St-Malo (les premières 24 heures)

by jemma margaret

Our train pulled into the station at 13:05 pm and we were met by our AirBnB host several minutes later. St-Malo was once a pirate town and is now a tourist town. We are staying about a mile outside of the walled city. It’s a nice downhill walk to a fortress of hotels and restaurants.

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Tourist locations can be worthwhile. After all, I am a tourist here, too.

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When I booked the train here, I knew only that Brittany is famous for milk products, apple products, and things from the sea.

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Now I know that the town is famous for being the birthplace of the discover of Canada and that in the past the city gates would be closed from 6 PM until 6 AM when they would unleash English mastiffs outside to ward off thieves.

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By the time we settled in was the dangerous hour when lunch is no longer being served at the best of places. We walked into town hoping to find a crêperie. After passing a few suspiciously good deals for moules frîtes, we encountered Crêperie Cantal (or something like that), where the chef was presenting an incompetent american with a selection of interesting local beers. Though there was no one else in the restaurant, the chef told us we were welcome to sit down. Madeleine ordered the number 3 special (lardon, champignon, oeuf, crème fraîche) and I ordered the number 1 special (chevre, tomate provençale). We shared 25 cL of semi-douce cider. Upstairs we heard the chef (in both French senses of the word) frying up our crêpes–good smells wafted down and we poured cider from a small pitcher into wide mugs.

Admittedly, Madeleine’s was better and I should have gone with my gut instinct of mushrooms and eggs. However, she was very generous with sharing and we went from being very hungry to very satisfied.

We walked and enjoyed the beauty of the city and the ocean as storm clouds slowly gathered overhead. Suddenly it was rainy and windy, and after seeking shelter in a bookstore for 20 minutes we set homeward. Both of us were exhausted from lack of sleep the night before (and sadly failing to sleep on the 3 hour train ride), so we took damp naps.

The night proved gloomy. At the local mini-Carrefour we bought fancy tuna and salad fixings. Although the kitchen is three times as big as the Paris apartment, it seems to forgo necessary tools (dishtowels) in favor of unnecessary ones (ravioli cutters). So cooking was kept to a happy minimum. For dessert we enjoyed our first Kouign Amann of the trip (with caramelized apples) and a chocolate mousse thing. We drank a local cider that had won last years silver medal. We watched the Simpsons and slept heavily.

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In the morning I went for a quick circuitous run around the city. We returned to town a few hours later for coffee (at another non-internet guided spot) and a tour of the history museum. I was most impressed by the collection of ship building tools as well as various three-dimensional maps illustrating triangulation to measure the meridian and positions of fleets in various naval battles. We bought a mini-kouign amann at a bakery that boasted a wide variety of flavors. Though the almond and pistachio and raspberry all looked extraordinary, we settled on the salted butter caramel. This is, after all, the land of salted butter caramel. There is even a butter store (La maison du beurre), at which the friendly young salesman directed us to a very small and inexpensive goat cheese for our lunch salad (we may be back tomorrow for some butter).

With our lunch salad we enjoyed a gold medal winning cider. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference! We have moules frîtes dinner reservations–stay tuned!

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