departure, as more than a million people gather to watch the departure!
We've envied the people owning the house on the small island
Above: we arrived at la pointe du grouin, to be surprised by the arrival of a yacht (below) just after our arrival - a perfect day!
Above: Cancale - the place where I've said I would like to retire in France.  JL reminded me that we're having good weather, I shouldn't talk so fast. I guess he is right, but it is just one of those places talking to me.  The street fronting the bay of Mont St Michel (you can see Mont St Michel from here, although we have decided not to rush our visit to Cancale, rather to keep that for another trip) is lined with restaurants and two markets with seafood.  They are very known fpr their oysters and other seafood.
Above and below: an oyster farm
Above: JL licking his lips for the oysters. One can buy a plate of a dozen oysters, they open it for you, give you the plate with a lemon, which you just have to return after you ate the oysters. As I do not eat oysters, he had to eat all 12 (you can only buy a dozen) - not that he minded!
Above: everyone just go and sit on the wall and start eating their oysters!  And only afterwards we saw at a neighbouring restaurant we could have bought a take away glass of wine to accompany the oysters.
Above: surely you can spot Mont St Michel across the bay?
Despite the restaurant-lined street, we took the last table at our restaurant of choice at 12.05!!  And what an excellent choice! I kept the business card, I'll definitely visit it again, next time booking in advance.

So tomorrow we're off to Portugal for a short break.  On the way we'll stop in Fouras for JL's mom's birthday, as well as a night in Spain.  We'll be back mid-January whereafter I'll continue, but at least Bretagne is done!  Despite the snow earlier this week, we didn't have a white Christmas, but we still spend good time with JL's children.  Eating far too much - a chapon (a huge chicken, a very huge chicken, with marrons - chestnuts cooked in a special way, and vegetables, as well as a buche, the French christmas cake).

Back in Bretagne - St Malo

As I've promised, I'll try to finish all our trips of this year during the next few weeks.  One of the highlights to me was our visit to St Malo.
I have to apologise for this long blog, but St Malo is stunning. I wanted to split it into a few postings, but with all the preparations before Christmas and an unexpected holiday trip that starts tomorrow, I ran out of time. And I want to finish my postings on Bretagne before we depart tomorrow!
 In September we were fortunate as JL had to be in Rennes for a conference on a Friday, so ideal to combine it with a weekend in St Malo, that is not far from Rennes.  As I have already explored Rennes earlier this year, I've spend the time doing some shopping.  I've realised the weather will be colder than what I have packed for, so I've explored the shops in search for an elegant jersey.  I must be honest, I do not know how people can dress so elegantly in France.  You need to earn more than an executive's salary to be able to afford these.  At last, after breaking my feet, I found a jersey in one of my favourite designers' shop at a 'reasonable' price.  And after more walking, I found a summer scarve in Monoprix at a 'good' price.  So I felt I was geared for a coastal weekend in Bretagne.
Fortunately JL's conference finished not too late.  We've arrived in St Malo before the peak rush and after dropping me and the suitcase in front of the hotel, he could clear the narrow street and find parking at the entrance to the town. 
St Malo is much bigger than what I have expected.  It comprises of a medieval part, which we didn't even have the time to explore, the intra-muros part where we have stayed, that is the part within the huge defensive wall built during the 17th and 18th century, and then a more modern part along the Sillon beach next to intra-muros.  It is a town with a rich history.  It was from here that Jacques Cartier departed to discover Canada.  And I was surprised to learn that the Falkland Islands are called îles malouines in French - which is the original name for the islands due to people from St Malo who have discovered it. 
After our arrival we could first explore some narrow streets, making our way to the town wall
Above: fort Royal or fort National, another Vauban fort, built in 1689 - you can only access it during low tide
I think I'll bore you with my many photo's of St Malo, but perhaps it is the only way to convince you that it is a place that you HAVE to include in a visit to France!!
Below: you can see a part of the town wall
Below: a statue of Jacques Cartier
Above: inside the wall you find restaurants all along the road and inside the wall
Above: the old castle is now hosting the mairie
and across is place Châteaubriand (below) with its many restaurants
JL studying the menu of a crêperie, also the one which we've finally chosen. An excellent choice, you can definitely visit Margaux!
Below: I specially took this photo for those of you who do not know macarons - French cookies which are very popular and absolute delicious! I love them all, especially the pistache and chocolat
Above: our view from the hotel room. We've slept in a very good hotel, centrally located, good service, clean and excellent value for money!
You see all kind of boats there, we've enjoyed watching this one taking over the other older one above
Above: the race between the two boats
You can see the access to the island is still covered by the ocean
Above: we've decided the tide is low enough, we can cross to the island (the photo is taken looking back to St Malo).  The pathway was quite slippery, so we had to walk carefully
Above: the grave of Châteaubriand, former French writer and politician, who was buried on the island at his request
Below: the view on Sillon plage from the island
Above: watching the rugby world cup in a café
Above: the view from the ocean, we went on a boat cruise in the bay
Restoration works on fort de la Conchée, built on a small island of 70m x 25m - another Vauban masterpiece
Above and below: another island in the bay that had important argeological remains from the 5th century, but all were destroyed during bombing during WWII
Above: the boat stopped at Dinard, another town across the river mouth
Above: some roman ruins hidden between trees, next to the medieval part of St Malo, unfortunately no time to visit, it will have to be during a next visit!
Below: medieval St Malo

Below: the tidal difference is enormous, up to 14 m.  Hence, during the early 60's this dam wall was constructed with a power station, the only power station in Europe using the tidal difference
Above: a beautiful house in Dinard overlooking the bay, belonging to an Irish family trading Cognac
Below: the port in Dinard
Below: back in St Malo - one of the town gates
Above: an old boat one can visit
Below: plage Sillon