Le Sillon

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11 travelers at this place

  • Day45

    Watching the Tides

    October 4, 2019 in France ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    It's a strange feeling walkin on sand, knowing that in a few hours time, it will be 10 metres under the sea. But such is life in magical St Malo. Life in this city is intimately connected to the daily cycle of the rising and falling of the tremendous tides. Just watching the process is a truly hypnotic experience.

    As we left our hotel this morning the tides were at their highest. Although it is now a couple of days past the monthly maximum, the variation between high and low water levels is truly extreme.

    As the waves crashed into the sea wall there were loud thumping noises as the reflecting waves collided with those coming in. Regular sprays of foam were thrown high into the air. Crowds of people had gathered, just to watch the waves.

    Later in the day the sea had retreated many hundreds of metres, revealing a vast expanse of clean sand. This sand becomes a daily playground for a diverse range of activities. Dozens of wind surfers were also making use of the stiff breeze to race back and forth on the water. At the same time, the late afternoon sun was making a bashful appearance from between the clouds to cast an eery light on the Citadel. It really was quite a spectacle.

    In two day's time we will be leaving St Malo and heading back to Nantes to collect a hire car. From there we will be spending a few day's exploring the Dordogne Region. It has been a remarkable trip but our thoughts are starting to turn back to those waiting for us in Australia.
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  • Day43

    Hello St Malo

    October 2, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    It is a great feeling to complete something that has been anticipated for such a long time. It is an even greater feeling when you have been able to share the experience with a group of like minded people. Unless you have actually done something like this, it is very difficult to convey exactly what it is like.

    After being through so much together, the members of the group really do begin to feel like some sort of extended family. That always makes it somewhat difficult when the ride eventually finishes and the time for farewells starts.

    Although the "official" trip finished this morning after breakfast,, the final time the whole group was together was at dinner last night. Several had to leave early this morning to catch trains to various other places. By the time we sat down for breakfast, we knew that our group was already beginning the process of breaking up. We will surely miss the fun and camaraderie that was an integral part of every day of the past 5 weeks.

    For six of us, the adventure will continue a little longer as we make our way north to St Malo. This is a wonderful coastal city in Brittany that we fell in love with several years ago. We have been back many times since then and never fail to be mesmerised by the place.

    St Malo has a rich history, being home to numerous privateers (state pirates) from the 16th to 19th centuries. It was also the site of a very important German naval base in WW2. When the German commander refused to surrender at any cost, it meant that the original old city was almost completely destroyed in the allied bombardment. It was then rapidly reconstructed in the 1950s. At first glance the city still looks medieval, however on close inspection, you can see that it is a brilliant reconstruction of what was originally here.

    There is another natural phenomenon that makes this place special - the super tides. The coastline in this region is home to some of the most extreme tidal variations on the planet. In fact the variation between high and low tides can regularly exceed 10 metres. In order to protect the city of these huge tides a massive stone sea wall has been constructed. Even with the impressive wall, at times of the king tides, the huge waves can go over the wall and crash into the waterfront buildings. At such times huge crowds gather to watch the spectacle.

    We had all had a marvellous time in Le Croisic, so much so that several of the group started to dream about how good it would be to retire there. But now the time had come for us to leave. Along with Maggie and me, there would be 4 others travelling with us to St Malo. This included Gerry and Gael and also Annie and Kay.

    The trip to St Malo meant that we would have to take three train trips. First we had to travel to Nantes, then take a second train to Rennes, and finally a third train to St Malo. Such trips can be much more exhausting than cycling, especially when you have to rapidly drag your luggage up and down numerous staircases in a very limited amount of time. It is at times like this that everyone decides that their luggage is too heavy, but no one ever remembers that when the time comes for their next trip.

    Somehow we all managed to survive the trains and we finally arrived at the Gare St Malo at 6.30 pm. Of course we still had a very lengthy walk to the Hotel Beaufort. It must be quite a comical sight seeing six old people dragging their suitcases over cobblestoned steets, vainly trying to dodge the dog poo and avoid snapping the castors off their bags each time they bounced over a curb.

    Eventually six exhausted seniors arrived at the hotel. For us it felt like we were back home. The hotel is situated right on the ocean front and the views are priceless. The manager explained to us that we had arrived right at the time of the "very dangerous king tide" that would arrive in just two hour's time. In order to help protect the hotel they proceeded to fasten wooden shutters and armoured glass panels to the seaward facing windows. I had always wanted to witness the king tides, but had not realised that it was due on the very night of our arrival.

