Thursday, June 26, 2014

St-Malo, France--Inside the Walls

 St-Malo has a long history as a coastal town, dating back at least to the early 1300s. Its seaside location made it a prosperous port. The seamen ran the gamut from legitimate shippers to privateers (the respectable term for "pirates"). After the English attacked in 1693 and 1695, the locals wanted to fortify the town. Architect Simeon de Garangeau did most of the design work. The town lasted till the end of World War II, when 80 per cent of the town was destroyed. They rebuilt as close to the previous style as they could, and the town retains its ancient flavor.

As I said in the previous post, we entered through the main gates, the Porte St-Vincent. Immediately on the right is the town's castle, built by John V Duke of Brittany in the late 1300s and expanded by Anne of Brittany.

Porte St-Vincent

The castle

Buttresses of the castle

Near the castle is a plaque in remembrance of local-born author Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, a Romantic writer from the early 19th century.

Plaque to Chateaubriand

We wandered among the streets and came into the courtyard La Houssaye, with a thirteenth century turret. The turret was part of a home that was known as "Houssaye." The home was part of the town walls (the one prior to the 18th century rebuild) and had a garden.

Courtyard La Houssaye

L discovered a repeating symbol in the pavement. It's the town symbol and must mark a touring trail or historic site.

L finds a button

Cryptic town symbol

Some more twists and turns brought us to the World War I and World War II memorials in a plaza called the "Enclosure of the Resistance." The World War II memorial is an armless statue with vacant eyes, symbolizing the sacrifice that locals made.

WWII Resistance memorial

World War I memorial

Nearby chapel

A nearby street has the colorful name rue du Chat qui Danse or "Cat Who Dances," which our guide book assures us is a reference to the women of the night who plied their trade with lonely seamen in the neighborhood.

Dancing Cat Boulevard?

The street leads out to the town wall, which we ascended at the Tour Bidouane, a tower that predates the 1700s walls. The tower was built around an existing arsenal. The views from the top are quite enjoyable.

View of the wall and beach

A small island in the bay

View back to Fort National

View back into town

We walked along the wall and found a great restaurant where we had some crepes. My wife and I had the local specialty, topped with salted caramel. J had a lemon crepe (which he ordered himself!) and L had nutella on hers. The waitresses were dressed like pirates in puffy white shirts, tight black pants, and a red sash for a belt. The walls had blunderbusses and cutlasses on the walls, as well as paintings of ships and seascapes. A little kitschy but fun.

Pirate-themed restaurant

L about to get chocolaty

After the snack, we walked back down into the city and wound our way to the central market square. The area was bustling with people and we were happy to discover a board game store called Jeux Sortileges. We decided to pay a visit. In the store we found a game called Saint Malo which we couldn't resist buying since we were in St-Malo. We bought some games for the kids too.

The pleasant plaza

L tries out a game

We left via the Grande Porte (another access point to the walls) and drove off satisfied with a fun visit.

Grande Porte

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