The walled port city of St. Malo, in the north-west of France, is a popular destination for ferry trippers who prefer to go further afield than Calais or Dunkirk. Its location in Brittany, which borders the English Channel to the north, the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, makes it an ideal place to get to by ferry.
The great thing about arriving by ferry is that you have the luxury of your own transport right from the start. Although it is possible to hire a car, many hire car companies don’t allow you to take their cars on to the ferries, so do check beforehand.
Booking a ferry is simple and can be done online. However, ferry ticket prices can fluctuate depending on the time of year and availability. Generally though, prices are cheaper when booking in advance, whether directly with ferry company or through one of the comparison websites.
Historical Fort National
Once you have loaded your car up with all of the holiday gear you need, you can recuperate on your crossing to the ancient city of St. Malo. Arriving at the wonderful old port as travellers have done over hundreds of years, it is easy to see why St. Malo is still popular today. As an important coastal town many of the tourist attractions are based around its pirate history and the sea. The popular Fort National was constructed in 1689 on the orders of King Louis XIV to protect the port of St. Malo. Though it may not have the most in facilities, it definitely has wow factor. You will enjoy the guided tours, but the best feature is its location and the far reaching views that you can enjoy from its ramparts across the bay and the old town.
Rich maritime history
The castle of Saint-Malo, east of the town, was built by the Dukes of Brittany and later sold to the king of France. It has since been restored, damaged, restored and further damaged right up until the liberation of St. Malo during WWII. There are plenty of displays to see including maritime artifacts, but the best part of the visit for many is the view from the tower.
St. Malo is also famous for being the location of the world’s first tidal power station. This attracts around 200,000 visitors each year who are interested in viewing the lock in the west end of a dam which allows the passage of 16,000 vessels between the English Channel and the Rance.
Another wonderful place to go in St. Malo is the Catholic cathedral of Saint-Vincent-de-Saragosse de Saint-Malo. The cathedral is a national monument of France and formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Malo. Many visitors point out that is not dissimilar to Notre Dame in Paris. The best time to visit is early in the day when the light streams through the lovely stained glass window and the whole building does tend to become a little dark later in the day.
St. Malo can be a great place to visit if you are on a short trip to France, but it is also somewhere that you can leave behind as you move on to other interesting areas of Brittany, a region that enjoys sunny weather warmed by the Gulf Stream and the occasional windy season, enjoyed by wind surfers from around the world. For more information about St. Malo we suggest you visit the Official St. MaloTourist Office.
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Imagine if every day you woke up and this was the view from your bedroom window. Imagine if you came downstairs and sat eating your breakfast looking out at the boats bobbing on the water. And on sunny days, you walked through the garden gate in the hedge in your swimsuit and dived off the jetty in front of your house. Well, this is the view that my French friend, Isabelle has from her front terrace and this is her life.
On dull days in the city like today, my mind wanders to places like Conleau near Vannes where my friend lives. She told me once that living in this house was like being on holiday every day. I love being beside the sea and the feeling of space and calm that it brings and I have to admit I’m not a little envious.
This is the view back towards the house from the early morning ferry we took when we went Fishing for Crabs on Isle de Houat, when I went to visit last summer. Sigh….. I wish it would be summer again, and that I lived on holiday all year round – don’t you?
This is posted as part of Photo Friday hosted at Delicious Baby – head over and see all the other photo Fridays too.
More stories from Brittany
2010 is well and truly here, and with snow on the ground in Bristol, I’ve been reliving the memories of some of the sunnier places I visited last year – here’s the round up the places I travelled and enjoyed in 2009.
By the way, if you enjoy my blog, please do nominate me for best travel blog at the Bloggies before 12 January 2010.