    Although the tide rose right on time at 10.38 pm, the sea was quite peaceful. No waves came crashing through our first floor windows. I was just slightly disappointed.
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  • Day44

    The St Malo Citadel

    October 3, 2019 in France ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Apart from watching the never ending performance of the rising and falling of the huge tides, the other major attractions of St Malo are walking the huge sea wall and exploring the so called "old city". With such monumental tides and damaging waves to defend against, the city requires a very serious barrier to prevent their buildings being destroyed by the marine onslaught.

    The major part of these defenses is a gigantic stone wall that has been erected along the Atlantic coastline. Not only does this wall provide a primary defence against the huge waves, but it also gives the people of St Malo a perfect place to walk, jog, cycle, roller skate or walk the dog. At any time of the day you will find a continuous passing parade of people and dogs moving past.

    The old city (aka "The Citadel" is an impressive walled city that was home to a German garrison in WW2. The commander of the garrison refused to surrender and this resulted in nearly all of the original structure being destroyed by allied shelling and bombing. It was a complete waste of a priceless historic relic. An intensive 12 years rebuilding plan from 1948 to 1960 resulted in the construction of the current reproduction of the original city.

    On our first free day in St Malo we had no ambitious plans, apart from walking to the city and then wandering the full length of the sea wall. So that's exactly what we did. We even got to see a couple of dolphins cavorting near the water's edge. It was a perfect day and an ideal way to relax after our long days on the bike.
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  • Day12

    Almost done...

    September 18, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Good morning everybody! Today is the last complete day of driving. Starting at Saint Melo and after visiting Omaha Beach we are going to find a place to set up our camp before crossing the finish line at Amsterdam tomorrow afternoon.Read more

  • Day41

    In Retrospect

    September 30, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    All riders have now safely arrived back in St Malo after completing a memorable 5 week ride around Germany, France, Switzerland, Jersey, Guernsey and Sark. Now that the riding section is officially over I can report that the prior arrangements, complicated as they were, all went exactly as planned. That is always a relief when so many hotels, restaurants, bike hire companies, ferry crossings, etc are involved.

    We did have several minor crashes, but nothing of any great significance. The only major incident occurred 4 days ago in St Helier. I have refrained from mentioning the details as I wanted to respect the privacy of those who were involved.

    After breakfast on our third day in Jersey, Andrea Doherty complained of feeling unwell and her husband decided to take her to the nearest medical centre. They were concerned about her condition and she was transferred by ambulance to the General Hospital where tests later showed that she had suffered a minor heart attack. This was completely unexpected and was a huge shock to all of the team. Of course it also meant that Andrea and Greg, who had endeared themselves greatly to everyon, could take no further part in our adventure.

    Since medical facilities in Jersey are quite limited she was later transferred by air ambulance to Oxford in the UK for further treatment. The great news we received just a couple of hours ago, is that her arteries are actually in very good condition and she will not require a stent as originally thought. She is expected to now make a full recovery with medication alone.

    Yesterday we had two trips on the huge Condor ferries to travel from Guernsey back to St Malo. This place now feels like a wonderful familiar home away from home, and we were all so happy to be back in the land of the beautiful baguette. We stayed overnight at a lovely hotel, right in the middle of the old town (The Citadel) and during breakfast we were able to follow the AFL Grand Final. It was a fantastic way to complete our trip (especially for Bob Andrews) who has been a Richmond tragic for all of his extremely long life.

    I suggested that, if Richmond won, Bob should complete a streak around the old city wall to celebrate. John immediately added that Bob would win the prize for "Best Dried Arrangement" and the entire group just dissolved into fits of hysterical laughter. What an amazing group we have had on this trip and this typified the light hearted banter that accompanied every meal together.

    Our team is now disbanding and some participants will be beginning the long journey home to Australia. Six of us will be spending a few more days in St Malo to enjoy some well earned R & R.
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  • Day43

    More Free Time in St Malo

    October 2, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    We have had a wonderful couple of days in beautiful St Malo. This place is very easy to fall in love with and the ever changing sea vistas keep us entertained for hours every day. The tidal variations here are enormous - up to 15 metres between high and low tide. This means that the wide sandy beaches are constantly in a state of flux. At the time of the low tide the sea retreats so far that it reveals a beautiful flat sandy expanse that stretches hundreds of metres from the sea wall.

