Monday, June 12, 2017

Saint Malo, France - perception is reality

Saint Malo, another theme park illusion visited upon the unsuspecting tourist. Sitting at the mouth of the River Rance, Saint Malo was a fortified island back in the Middle Ages controlling not just the estuary but a huge arc of the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean around Britanny, the north west extremity of France. In the 18th century, numerous "corsairs" operated from the port, French privateers who were effectively sanctioned by the King to plunder passing shipping.
That was then - this is now. During heavy fighting in the late summer of 1944 however, the entire walled city was almost entirely demolished by the American Air Force and the Britsh Navy. Beginning in 1948 it was rebuilt over 12 years to look like the original from the outside but fitted internally with all modern conveniences, fifties style. Hollywood would have been proud.
The walled city is actually quite a boring place - a matrix of identical five storey buildings arranged on a rectangular grid and separated by narrow, canyon like streets. The encompassing wall is three storeys high and has a broad walkway all the way round. Walking around the wall, the visitor gets to stare into the residents third floor apartments often to see the unfortunate residents balefully glaring back. A block or so away from the wall and there is nothing much but apartments and the occasional neighborhood store. The cathedral, Saint Vincent of Saragosse, is unremarkable and the "attractions", such as they are comprise a plethora of coffee shops and rows of T shirt and souvenir shops concentrated at the south end where there are a couple of larger courtyards. The excitement is really outside of the wall, busy boats of every ilk, small islands, beaches and a constant milling of visitors.See pictures here.

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