“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over”

Nr 62. Saint-Malo and Le-Mont-Saint-Michel

We sailed south from Jersey to Saint-Malo, that’s at the coast of Bretagne. It’s also called Côte d’Émeraude, because of the green or emerald color of the water. It’s still so amazing to see this kind of color in the northern part of France, because it is still the North Sea. We were surprised by the charming old town center of Saint-Malo, surrounded by old city walls called Intra-Muros. In the old city you’ll find so many small streets crowed with bistros, creperies, ice cream parlours. And walking on top of the city walls, you can see the green colored water and the Mediterranean like vegetation at the coast like palm trees and colorful flowers.

12 meters tidal range

In this area you’ll find the biggest tidal range in Europe: the difference between high tide and low tide varies from 8 up to 12 meters. Besides the moon’s gravitational pull on the waters of the earth, in this bay there an extra factor: large volumes of waters from the Atlantic ocean have to squeeze into the shallow and narrow Street of Dover. So waters builds up in the bay Saint-Malo is situated in. That movement of the sea here was very much noticeable. Luckily the harbor is sheltered behind breakwaters and a sill (threshold) at the entrance of the harbor, makes sure the level of water never drops below 2,5 meters. But about 800 sailing boats tied up on the floating pontoons, gradually all went up 11 meters in a 6 hour period, and 6 hours later they were 11 meters lower again. To us, this is still a remarkable phenomenon which makes your respect for nature grow each time you experience it! Because look what happens if there is spring tide at the coast of Saint-Malo and there are no breakwaters before your house at the shore….Spring tide happens around 4 to 6 times a year and the houses in Saint-Malo (build around the Belle Epoque period, 1870-1910) clearly were used to that.

The Brittany kitchen

Bretagne is famous for the Galette: it’s like a folded pancake, stuffed with savoury fillings like salmon, melted cheese, ham or baked egg. We were advised by a fellow-sailor from the Netherlands who follows the real live position of our catamaran, to go to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Saint-Malo (‘Buffet de Fruits de Mer). For € 35 p.p. you could eat all you wanted: shrimps, mussels, lobsters, oysters, prawns, crab, scallop shells, etc. We thought such this offer couldn’t be real, in Holland this kind of sea food is expensive. But we made a reservation at La Cabane and walking towards the restaurant, we concluded the place really existed 😊. I grinned to Gilles: ‘they are going to regret to let us in!’ We tried everything of the buffet and felt like a kid in the candy store, it was all so tasty and the staff was very friendly. But our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We copied one of their dishes later on our catamaran: mussels in yellow curry sauce, yum! As you can imagine, at the end of this extensive dinner party at la Cabane, there was not much room left for the French cheeses and brownies that were also included. We instead crawled back to the boat….

Alexandra and Yannick

On the first evening in the harbor, we met Alexandra and Yannick. They have lived in this area of Bretagne their whole lives, now in beautiful Dinard, and they had their boat in this harbor. They were very much interested in catamarans and had been travelling in their lives a lot as well. We invited them for an evening drink to talk about our decisions and practical tips sailing with a catamaran. We gave a ‘tour’ in the boat, they had hundreds of great questions how to make a dream like this really become true! It was a very pleasant evening and Alexandra offered to take us to Le-Mont-Saint Michel 2 days later by car, because then she could show us around in this area that she grew up. We had a great time in the car with Alexandra’s children Valentin and Louise, chatting while doing a sight seeing roadtrip! Alexandra showed us picturesque villages like Cancale where she had good memories. We stood at the tops of the cliffs, overlooking the green color of the water. Her family owns 75% of the lobster and mussel fishfarming (cultivation) at this coast. She told us great stories about their way life and work. For example their company promises to deliver seafood within 48 hours anywhere in the world, fresh from the sea to restaurants or supermarkets!

Le-Mont-Saint-Michel

Le-Mont was really breathtaking! The famous Abbey lays in the bay on a small island. You have to walk there over the sandbanks during eb (nowadays there is a wooden walkway). It is the only abbey with multiple floors build in a mountain. After Paris, it is the most visited tourist attraction in France with over 2.500.000 visitors a year. During the time of day that we arrived (19.00h) it was almost empty however, maybe 6 tourists that we have seen. The light in the sky had a golden color. We walked the streets of the Le-Mont-Saint-Michel and halfway, we decided to dine together in one of the restaurants there. The table got filled with specialties of the region (seafood, salted caramel, cider, Kouign Amann, which is a buttered cake). Alexandra told us that, in the course of time, the border of Normandy and Bretagne switched a couple of times around bay Mont-Saint-Michel. Now the abbey belongs to Normandy, but inhabitants of Bretagne still feels it’s ‘their’ Mont. Around midnight Alexandra dropped us of again with her car at the harbor. It was such special and warm time being together with her and her family!