Sightseeing St Malo, Walled Pirate Port of Brittany

Dave the motorhome’s enjoying these last few days of wandering, being treated to paid aire after paid aire (N48.68054 W1.96357). This last one’s a perfect little place, an ex-campsite called Aire Camping-Cars Des Ilots, all grass and trees, on the coast just north-east of St Malo. The cost? Including electricity and water, an entire €5.15 per night. It would be double that in July and August, but flippin’ ‘eck, you could easily live here out of season, in coastal paradise, for €150 a month.

Dave alongside Wher'dmadaygo, a couple of old hands at European wandering, chilling and swapping stories in the sun.
Dave alongside Wher’dmadaygo, a couple of old hands at European wandering, chilling and swapping stories in the sun.

Our two crews got up this morning, packed up and left. We’d arranged to meet up at the aire here near St Malo, and we’d travel separately so we could nip into shops, get fuel or whatever. We’re both using TomTom satnavs, and we double-checked we’d the same destination in mind – the wee silicon beasties agreed to the last minute and mile, the only difference being them Rose and Paul’s speaks with an Australian accent and is a bloke, while ours has a Brit accent and is a woman. Both get equally shouted at as they confidently direct us down the narrowest of dirt tracks.

It only took about an hour to get here, taking an inland route through farmland which looks much like England, albeit a more picturesque part of our homeland. We extended the journey with a trip into Lidl, stocking up on 94c a litre lager, some Rose cider for Ju and fresh cooked pain-au-chocolat. The sun’s been beaming down all day, as promised by a Belgian chap I  met yesterday on a 3 week tour: he was from the north but spoke French and English, pointing at the weather in a local paper, 28 degrees, sunshine, then rain by Thursday. It’s only things like this which remind me what day of the week it is.

There’s BIG excitement in Dave when we see a clone coming the other way. Cue much waving and flashing of lights, a great feeling of kindredness.
Over a dam on today’s run up the channel coast.
‘The Bay’s Teeth’, an advert which I doubt would hold much attraction to Rose and Paul as we pulled into the town here outside St Malo.


Although the write-up for the aire here badges it as St Malo, it’s about 5 miles outside the town. This is nothing unusual, we’ve been in umpteen places like this which, although really pleasant in themselves, make a living off the name of a fairly distant town or attraction. There’s always a bus nipping you into the popular spot in a jiffy, but we had a better offer: Rose drove us down there in their VW Golf, ripper! On the way down flashes of coast, rock and sand tempted us to pull in, get out and eye up the coastline. It looked beautiful, with few folks occupying the expanse of glean golden sand. Few dogs too for that matter; our pooch isn’t allowed for a week or two yet, we’ll be back home before then. Poor Mogwai.

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Onwards to St Malo, Rose found a busy car park and baggsied a spot. Although I’ve heard of the town, I’d no idea much about it. Ju made a beeline for the Tourist Info office, as she always does, and picked up a map and the location of an out-of-town Orange shop so we can top up our SIM card. I nipped in again a few minutes later to ask if the small jellyfish wafting themselves about the quayside were dangerous to swimmers to be given the advice ‘if you see one, erm, get out’. Truth was, the young lass had just looked up ‘jellyfish’ on Wikipedia, and had no clue whether these little fellas were any more dangerous than an angry bluebottle, we’ll just have to stay alert.

St Malo’s a long history, according to the thickness of the tourist info material anyhow. It seems the bloke who ‘discovered’ Canada, rendering at least half of it French-speaking, came from and sailed from here. There’s a statue of him in the town, and a plaque on a house near here saying he lived there. It also seems it was a safe-port for corsairs, a rather pleasant name for pirates, what might today be called terrorists or at least merciless thieves. During WW2 the town was battered, in some parts 80% of it were wrecked, but it’s been nicely rebuilt and looks, erm, old. It’s been burned down a time or two as well, persuading folks that maybe wood’s not the best material; everything’s in granite-grey, if not actual granite.