    That flat area becomes the favourite place for the locals to partake in a myriad of activities. Each day large walking groups make their way through the water's edge, getting their exercise by walking through the chest high water.

    Any historical study of St Malo shows that over 80% of the old city was destroyed during the latter stages of WW2. The "old city" that you see now is actually a recreation that was begun in 1947 and completed around 20 years later. The builders certainly did an amazing job, however it is still somewhat artificial.

    As we wondered the streets inside the towering ramparts we noticed several with rather whimsical names - such as Rue de Chat Qui Danse (the street of the dancing cat). Of particular interest to me were the places that were featured in that incredible novel "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. Although the novel itself is an historical fiction, many of the places mentioned do actually exist. In the story Marie-Laure LeBlanc and her father escape from Paris to St Malo and live with their eccentric uncle at 4 Rue Vauborel. I can now tell you that the street does really exist, although number 4 looks nothing like the house described in the book.

    We spent some time retracing the paths taken by the blind Marie-Laure as she counted her steps along the cobble stoned alleys of the war time city. When I get back to Australia I plan to reread this incredible story and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is ready for an emotional but spellbinding read.

    After another two days here we will be heading to Vannes to re-acquaint ourselves with another place we strongly wished to see again since we first visited there in 2013 .
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  • Day44

    A Surprise Attack in Dinard

    October 3, 2017 in France ⋅ 🌙 8 °C

    October 2nd marked a rather significant day for Maggie - her 65th Birthday. She was actually thrilled to have reached such a great old age and to be able to celebrate such an event in beautiful St Malo. We can now both be officially classed as genuine "old farts".

    This week the tides are progressively working their way towards the monthly peak. By this weekend the tides will be at their maximum and all the homes and businesses along the sea wall will be closing their shutters to help protect them against the wave damage. We took the opportunity of one of the growing low tides to walk far out to sea and look for interesting sea shells. We found a few colourful small shells to keep as a souvenir of a beautiful early autumn day.

    By this time of the year the tourist season has largely ended and the towns have reverted to their normal cycles of life. The weather is mild and the deciduous trees have just started to take on the first signs of yellow, amber and red. It is the perfect time to travel in Europe. Forget the hot and crowded months of July and August !

    In the evening we joined David and Carol and Gordon and Sue to celebrate Maggie's birthday at a nearby restaurant called the "Kidy Gwen". It seemed a somewhat mysterious name so I asked the owner what it meant. She explained that it was made from the initials of all the chefs. I guess that made perfect sense.

    Somehow the staff discovered that it was a birthday and, at the end of the meal, brought out Maggie's desert decorated with a flaming firework that seemed to go on forever. The entire restaurant sang "Happy Birthday" (in French of course) and ensured that this will be a birthday she will never forget.

    Dinard is a smaller companion city to St Malo, situated across La Rance and reached by a 10 minute water taxi ride from the citadel. We chose to spend our last full day in St Malo by spending a few hours in Dinard. The weather has settled down to provide a succession of fine and sunny early autumn days and the short ferry trip was absolutely delightful.

    Earlier in the day we had farewelled David and Carol who were heading off on the long trip back to Melbourne. After sharing so much with them over the past 6 weeks we were really sad to see them leave. This meant that our team was down to just four.

    We arrived in Dinard just as the large outdoor market was packing up. These markets are a feature of many French towns and provide a fantastic insight into the French culture.
    After wandering around the quiet streets for some time we purchased a sandwich and a couple of cakes to enjoy by the seaside. After finding a lovely spot to watch the waves gently lapping the shore I felt that there could be no place on earth where I would rather be. Maggie opened her Tarte Framboise (raspberry tart) and began to enjoy her favourite French cake. All was well with the world. But it didn't stay that way for long.

    Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge seagull swooped out of the glare of the sun and grabbed a large portion of Maggie's tart. By itself that would not have been so bad if the bird had not also taken that very moment to completely empty its bowels over the two of us. We looked down and were shocked to find that we had been covered in a huge splatter of dark green seagull poo. It was a quick way to spoil the magic of the moment, but somehow we both laughed - what else could we do ?

    Maggie sadly had to dispose of the remnants of her prized tart and we both set about trying to clean ourselves up. It is a moment that will long live in our memories. In spite of the seagull bomb, it was still a lovely day and we had so much to be thankful for. Tomorrow we will be leaving St Malo and making our way to Vannes. We are already looking forward to our next visit to St Malo in 2019.
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Le Sillon