A trip to north west France - St Malo & Mont St Michel
Getting to St. Malo
The trip started with a train ride from Paris west to St. Malo, on the border between Normandie and Bretagne. We arrived the train station and checked the big screen to see what dock we need to go to. A few minutes before the train was supposed to leave, the screen was finally updated and we went to dock #7. On our ticket we also had the car number, so we start walking and … it doesn't end! We walked for like 5 minutes and I'm not exaggerating, we were on the last car of the train!
When we arrived at St. Malo, after 3 hours, we had to walk 15 minutes from the train station to the old city where our hotel was. Our room wasn't ready yet but anyway we changed clothes since we wanted to start our riding day. The plan for that day was to ride on the coast (as much as possible) east towards Cancale. When we picked up the bikes from the shop, the man there said "just follow the road, you can't get lost" and I was like "well, you don't know me", but seriously it's rarely just one road…
Biking from St. Malo to Cancale
We left St. Malo, passed through Rothéneuf and if you check out the map you'll see that every once in a while there's a small peninsula so you "have to" go there to see beuatiful, wild scenery. In this day we shared the road with cars (no dedicated lane for bikes) and although it was relatively on the coast it wasn't totally flat. We stopped for some photo-ops in point C on the map which is a nice cafe with great viewpoints, and returned to our main road D201.
After almost 2 hours we reached a fork where we needed to decide – are we going to Pointe de Grouin or straight to Cancale. I voted for the first since it seemed like a great point. It was, indeed, the right decision, since this was the point of that day!
It's really a northern point from which you can see several small islands and some nice rock colors of yellow, green and grey, along with the blue water and changing lighting conditions. After enjoying the views and getting some rest from sitting on the bikes we had a beer and continued to Cancale.
We didn't have any plans for Cancale, we just said we'll pass through the city and head back, but when we entered the "office de tourisme" we got some valuable information for the next day. We left the bikes and went for a short walk on the beach. The beach was pretty wide since it was low tide and I saw a man with long boots picking up Oysters, which apparently it's one of those places they call home.
From the way our legs felt we figured out the way back had more uphills , and in addition we got front wind and rain! The good thing was that we had rain coats, and after about 2 hours, at around 8:30, when it's still daylight (!) we were back at the hotel.
After a shower we went down for dinner and the city was already kind of sleepy so we fell into this pricy tourist trap …
Riding to Dinan the next day
We woke up the next day with plans to ride through the "Rance Valley", when the general direction is south. In order to do so we needed to take a short ferry (10 minutes) to Dinard. With us on the ferry there was a family with 4 kids when the oldest is maybe 11 or 12. So he and his younger brother rode their own bikes while the 3rd one was on a tandem with his mom and the youngest sat behind his dad who also carried this big trailer with all their equipment.
I really liked the family spirit! When we got to Dinard and disembarked from the ferry I found out there isn't a wheelchair accessible way to get out and you need to pick your bike over a flight of stairs, so I offered help to the dad and felt good .
We were heading towards the church to somehow connect to the "Green trail". As this was my second day in Bretagne I started recognizing they region's typical houses with these brown/grey rocks and blue window frames.
Surprisingly we found the "Green trail" without too much trouble and began our day. Unlike the other day, this was a bike only path so that was good.
On our way we passed by wheat and corn fields and small towns. Another (good) thing was that the way was flat, no ups and downs! At some point, after a good & fun downhill (when you immediately think about the way back …) we reached some lake which was a refreshing view, and from there we rode for another 10 minutes on the riverside to get to Dinan.
Enjoying French food
A lovely city with a very tall bridge/aqueduct, where we did our daily break and had a local dish, "Crepe Normande" with Calvados and an apple, and how can I forget the local drink, a Brut cider!
While we sat there it started raining which got stronger and stronger and didn't stop even we started to ride . On our way back we started feeling butt aches, remember it's our second day in a row riding 40+ km!
Anyway… we did the way back quicker and after 2 hours we were back in St. Malo and returned the bikes to the rental place. I felt like taking a walk on the enormous, never-ending beach and explore these trunks.
This time when we went for dinner, since it was a lot earlier, we had a wider range of opportunities. We walked away from the "center", just one block, and stumbled upon a really nice restaurant, La Chouamerie.
