St. Malo, France
Visit Saint Malo and the Mont St. Michel
Walled and built with the same grey granite stone as Mont St. Michel, St. Malo (click here for an amazing aerial view of St. Malo) was originally a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance river, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond. The promontory fort of Alet, south of the modern centre in what's now the St. Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern St. Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by saints Aaron and Brendan early in the sixth century. In later centuries it became notorious as the home of a fierce breed of pirate-mariners, who were never quite under anybody's control but their own; for four years from 1590, St. Malo even declared itself to be an independent republic. The corsaires of St. Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier, who colonized Canada, lived in and sailed from St-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands' Argentinian name, Las Malvinas, from the French Malouins.
St. Malo - (click here for an Aerial view of the St. Malo Area)
Now inseparably attached to the mainland, Saint Malo is the most visited place in Brittany, thanks more to its superb old citadelle than to the ferry terminal that's tucked into the harbour behind. From outside the walls, the dignified ensemble of the old city might seem stern and forbidding, but passing through into the streets within the walls brings you into a busy, lively and very distinctive town, packed with hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. Though the summer crowds can be oppressive, a stroll atop the ramparts should restore your equilibrium, and the presence of vast, clean beaches right on the city's doorstep is a big bonus if you're travelling with kids in tow. Having to spend a night here before or after a ferry crossing is a positive pleasure – so long as you take the trouble to reserve accommodation in advance.
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Visit the historic Paradis Latin or the sizzling Crazy Horse for a cabaret show.
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