Friday, March 16, 2012

saint malo.


France is so old that, even in the Middle Ages, it had lovely resort cities on the ocean front. Saint Malo is one of those ancient tourist destinations with a colorful history that Americans only dream of. Think pirates, huge masted ships, menacing seaside forts with cannon look-outs and tall flags all coupled with long, sandy beaches, cafés with an ocean view, and enough seafood to make any little sea-goer as happy as a clam.

hello there, island forteress

the city from the fortress

The weather the day that we went to St Malo was not perfect. It was overcast and drizzly most of the day, but I was not about to let that interfere with our explorations! First stop of the day: le Grand-Bé. The Grand-Bé and the Petit-Bé are both small tidal islands, meaning they are small land masses connected to the mainland via a strip of sand and are only accessible during low tide. On each of these little sand dunes are the ruins of ancient forts, meant to serve as the first level of defense for the city.

view of the Petit-Bé from the Grand-Bé

windswept, as usual

The biggest reason that I wanted to visit Saint Malo, and the Grand-Bé specifically, is because one of France's most famous, influential writers is very humbly buried on the island. François-René de Chateaubriand was nearly always on my reading list for classes, and he pretty much single-handedly started the Romantic movement in literature. He was born in Saint Malo and grew up in a noble family that had lost most of their wealth. He spent most of his childhood at Combourg (a small town on the way to Saint Malo), and attended school for a few years in Dinan (one of our stops), as well as in several other towns in Bretagne. Chateaubriand decided to join the military, but left once the French Revolution broke out, and decided to travel to North America. His experiences and observations across the ocean would influence his future writing and inspire some of his most well-known novels (Atala and René). Throughout his lifetime, he wrote several novels, a detailed autobiography, as well as hundreds of essays and letters, and is known for his contributions to Romanticism.

His grave is not even marked, and the only sign in the area says "A great French writer wanted to be laid to rest here to only hear the sea and the wind. Please respect his last request when passing by."

After visiting Chateaubriand's grave, I got to fulfill the second of my only two goals of the trip--SWIM IN THE OCEAN! Swimming, unfortunately, would not have been a wise choice on this chilly, windy, drizzly day. So I compromised by simply walking in the water. I was so excited.

i ran there

And with all of those goals accomplished in just a few hours, we set into the city to explore. Because it was outside of tourist season, we did not have to battle with the normal crowds, but that also meant that there were plenty of things that were not open. We still got to enjoy a yummy crêpe lunch, saw some famous dead people (their tombs, I mean...), and walked more winding streets before the rain cut our afternoon short.

flowers! in front of the cathedral!

jacques cartier's tomb

And even though the rain pushed us out of Saint Malo a bit early, we still stopped at another point on the coast before heading home, so that I could dip my toes in the water again :)

beautiful little hidden beach :)

pax christi.

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