The first time I had visited St Malo, was as part of a school trip from Kenya where our mission was to improve our French when I was 16 in 1998 (yes showing my age).
We had spent a few weeks staying with a host family and attending school as well as experiencing the Bretagne culture.
When I was invited to go on a weekend press trip to St Malo by Brittany Ferries and Brittany Tourism, I was so excited to re-visit St Malo and relive some of my experiences from 1998. Safe to say with the absence of good quality photographs from 1998, only glimpses of the city looked familiar so it was amazing to re-discover it all again.
We took an overnight ferry from Portsmouth Harbour and arrived in Brittany in the morning. A short walk past the harbour, and crossing the bridge which was open to let boats through so we got to see it closing, we arrived at Café De L’Ouest in Place Chateaubriand, the main square of the old city.
A cooking class in all things Lobster with a Michelin Star Chef, Luc Mobihan
Seafood is in abundance in the pretty coastline of Brittany, and in our masterclass with Michelin star chef, Luc Mobihan, in 2 hours we were taught how to choose a good lobster, prepare it and then cook it in 3 different ways.
Luc is a chef at École du Goût de Saint-Malo, which aims to share and teach Breton cuisine and specialities.
Treated to some sparkling wine from Loire Valley, we watched in awe and absorbed the fantastic tips and techniques he was teaching us.
A scenic walk and Pancakes
After our cooking class, we went for a scenic walk along the coast of St Malo. It was so beautiful. The beaches were idyllic and we saw this naturally formed rock pool called Piscine de Bon Secours.
We arrived at Crepêrie du Corps de Garde, located within Saint-Malo’s famous 12th century walls, which were built to protect it from any flooding.
It is a cute cafe bursting with French charm, and there is seating both downstairs and upstairs.
We sat upstairs and started off with some Cider, which was delicious. There was a fantastic view where you could see Le Grande Bé, an island fort only reachable at low tide, in the distance.
We chose our savoury galettes to start with, and I went for one with eggs, ham and cheese. It was just incredible and what is special about these galettes is that they are made with buckwheat flour.
It was a generously sized pancake and we were feeling a bit full, but when salted caramel crepes are on the menu for dessert everyone has space! Seriously so decadent and the buttery caramel. OMG!
My table neighbour opted for a chocolate crepe which came with clouds of perfectly whipped cream.
Corrine, our tour guide for the afternoon, gave us an introduction to the history of St Malo, and how it had its own rules and became an asylum due to its status.
A historic tour of St Malo
Corrine then led us outside to start our tour on foot and we gathered around the grand statue of Jacques Cartier, the acclaimed ‘discoverer’ of Canada.
We then walked through the narrow and winding streets, catching glimpses of the sea at every point, discovering the stories behind the structures, walls and history of this quaint Bretagne beauty.
The highlights of this tour for me was the guide as well as the vast history. Corrine was excellent at storytelling and had so much enthusiasm that the whole group was interested and fascinated and wanting to learn more. I am not one that would usually opt for a guided tour or walk but this totally changed my mind and I learned so much.
Below is the symbol of St Malo, and it has dogs on it as in those olden times dogs were used to protect the island and the residents all had a curfew to get home by 10:00pm. A bell would ring from the cathedral, bellowing throughout the whole island and the dogs would be then let out. Anyone still wandering was at risk of attack as they were so vicious.
The blue door in the photograph below was the door to the quarters where the dogs would be kept during the day.
We continued to walk around, learning about the legalised pirates, and the young boys who would go out to sea and the different trades. St Malo was tax free at the time so attracted a lot of trade.
What made the tour so special was that Corrine told the historical tales using such flair that we could actually picture what it must have been like during the different centuries of Saint-Malo’s history.
We quickly freshened up and headed back out for our free time before dinner. My friend Sandra and I were on a mission to purchase butter and salted caramel, so we walked the windy streets, browsing the shops and people watching.
My favourite was La Maison Du Beurre – a whole shop, which had so much fascinating history about butter on its walls, and dedicated to all things butter. A dream shop!
I bought 4 different types of butter and am pleased to say they got back to London in one piece so I can enjoy them now and dream about my trip.
You can also try a speciality in St Malo, called Kouign Amann, which is a Breton cake made with viennoiserie dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in,
Foodie purchases in hand we headed back to the hotel and in the evening we experienced more Breton specialities at the panoramic Le 5 Restaurant located on the top floor of our hotel.
Saint Malo is such a lovely destination full of history, charm and amazing food. You can experience so much in just a day and so I highly recommend it for a weekend trip. It has so much French romance and there is nothing more pleasing than sitting in a French cafe with a nice coffee and croissant!
Other activities you can do is visit Dinard, which is a short boat trip away or have a tour of the city on segways.
Everything is a walkable distance and the city is very photogenic.
Brittany Ferries offers packages to Saint-Malo from Portsmouth starting from £76pp for a two night break (one night on the ferry). There are lots of hotels and we stayed at L’hotel Chateaubriand, which was lovely. The rooms had a fabulous view and the location was just perfect.
You can read more about the Brittany Ferry trip here
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Brittany Ferrries and Brittany Tourism and my trip was complimentary. However, all photos and opinions are my own..