Friday, June 29, 2018

Paris In July - St. Malo, All the Light You Cannot See

I wish I had read one of my favorite books, "All the Light You Cannot See," by Anthony Doerr, before I visited St. Malo in 2012. I would have been on the hunt for all the spots mentioned in this story of a young blind woman living in this seaside French town during the Occupation, who became involved with the Resistance in her own way.


Alas, I didn't. But I thought I would share a few sights from the town to help give it a sense of place in the minds of those who have already read the book and those who have yet to discover it.


The original town was founded in the first century by the Gauls. By the fifth century, Celts fleeing instability in Britain added to the population. The modern town was traced to a monastic settlement founded in the early sixth century and named after a presumed follower of Brendan the Navigator, St. Malo (aka Maclou), one of the seven founding saints of Brittainy.

 
We arrived in the evening after a long and rainy day that included a visit to St. James American Cemetery and Le Mont St. Michel. We had been soaked, had tired feet and were hungry, so we headed to a cafe.


All three of us ordered the Plat which is the special. And wine. It was a chicken dish and delicious. And so was the dessert!


We didn't have a hotel reservation, either, but we were able to find a spot. I post the photo below only so you don't end up there! Every now and then one should sleep in the beds to be rented out. Just saying!


The following morning found us up and walking through the cobbled streets of the old walled city. Much of St. Malo was decimated in the WWII bombing and a large part of it is reconstructed. The villains were not the Nazis, but the Americans and British who mistook the town for a Nazi stronghold. (The town was occupied by the Germans.)  Napalm was used here for the first time by the Americans and it took twelve years to rebuild the city, stone by stone.


One would never know.


We found a cute cafe for breakfast and savored omelettes before heading off to see more of the city.


The town is the birthplace of Francois-Rene, vicomte de Chateaubriand, a French writer, historian and diplomat who is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature (thank you, Wikipedia!). Of course he is recognized in the city. Jacques Cartier, the founder of another favorite walled city of mine, Vieux Quebec, the older part of Quebec City, was born and set sail for the new world from here as well.


For the best views in town, head to the ramparts, which were built (or started) in the twelfth century.  The city had a long history of piracy and one can visually see how it may have been ideally situated for this.


You can walk out to the old fort. Rick and Jerry did this.


She who trips over her own feet on a good day elected to stay high above and take pictures! Because, some days, brains win out over desire!


I think perhaps my favorite spot was the beautiful La Cathedrale Saint-Vincent de Saint Malo. (Sorry for the blur here.)


It was pretty much destroyed during the war.


Now it is under reconstruction. (I should add here that these photos are from a 2012 visit, so that construction may be completed by now.)


Excellent graphics tell the story.


And the stained glass is exquisite.


 I loved this town, and why not? Any place that had a street named Rue du Chat Qui Dance (which Wikipedia translates as "Cat Street Dancing") is fine by me.


And they also seem aware of the pitfalls of canines, too!


I hope you've enjoyed this walk through the charming ancient and walled city of St. Malo (and if you haven't read "All the Light You Cannot See," I hope you give that a chance too!)


This post is part of Paris in July. Visit here for more links related to Paris and France.


And, feel free to join in on the fun with your own France-related posts!

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47 comments:

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Some days I wonder why I am so proud to be an American. I can't believe how destructive we were. But the city looks like it has been there forever. It's a fabulous rebuild and not built new, but old. It's beautiful, and I truly enjoyed the visit. So glad you are doing this. I look forward to the next four weeks of Paris and France posts.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I'm not sure that comment made sense. I may need coffee. What I was trying to convey was the city was rebuilt like it was in the past, and not built to look modern by using steel frames and glass.

Iris Flavia said...

Jeanie, you made me giggle :-)
I trip a lot, too, sometimes and brain versa desire is not an easy one!

Beautiful glass and that street name is too cute, too!

Napalm, oh, my. Why do people do such things I´ll never ever understand.

Well. OK. I do dare to post my... "French"-post, too @ Paris in July. Do I...?

Pamela said...

How interesting! Maybe one day I'll get to visit Paris again. I totally understand about tripping. Last year in Okinawa I tripped while walking up two stone steps and broke my arm, which required surgery. I try to be careful, really I do!

Brona Joy said...

I have read All the Light and was thrilled to see your pics of the walls and ramparts in particular which feature so strongly in the end scenes in the book. How wonderful!

Valerie-Jael said...

Lovely report on this beautiful little town. Thanks for sharing the photos! Hugs, Valerie

David Gascoigne said...

“All the Light You Cannot See”. Is one of the best books I have read in recent years. My wife enjoyed it equally.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

What can I say, but you have posted on a world that I love, with all it's faults, wars, histories, beauty, intrigue. Oh now you have me wanting to tear into the book, TODAY!

Tracy said...

LOVED every moment of this taste from France, Jeanie! Rue du Chat Qui Danse... love that too! A street just for you! ;) ((HUGS))

Jean R. said...

I read and loved that book last year so I was most delighted to see your photos and tag along on your vacation there. The reliance of the French people is amazing. But what choice do people have who are subjected to such wholesale evil.

"Cat Street Dancing" makes me smile.

roughterrain crane said...

The stained glass is very beautiful. Citizens of the city are proud of its history.

La Table De Nana said...