We started with Kir as an aperitif but not a standard Kir, turns out there's a "Kir Breton" where instead of wine with creme de cassis, it's based on cider. I twisted it even one step further and instead of cassis I took raspberry. It was a nice opening.
For the meal we took kind of business ("formule") which included a soup, main dish and desert. The fish soup was rich and tasty and the main dish was duck with potatoes, tomatoes and caramelized apples – also very good!
And for desert they served a glass full with different berries and sweet syrup, which was ok. When we finished, at around 9 o'clock, when there's still light outside (!) we strolled in the streets a little bit until we got tired and went to bed.
Mont St. Michel
We woke up to our next day in the area, just this time with no bikes. The plan was to get on a bus to Mont St. Michel one of the most photographed sites in France, so we asked to receptionist where is the station. She said "it's 2 minutes from here, on the road behind the casino". We're walking behind the casino and don't see anything… there isn't any clue about it.
We went to ask a bus driver and he points to the same spot where we just stood. So we waited … and really the bus arrived according to the scheduled time, but for crying out loud why can't you put a sign ?! It's not a tiny village we're going to.
By the way, the bus leaves as 9:15, takes about an hour and costs 22 euros for a round trip. During the waiting time I went down to the beach again, since it was low tide and it was crazy. I tried to walk until I got to the waterline and it took me like 2-3 minutes!
So, on the bus to Mont St Michel its recommended to sit on the left side so you can spot the destination during the ride. The fact that you can see it from the distance speaks for itself, this thing is huge!! And the fact that its located right on the tip of the mainland adds to its magic.
We arrived at the parking lot and from there, there are free shuttles that take you right to the "mont". Unfortunately I didn't get to see it in high tide, but in low tides it's surrounded by kilometers of wet sand, C-R-A-Z-Y.
We entered this monastery/fortress and it's like a city inside, with alleys, streets, shops and restaurants, and … many stairs. So if in the last 2 days we were on bikes, now we're "on our own" which is also tiring.
You have to climb a lot, actually you can reach the very top if you wish to (I didn't), but it has some interesting sections to it. From a nice church, to big halls which used to accommodate the monks and the most surprising for me was the part where you can see the extremely large pillars which are the base for the whole structure, I guess it would take about 4 people to "hug" it around.
When you exit the halls you see the nice scenery outside, the vast ocean with stripes of brown sand and blue water. We started making our way down and sat to have lunch in a packed restaurant which surprised in its good service.
We had about an hour until our bus left so we went in the sand and discovered that even sand that looks dry is wet, so we got a little muddy. And this was the ending of the Mont St Michel visit.
Delicious dinner in St. Malo
When we got back to St. Malo, the beach where I played in the morning didn't exist anymore! It was all covered with water … We took our time to see around St Malo which really has a nice vibe to it – small streets, cute shops, lovely gardens, etc.
When we thought what to have for dinner we recalled a tip we got earlier that day about a restaurant but when we walked there we saw a different sign which rang a bell, Le Chalut which turned out to be a Michelin star restaurant! We asked if they have a table and luckily they had one, and let me in with a t-shirt .
Even though the place was a little fancy the atmosphere was not too formal which I really like. We got the menus and weighed our possibilities, we took an entry and main dish but when we asked for recommendations about the main dish, the lady gave only one and really insisted on it, so both of us took it. You got to do what you got to do.
Before the entry, we received this small tray with 3 things on it: a small bowl of a cold melon, mint soup which I could easily drink 2 more of… there was another small piece of something and a salmon paste (?) which was nice.
Then we got the entries… one had 5 scallops on it with a kind of mushroom slices on top of it, while the other was a carpaccio of scallop and salmon on top of crab meat. Delicious! Then came the "fish". It was a fillet of fish with many other things in the plate – white asparagus, langoustines and small mushrooms accompanied with great sauce.
I barely finished the plate but totally understood why it was her recommendation!! We skipped desert but got, again, a small tray with 4 'mini' things, chocolate, muffin, macaron and a chaser with some liqueur. This was a great meal, and if you're in the area I totally recommend it.
Then we went for a walk on the old city's walls, which turned out to be longer than I thought but I did the full loop and at some point I "discovered" a small fortress which now I could get to by foot (in other times it's an "island"). The sun was still out but was about to set, which produced some lovely photos.
And this was the end of the Bretage/Normandie visit…