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But there's more. The city burnt down in 1661 and it was rebuilt, with bigger stones. Thanks to its shipowners and sailors the city enjoyed prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries, including notorious privateers like Duguay–Trouin and Surcouf. They had to turn legit in 1815 when Napoléon was taken out.

photo, grass on the roof, st maloGrass but no goats on the roof.

Because of the WW2 bombs and because of fires, Saint Malo was rebuilt out of granite instead of being half–timbered like it was before. A couple of timbers have been left in place for wood fans, however. Despite these tiny vestiges, Saint Malo is a very solid place. It can take anything the sea can toss against it. And the sea is right at the doorstep, with tides letting salt waters lap at the very walls.

Entering the town by the ancient Porte Saint Vincent was a thrill, especially on finding about a dozen restaurants on the Place Châteaubriand, named most likely, after a popular menuitem, created by the personal chef, Montmireil, exclusively for Vicomte François–René de Châteaubriand. François–René was born in Saint Malo and he is apparently buried there because you can visit his tomb, located a long way from his statue.

photo, cannon defends st malo If all else fails, shoot.

I did not know this when I climbed the ramparts that encircle the city. I saw the sea on three sides, the beaches, several offshore islands, speeding ferry boats, breaking waves, wispy sailboats, receding tides, enchanting mermaids, and idly noted that every second human being was dragging a dog.

The very good friend of mine – hereinafter identified as VGFoM – decided, after some 30 minutes in the breezes on the tops of walls, to try some shopping. As a result I can assure you that if you fancy typical Breton blue and white striped sweaters are available for modest amounts, as are bottles of local cidre, biscuits, biscuit tins without biscuits, ship's models, brass spy glasses, ships in bottles, rum in bottles, weird pastries, smoker's pipes, ceramics of all sorts, pirate flags, flags of Brittany – nice if you like black and white – and, not least, tins of sardines – none of it made in China.

After buying the striped outfit in the striped outfit bag for the month–old baby, we stepped into the greatest sardine shop in the world. I don't know how it happened but when we walked out, staggering, we were carrying 20 tins of sardines, in four bagged lots. They aren't cheaper by the dozen! If you are in the area stop in at La Belle–Iloise and pick up a couple of kilos.

After a bit of ramparts tramping and sardine lugging, you'll probably want to know about the food delights Saint Malo has to offer. Nowhere in the old town did I see any McDo's, or Starbucks. There are some purveyors of strange biscuits – very heavy – and some shops offering regional specialities – cheese, cidre, more cheese, oysters, fish and barnacles. The other 400 eating establishments were crêperies.

Anything in the world you might want to eat can be served in a crêpe. So in this sense, you can have anything you want in Saint Malo wrapped in a crêpe, with only two exceptions. These are fresh fish, fish soup and beefsteak. A typical restaurant has two fish dishes, one fish soup, three kinds of beefsteak – from local beeves of course! – and 80 different crêpes. A crêpe with a huge slab of smoked salmon in it reminded me of New Years at Uncle Den–Den's.

Another pleasant discovery was finding a tabac in every other block. However you should not confuse these with the liberal Paris variety because very few of them have Loto services. One merchant told me that Nicolas Sarkozy just instituted a rule that gamblers must show an ID card in order to waste their lives in the town's casino. One habitué, shut out by the short minister of the interior, did crosswords all afternoon out in the car. The Loto lack is too complex to explain here.

Saint Malo is still famous for the life of the sea. Only about two weeks ago a vast armada was assembled in the port before it raced off to Guadaloupe on the other side of the Atlantic for the Route du Rhum sprint. The freakish trimarans like the leader Gitana 11, sailed by Lionel Lemonchois, whacked four days off the old record, finishing the crossing in a mere 8 days.

photo, kites, wind surfing, grande plage, st maloSt. Malo's flying sporting set.

This past weekend was considerably more tranquille. With one of those heavy biscuits in hand, fighting off seagulls was great sport. Other folks were out flying kites, or being dragged through the waves by kites, or windsurfing, or plain jogging, or being schlepped about the beach by dogs crazed by space. Watching tides was another sport. Not that I would ever want to, but the possibility exists for boat trips – to Britain, or to the Channel Islands for a taste of feudalism.

Crêpes, in the Saint Malo fashion, are filling. A combination of these, orange juice, several cafés and abundant sea air, all converged to send me to sleep every night at 23:48. Thus I completely missed all of the two 4 am chances I had to try the famed hot chocolate with oatmeal. But there's still hope. I am again near my local Café Saint Malo. My VGFoM is already urging me to go there and bring some back.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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