Berlin for a girly break in April
April saw me on a 4 day break to Berlin in Germany with my teenage daughter and her friends. We were blessed with sunny spring weather and loved our stay at the fabulous budget boutique Circus Hotel, where the girls had their own apartment and the Mums were banished to their room at the other side of the courtyard. We saw the sights on foot, bus, s-bahn and rickshaw and generally soaked up the arty and trendy vibe of Berlin, an ideal city to please the most picky teenager. For more Berlin stories read;
Checkpint Charlie and other Berlin Wall stories
Blue Glass reflections at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Our 36 Hours in Berlin
Val Cenis, France for a family ski-break in April
Hardly had we returned from Berlin when we were off again to join the boys on a family ski-ing break in Val Cenis in France, not too far from the Italian border. This was a last minute bargain break at the end of the ski season, in which we squeezed ourselves into a modest self-catering apartment. My kids are mad-keen snowboarders, while I’m a rather more sedate skier who likes to break up a few easy runs with long chocolat chaud stops in between. Meanwhile my children whizz past me showing no fear, only pausing to blague the price of an expensive plate of pommes frites or a crepe. For tales from Val Cenis read;
The Good Friday service in the ski resort of Val Cenis in France
Keeping my ski helmet on in Val Cenis, France
Savoyard food specialities to enjoy from the French Alps
Lebanon for a girl’s road trip
My week in Lebanon, touring the country with a friend who works there was a real highlight. I didn’t know what to expect of Lebanon but was blown away by the variety and accessibility of what was on offer for those who want a taste of the Arab World at it’s most cosmopolitan and sophisticated. We didn’t spend too long in the glitzy building site that is Beirut, but got out of the capital to walk the mountain trails, eat mezze in the souks of Sidon, see some amazing archaeological and historic sites and taste our way through some world class wines. For stories from Lebanon read;
St Anthony’s Monastery of Qozhaya in Lebanon – video
The Cedars of Lebanon – Tannourine Cedars Reserve – Video
Mezze Memories in Lebanon
Zakynthos in July for our family beach holiday
July took us back to the Greek island of Zakynthos, where my sister lives with her Greek husband Denis and juggles family life with running two hotels. Although we’ve been going for the last 20 years, there are always surprises when you get away from the main resorts and we enjoyed meeting some locals, like Yannis Vardakastanis who founded the Earth Sea and Sky Wildlife centre at the beautiful Gerakas Turtle beach, Timotheos and Christina-Maria the stylish wine-makers at Oenpoli winery, and our photographer friend and bar owner, Rob Wallace and his wife Ritsa at Freddie’s Beach Bar at Tsilivi. I hope I’ve convinced you that there’s more to this island than its package holiday image might suggest. For tales from Zakynthos read;
How to make delicious Greek stuffed tomatoes
How to find a real Greek Taverna on Zakynthos
My top three beaches on Zakynthos
Istria, Croatia for a family resort break
In August I took a 4 day break with my family as a guest of the Istrian Tourism board, who invited a number of bloggers to this beautiful province of northern Croatia. The kids were smitten with our modern resort hotel Laguna Molindrio with it’s two pools and view of the sea and we swam and cycled through the pine woods that fringe the shore. There was plenty to interest the culture lover in me in the old Venetian ports of Porec and Rovinj nearby as well as fresh seafood, local truffles and the picturesque hill towns that reminded me of Tuscany. For more Istrian travel stories read;
Visiting the hill towns of Grozjnan and Motovan in Istria
My Istria Travel diary – podcast and slide show
Cycling by the sea in Istria
Brittany in August to go fishing for crabs
Another short break took me with my daughter to visit an old friend in Vannes in Brittany, in an effort to improve both our language skills. My friend lives in a beautiful spot overlooking the marina at Conleau on the Gulf of Morhiban and we took a day trip to the island of Houat where we swam, sunbathed and had fun fishing for crabs. Unfortunately our catch was rather insignificant, so we had to pay a visit to the fishmonger on the way home to get some more respectable specimens to eat for dinner. For a few fishing tales from Brittany read;
How to prepare a crab a la Francaise in Brittany – video
Gone fishing for crabs on Ile de Houat in Brittany
A postcard from Conleau near Vannes in Brittany
Lisbon in November for a romantic weekend a deux
At the end of November, I visited Lisbon for a 3 day weekend break with my husband, leaving the kids behind. We loved our welcoming boutique hotel which was ideally placed for sightseeing and wandering the back streets. We visited the Monastery of Jeronimus and the Castelo de Sao Jorge, getting around on the modern metro, old fashioned trams and elevador funiculars that climb hills of the city, saving the legs of the weary traveller. We ate our way through as many local specialities as we could including the port, salt cod and seafood and the custard tarts Pasteis de Nata that are the sweet symbol of Lisbon. For more Lisbon stories read;
An autumn weekend in Lisbon – Podcast
An authentic Portuguese meal at Casa do Alentejo in Lisbon
A rainy day at the monastery of Jeronimus
Munich in December with my parents to see the Christmas markets
To round off the year I took a 3 day weekend break with my parents to visit the Christmas markets and get into the holiday spirit. I loved the feeling of Christmas in the air, especially in the atmospheric market we found in the courtyard of the Residenz with local choirs and Alpine horns playing, the smell of gingerbread, sizzling sausages and mulled wine and the dusting of snow on the rooftops. I loved the cosy feel of sitting in a condotorei, having our kafee and kuchen, but I did feel the cold when the temperature dropped below freezing. For more Munich stories read;
Visiting the Munich Christmas Markets – podcast
Empty splendour at the Resindenz in Munich
Bavarian pork knuckle at Haxnbauer in Munich
So that was 2009 and where will 2010 take me? The only thing booked is a visit to the Passion play at Oberammergau in July, which happens only every 10 years, so it’s really a once in a lifetime thing. Other than that the plans are fluid for the spring – I’m waiting to see where the cheap flights, friends around the world and any other offers may tempt me. What are your travel plans for 2010 – I’d love to hear them. And if they bring you to Bristol in 2010, I’d love to show you my city.