Monday, 27 April 2009

A Day in France

While it’s true that transport between England and France has improved, the quickest method across the channel lands us near Calais, not our destination of choice……, we prefer to take the slower option. We drive to Portsmouth, board the ferry, do a little onboard duty free shopping, have a good dinner and retire to our cabin.
In the morning we wake to find we are on the approach into the port of St Malo.

The walled city of St Malo is a great tourist attraction, but the ferry docks early, so we avoid the crowds. Our normal routine is to make our way to a restaurant ‘intra muros’ and have what the French call an English breakfast, (actually ham and eggs) before walking through the narrow cobbled streets, usually in the direction of a little shop we know that is literally crammed full of new Quimper……..
St Malo has a rich history: home to corsairs and pirates, birthplace of Jacques Cartier and François Chateaubriand, but it suffered substantial damage in WW2 when the Germans retreating from the allied forces set the city ablaze………these days as you walk around the city it would be easy to forget, but look upward to the apartments and houses and you will see more modern materials have been used.

Our next stop is usually a big Carrefour or Super U; we still like shopping in France and usually take back French wines and other delicacies. When we first started visiting France the exchange rate was advantageous and we would fill the car with all sorts of food stuff and household items, some because it was cheaper, other items because they were simply not available in the UK. Since then things have changed; the exchange rate isn’t so good now and English supermarkets now stock a far greater variety of goods.

Without question our favourite lunch destination is Cancale, famous for its oyster beds the town has many restaurants, most of them overlooking the harbour and the bay of Mont St Michel. 25,000 tons of oysters a year are produced here! We used to lunch at a place that simply says ‘Salon du The’ outside, it was not that it was gastronomically better than any other restaurant nearby; its main attraction was huge Quimper platters that decorated the wall!
More recently we have eaten at a tiny restaurant ‘Le Surcouff’: get there early or book!!

After lunch we take the coast road and take a leisurely drive to Mont St Michel. The road winds along the coast and on the right it takes us past a small brocante and a very good place to buy mussels, on the left we often see those wheeled buggies with sails racing along the sand……..
We have climbed to the top of Mont St Michel many times but on these day trips we are usually content to just to meander along the causeway and wonder at the way it was constructed all those years ago. Awesome is a much used word, but awe is the emotion that comes to mind when looking at the Mont St Michel. There is something that speaks to the soul, mans achievement against adversity, or nature I guess…
On one memorable visit we stayed at the hotel directly opposite and walked across in the evening for the son et lumiere. As we walked through the abbey we could hear the strains of Gregorian chant, my husband loved it, but I found it spooky! Mont St Michel is one of the main tourist attractions in France; I can testify that tourists arrive both day and night… to visit early or late in the day.
Later we head back to St Malo and an evening meal, there are many good restaurants within the ramparts, the last time we did this trip it was difficult to park and that was on a cold November evening…..after a lovely dinner we head back to the port and board the boat.
The next morning we arrive back in Portsmouth and head for home, usually after finding a good English breakfast on the way – on Monday we diet!

More about Saint Malo here:

More about Mont St Michel here:

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