Les Caps, St Malo and a Beau Village de France

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June 5th 2019
Published: June 12th 2019
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Wednesday 5th June

After a good night's sleep, this morning I headed back up to the north coast to visit the Cap d'Erquy and the Cap Fréhel. This combination is listed as a Grand Site de France (as was Pointe du Raz, btw. Mont St Michel is World Heritage listed).

Arriving at Cap d'Erquy, signs direct you to a car park, where I parked. It turns out that there is a closer car park 500 metres further on, then an even closer car park a further 500 metres past that. So, an extra 2 km walking there and back! The cape itself is quite spectacular, with a jagged coastline and rugged rock formations, with a nice beach a little further east around the point. The vegetation is low and hardy, and the walking track continues around the cape to the beach, and returns in a loop to the carpark. There were not many people about, and this location had a nice adventurous aspect to it as one explored the views along the track.

I then continued on to Cap Fréhel, which had a more crowded carpark not far from the lighthouse. There were four tourist coaches in at the time I arrived, but that crowd mostly left while I was visiting the lighthouse, so exploring the cape wasn't so crowded. One can climb the lighthouse for a small entry fee, so I did. Much lower than the lighthouse at Eckmühl, therefore much less dizzying to climb the spiral to the top. The previous lighthouse was blown up by the Germans in WWII, so the current modern lighthouse dates from 1950. Beside it still stands the original old lighthouse from around 1700, which at first was illuminated by burning wood, and later oil.

The cape is again very rugged, and a loop path is offered to explore the neighbouring cliffs and outcrops. A jagged line of cliffs on the western side made good photography, and a little island off the coast was an attractive feature (Amas du Cap). To the east there was a rocky promontory teeming with seabirds, and an adjacent clifftop viewing point teeming with birdwatchers with enormous telephoto lenses, binoculars, etc – well I guess about ten birdwatchers really. Of the two, I preferred Cap d'Erquy – the geoscape (is that a word?) was more spectacular.

From here I headed for St Malo, postponed from yesterday. I stopped for a look at the impressive Fort la Latte (sounds like a strong coffee), which is built on a rocky outcrop on the ocean, not far from Cap Fréhel. I didn't have the time or the inclination to pay the fee to go inside. Following on, the route to St Malo included crossing of the Rance River on the Rance Barrage, which is undergoing a lot of works at present. On my route I encountered three road closures, an enormous traffic jam before the barrage, and heavy traffic and confusing parking directions in St Malo. It was very frustrating and it took a long time to get there. Eventually I parked in one of the large underground tourist carparks, and headed through the Porte Saint-Vincent to find some lunch.

St Malo is well known for its amazing intact city wall which still completely encloses the old city. It also has some interesting coastal features and small islands, such as Le Grand Bé and Le Petit Bé. I walked pretty much all the way around the walls and back to Porte Saint-Vincent. There were some nice views on the ocean side, but the landward side of St Malo is a large and busy port, and is rather ugly in my opinion.

Heading into the town, the old streetscapes are pleasant enough, but not really pretty or impressive. I found the whole place rather sterile – full of tourists but feeling lifeless in itself, perhaps more a showpiece than anything else. I visited the cathedral, which was actually very interesting. Like many cathedrals, it had been built in stages over a number of centuries, and was then largely destroyed when St Malo was liberated in WWII. A photo below shows some of the bullet holes I saw in the interior walls. The cathedral has been rebuilt, and has a very interesting internal layout. Upon entry one steps down to the level of the nave. As I saw at the Quimper Cathedral, this building also has a kink in it, so the altar sanctuary and choir part of the cathedral do not line up with the nave. It is not as pronounced as with the Quimper cathedral. The altar sanctuary area stands at the same level as the nave, but the choir has been built around and below that level, and the foundations of the older church
Cap Fréhel LighthousesCap Fréhel LighthousesCap Fréhel Lighthouses

New (1950) and Old (Phare Vauban, 1702)
are now inside the larger cathedral. The post war stained glass is remarkable and allows plenty of light to enter the cathedral. A very interesting building to visit.

I secured a nice gelato from a nearby glacière and headed back though the old city to the carpark. My overall impression of St Malo was that the old walled town is interesting and rather unique, but not a particularly attractive place.

The route I planned back to my gîte followed the River Rance, and included another of les plus beaux villages de France, Saint-Suliac. I spent time here wandering around most of the village, which had both beautifully preserved stone buildings and lovely gardens and flower boxes. The church stands in a picturesque churchyard.

I then headed further south along the river, crossing it on an impressive suspension bridge (post-war I expect) at Saint-Hubert, and again at the pretty port of Lyvet, and hence back to La Vicompté-sur-Rance.

Tomorrow I will be heading back to Rennes, but plan a bit of a detour to see some (hopefully) interesting megalithic sites.

The panoramas show Cap d'Erquy and Cap Fréhel (with the old lighthouse)

Additional photos below
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