We walked the mile-long walls of the old town, people watching, listening out for English and Australian voices, and soaking up the sun. Signs everywhere told us: ‘No Dogs, Not Even on a Lead’. We ignored them. Slowly over time we’ve worked out where to pay attention to minor laws and where not to. Any mess, we’d pick it up, our wee fella would cause no harm.

There are so many signs like this in St Malo it seems Charlie's not allowed anywhere inside the walls of the town, but you can take him in a restaurant. Weird.
There are so many signs like this in St Malo it seems Charlie’s not allowed anywhere inside the walls of the old town, but you can take him in a restaurant. Weird.

The town’s a modern port as well as an old one, with ferries plying the routes between France, the Channel Islands and the UK. As we rounded a part of the walls a couple of boats stood high and rumbling against the opposite dock. The names of British ports struck me like a slap, Jeeze, the UK’s close and I can’t claim to feel anything but trepidation at being home for good, or least for the years it’ll take us to earn the money we need to travel more. The last two years have been more than a trip, a holiday, they’ve been a ride, what a ride, what a rush. I don’t want it to end but I’m not naive, the money has been spent and it’s time to do our part again to earn more.

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The port was busy, the old walled town which was once an island’s now a massively popular spot, even outside the ‘quick, everyone on the beach’ July-Aug period. Folks lay evenly spread on the smooth sand, bright colours of towels like scattered Caribbean stamps below us. Lads dared each other to take the top dive from a couple of concrete boards out in the calm ocean.

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People stuffed into cafes to eat ice cream and rugby ball-sized doughnuts. Our budgets stretched only to looking; we walked out along a jetty with Paul pointing out splodges of the black ink on the rough concrete where squid had been landed and attempted a last and futile trick at escape.

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Through shared anecdotes and snippets of stories we lived small parts of each other’s journeys as we walked. Paul and Rose have been on the road for even longer than us, and will be heading back to Oz about the same time as we get back over to the UK. They’re cracking folks to chat with, positive, living and loving life. It’s a perfect time for us to meet up with them and to share these last few days, as it’s lifting our spirits and giving us yet more food for thought as we prepare ourselves for another stage in life.

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Once we’d done walking the walls, we took off for the aire, topping up at the Orange shop on the way out. Ju’s rolling along with her French, making me immensely proud as she slots together sentences and gets herself understood by the locals. Languages are neither of our strong points, but we do know some French at least, and it’s a great feeling for us to be able to converse. One thing I’m very much looking forward to about being back in the UK is being able to understand people again. It feels like just a few days ago that we stood looking across the Bay of Biscay at Spain, wondering at the mountains and the first of many tongues we’d not know. That was nearly 2 years ago, and our skills at mime have improved immeasurably…

As we’re on what used to be a campsite, there’s acres of grassy room, and setting up Paul and Rose’s charcoal BBQ is no problem. With a literal bucket load of shellfish we got to work cleaning off the mussel shells and pulling off beards. Paul gave me a lesson in opening oysters, what looks to be a finger-slicing affair, as he cracked open the 6 hand-sized fellas we wrestled free of the rock yesterday. Pouring a dark sauce on ’em (Worcester Sauce, Honey, Ketchup and crushed garlic) and popping them on the BBQ, they boiled up perfectly and we’re now hooked. A new spear-fishing foray’s planned for tomorrow and I’ll be digging out a knife to claw any big ‘uns from the rock.

We’ve enjoyed another night’s big screen (at ‘the pictures’) watching over in Wher’dmadaygo, and are booked in here tomorrow night so it’s full-on chill out time, with a bit of CV writing to slot in between splashing about in the sea, dog walking and beer drinking. How will we get used to working again for a living, we dunno, but that’s the risk of taking time out mid-life folks. If any of you are thinking about it, you may not much fancy going back to the 40 hour week again, but that’s no reason not to do it. Yeah, what a ride it’s been.

Cheers, Jay




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