When I first visited St Malo for the day a few years ago with my family, I loved it. So I was absolutely thrilled to be offered the opportunity to go back for another flying visit.
Along with one of my best and oldest friends, Jess, and a lovely group of fellow bloggers, we arrived in St Malo on Saturday morning after taking the ferry overnight from Portsmouth – I’ll tell you all about that in another post, mes amis. Get excited.
It had been an early start, so after the short walk from the port into the old town, everyone agreed coffee was in order. Except not for me as I don’t like coffee, but I can appreciate latte art as much as the next Instagram addict and I am always down for a tea.
I do love French cafe culture. Despite the fact that it’s often not much warmer than the UK, especially in Brittany, it’s just the norm for all cafes and restaurants to have outdoor seating, of which I am a huge fan.
St Malo is not huge, but it is popular with tourists. As we set off on our foodie tour of the old town (I know!), it was still relatively sleepy, but it sure did come to life as the day went on.
Our very informative guide, Corinne, led us through the cobbled streets and up and down the winding roads, explaining the history of the town and taking us to some of the best food spots as we went.
First up, we stopped off at the old fish market where we sampled some local fish pâté (I wanna say mackerel?) on little crackers.
On we went, and the next stop was literally the house of butter. Oh yes.
Brittany as a whole is famed for its dairy – I’ve had some of the best yoghurt in my life there – and what with St Malo being on the coast and everything, they got a lotta sea salt. Enter, the scrummiest salted butter.
And it doesn’t end there, mes amis. The house of butter had the most incredible flavoured salted butters. We tried the seaweed one on fresh crusty bread, which I actually loved, but there were all sorts of flavours from chilli to vanilla.
We watched the butter being made into butter-dish-sized slabs which was also cool.
So, from beurre to the boulangerie. No one said this was going to be a healthy weekend.
If you read the post about my first visit to St Malo, you’ll recall my love for the local delicacy, the kouign amann. And there was no way I was going to leave St Malo without having had one.
Fortunately, a mere couple of hours after arriving, I had some in my hand.
We watched the master boulanger at work (I definitely appreciated his Breton-striped T-shirt) making butter biscuits and then a kouign amann. Just to make sure we didn’t get hungry, we munched on traditional salted caramels as we observed.
15 16 Luckily, our boulanger whipped out a kouign amann he’d made earlier, Blue Peter style, so we each had a big warm slice of the buttery, sweet, carby goodness.
It doesn’t look that special in the picture, but it really was amazing. Whether a mini kouign amann or a slice of a big one, promise me you’ll have one if you ever go to St Malo? Good.
Next up we wandered down to the cathedral, and proceeded to stand outside drinking the local beer and cola like troubled youths. So that was fun.
There’s a big sense of regional patriotism in Brittany, so they love to have their own local versions of things.
And our final destination on the tour was a lovely little spice shop where an utterly charming man named Daniel passionately introduced us to his many incredible vanilla pods and peppers – I had no idea there were so many variants of each. I found it really cool.
To finish off our tour, we strolled along the top of the city ramparts looking out to the sea. Even though it was a little cloudy, the view was beautiful. Soz not soz for all the pics.
You know how the south of France is called the Côte d’Azur? Well the sea off St Malo is known as the côte émeraude (the emerald coast). It really was incredibly green!
I love being by the sea and the fresh sea air was wonderful.
Despite everything we’d eaten, I was definitely ready for a sit-down and some lunch. I was thrilled to learn we were going to a crêperie right on the old town wall, Le Corps de Garde. Just as you’d expect, traditional Breton cider was served in traditional bowl-mugs (my word but you get me), which I loved. Breton cider tastes different to that of the West Country, of which I’ve had plenty (Bristol alumna over here), but I adore it.
I chose a classic ham and cheese galette. Never had a proper galette? The batter is made with buckwheat flour and is always used for the savoury ones. I simply love the slightly nutty flavour and mine was classic and delish.
Naturally I had a sweet one too, and although I was tempted by the local salted caramel, in my head you just can’t beat a Nutella crêpe, so that happened.
Now, I had been seriously looking forward to our post-lunch activity ever since I saw it on the itinerary. We were going on a segway tour!
This was my first time on a segway and I bloody loved it. It was so much fun! Amazingly, we all got the hang of it in minutes, despite being slightly wobbly to start with. It was also a fantastic way to see more of St Malo – we went out of the old town which most visitors don’t bother doing on a short break. I’d been expecting the rest of St Malo to be a bit meh, but it was absolutely charming still! It really is the loveliest town and we saw the most beautiful scenery and views. Jess and I decided it was sort of a cross between riding a horse and a broomstick (we imagined). I now feel like I want to do a segway tour every time I visit a new city. Which could get expensive. Once back in the old town, we headed to our hotel, Le Chateaubriand, to check in.
It’s an absolutely charming hotel with a traditional style in a fantastic location.
Our room was beautiful – big and spacious with everything we needed (tea and kettle, phew) and the most fantastic view over the sea.
But as we only had one full day in St Malo, there was no time to waste!
OK, there was a little time to waste, but is time spent drinking tea and checking one’s social media from a comfy bed whilst listening to the sound of the waves outside really time wasted? I think not.
Anyway, we eventually dragged ourselves out of the hotel to have a browse round some of the shops. And there are some really lovely shops in St Malo. It’s not generally cheap, unfortunately, but there are some beautiful boutiques.
Mmm pretty, sparkly, expensive things.
Yeah, all I bought was postcards.
Back at the hotel, we swiftly got ourselves ready for dinner before meeting the group for dinner at Le 5, the fab panoramic restaurant on the top floor of the hotel.
If you’re still with me by this point, I’m impressed. This has turned into an incredibly long blog post, so I’m going to keep it brief – we drank wine, we ate bread, we enjoyed some beautifully-presented food with an incredible view as the sun went down. Pictorial evidence:
The next morning, I whipped back the curtains to that beautiful view – oh, to wake up to the sea every day!
And unfortunately all there was time for was breakfast (perfectly nice with all the usual offerings) before heading back to the port for our crossing back to England.
The thing is, as utterly delightful as St Malo is, you don’t need to spend too long there. Sure, I would’ve enjoyed another day or perhaps two – if the sun had been out, a day on the beach would have been very enticing – but that’s actually what makes St Malo such a great location for a weekend break from the UK.
You can leave on Friday evening, see St Malo and have a great stay, and be back on Sunday evening ready for work the next day. Getting away for the weekend is the best. Oh, travel. You’re the one.
Jess and I had so much fun and I feel extremely lucky to have been invited along. As if I get to do these amazing things just because I have a blog. Merci merci, Brittany Tourism!
What are your thoughts on St Malo? Have you been?