Saint-Malo: Traveling Saints, French Pirates, and the Best Crêpes Around

Back when I started this blog, I imagined that I’d have an entire series of posts about my travels around France. As often happens with projects like this, I ended up going off in other directions and I never really returned to the theme of sharing my favorites places in France with my readers. Well, oversight rectified …

Welcome to Saint-Malo!


Saint Brendan
Saint Brendan and his disciples, from a German medieval manuscript

One of the first long weekend trips that Michel and I ever took together was to celebrate my birthday at the seaside in Brittany, in the infinitely charming and — for me — historically intriguing port city of Saint-Malo. Saint-Malo is a modern-day summer beach destination just a few hours by train from Paris, but it also has preserved the old walled city that dates to the Middle Ages. The city traces its history back even farther than that, though, to a monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by Saints Brendan and Aaron. According to tradition, one of Saint Brendan’s disciples on his evangelizing voyages was a young Welshman named Maclou, Mac’h Low, or Malo, who accompanied him to the coast of Brittany, where they founded a monastic community at Aleth, not far from the present-day site of Saint-Malo. Upon the death of Saint Aaron, who had served as the monastery’s first abbot, Maclou assumed leadership and was later consecrated the first Bishop of Aleth. The neighboring settlement of Saint-Malo was subsequently named for Maclou, when the Aleth community moved there in the 12th century for protection from Norman attacks.

Jacques Cartier, by  Théophile Hamel
Jacques Cartier, by Théophile Hamel

During the Middle Ages, Saint-Malo grew into a bustling port as well as a haven for French corsairs, or privateers. One of Saint-Malo’s most famous sons, though, was no pirate but a mariner with a penchant for exploration: Jacques Cartier. Cartier is credited with the discovery of Canada; he was the first European to map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Saint Lawrence River, including the Native American settlements where the future cities of Québec and Montréal would later be built. With a rich seafaring tradition, Saint-Malo was also the home of the first Europeans to settle in the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina in the 18th century; the islands are called Les Îles Malouines in French — or Las (Islas) Malvinas in Spanish — using the adjective to describe someone from Saint-Malo.

Saint-Malo was severely damaged during the Second World War. Because Allied forces were particularly ill-informed as to the location of the Nazi garrison there, some 80% of the city was destroyed during Allied bombardment in 1944. After the war, the city was rebuilt respecting the architectural styles in existence before the bombardment.

But enough about the history, right? You want some “useful” information. First, je parle américain‘s recommendations for …

Where to eatLa Crèperie des Lutins, at 7 la Grand’ Rue in the old city. It’s a charming eatery with delectable crêpes (the best we had in town, and we ate a LOT) with a magical, fairy-inspired ambiance.

Where to sleep: Hôtel du Louvre, at 22 rue des Marins in the old city. Spacious, renovated rooms in the heart of the old city, with captivating views and friendly service for a price that won’t break the bank.

And now … pictures. Check out this gallery of some of my favorite images from this charming seaside town — including quite a few food shots. Unfortunately, the quality of these photos isn’t up to my usual standard, but you’ll get the picture. Enjoy!

To open the gallery, simply click on one of the photos below (or on a white space if nothing appears). You will then be able then scroll through all of the photos in a larger format.

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

2 thoughts on “Saint-Malo: Traveling Saints, French Pirates, and the Best Crêpes Around

    1. Thanks Kris! This was back in late April 2010. We had unseasonably warm and sunny weather. Brittany is known for its rainy, dreary weather, so I felt very lucky to have these blue skies for my birthday weekend!

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