I enjoyed the book too! And St -Malo looks lovely..You get into the history so much more than I...Jacques is like you..while you can hera me saying in the background of his home movies..regarde comme c'est beau:)
La Rue du chat qui danse=The dancing cat's street..seems a better translation ;)Even a few others...
But you are adorb on that street:)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, wonderful post on this pretty city St Malo. I enjoyed the tour, the stained glass windows are gorgeous. The dessert looks yummy. Cute photo of you with the street name. Happy Friday, enjoy your day and weekend!

Bonnie said...

LOVED the book! It was excellent! Since reading the book i have wanted to visit there and haven't made it even though I've been to France five times. ISt. Michelle is on my bucket list also.

Thanks for giving some history about St Malo and sharing your visit there. I did not realize it was bombed by the Allies.

Bonnie said...

Meant to type Mont-Saint-Michel

Pam Jackson said...

What great pics and info. I can learn a lot of Paris like this.

William Kendall said...

A beautiful area. It's the stained glass that catches my eye.

Marilyn Miller said...

I love your start to Paris/France month. This is not a place I have been and now would like to go here too.

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Thank you, Jeanie, for taking me on this trip. I always love traveling with you, wether it be on the high seas or just down to the ditch..Happy Weekend..xxoJudy

Beatrice Euphemie said...

Love the little tour of this beautiful place, Jeanie! Such amazing history, too. So nice that it is being restored to its former glory after such a terrible mistake. The sea is such a beautiful shade of blue and I think you made the right choice in staying on firm ground. I trip just gardening....:) Wonderful photos. Looking forward to more....xo Karen

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I love the Paris in July posts...I can just get lost in these photos..of a place I've never been. I loved that book too! I gave it my highest rating. Thanks for sharing your fun! You look so happy...and why not!!!

Arti said...

This is so timely, for me, cause I just finished listening to the audiobook of All the Light We Cannot See and I’m so moved by it! And now seeing the photos here is just amazing. Indeed I just finished the book 2 days ago! Jeanie your post is marvelous, bringing into light the actual place! Film rights to the book has been sold and I look forward to viewing it on the big screen one day. Thanks for sharing and I admit I’m thinking about Paris in July but nothing comes to mind.

My name is Erika. said...

That looks like a fantastic place to visit. I have been to Paris and to southern France, but never to this part of France and I really would like to visit this area. So you can see I enjoyed reading about St. Malo. And I need to read that book. I picked it up a long time ago but never have gotten around to reading it. Guess I need to put it on the top or near the top of my list. Happy weekend Jeanie. Hugs-Erika

shoreacres said...

The fog of war is real. Mistakes and errors in judgment certainly happen, but it bothers me to have the American and British troops labeled as villains in this situation. Events in St. Malo had been complicated by Hitler's demand that such "fortresses" never be surrendered. There's an interesting, first-person account of what happened in St. Malo here, written by a journalist for a British paper. Had the German commander surrendered, rather than holing up as long as he did in obedience to Hitler's command, things wouldn't have been so bad.


That aside, what a wonder that the rebuilding took place as it did, and how beautiful things are now. Give me some stained glass, a view of the sea, and history all around, and I'm happy as can be.

I noticed a new feature with your blog, too. Now, I can see both your blog entry and the comment form at the same time. This is a great improvement! Maybe Blogger bloggers always have been able to do this, but I've had to switch back and forth, and it made it hard to refer back to specific photos, etc.

This was such a great post -- I don't have anything much to add about Paris, but I'm going to take up your recommendation about the book!

Sami said...

A very charming village Jeanie. Love the street name, the stained glass windows, the old fort...
I know what you mean by "sleeping in the beds they rent out", I've had my share of terrible mattresses too!
Have a lovely weekend.

Victoria Zigler said...

I haven't read the book, but you make me want to. I'll add it to my Goodreads "to read" shelf.

I haven't seen Paris. Actually, I've hardly seen any of France, despite having been there, because we only did a day trip over there with the train (in a friend's car) so didn't go much beyond the duty free shops. I'd love to go to Paris one day.

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, I enjoyed my tour with you this morning. I have not read the book either. Love the pics of the town, so amazing they were able to rebuild it, as you say stone by stone. We went to visit the Normandy beaches and Mont St. Michelle.so beautiful there. Thanks for sharing your trip.....I will be posting later in the month. Enjoy your weekend.....

Lynne said...

Wonderful photos Jeanie . . .
and one of my very favorite books . . .

Pom Pom said...

Wow! What a tour! Thank you, Jeanie!

Tamara said...

Jeanie, what a interesting history. It just amazes me what human resiliency can do, rebuild a whole town Stone by stone after such a tragedy. Thank you for taking us with you on that stroll. My reading wish list is now growing.... as I'll need to addd this book to it now too.

Lisbeth The Content Reader Ekelof said...

We visited St Malo a couple of years ago. Great village. I absolutely loved 'All the Light We Cannot See'. I had read it at the time, but I think it is not so easy to find the places described there.

Mel u said...

Wonderful post, loved The pics, especially The food.



Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a fabulous walk in St. Malo. I have never been, but thanks to you I think it needs to be on my list. There is so much I still want to see and explore. Have a wonderful day dear friend!

Sandra Cox said...

What a wondrous visit. The area is steeped in history and beauty isn't it?

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

Jeanie, I did read the book and loved it. How neat is that to see some of the actual places that we in the book! Beautiful photos!

Mary K.- The Boondocks Blog said...

What a lovely place to visit Jeanie. That stained glass is exquisite and wherever I see castles and winding roads I am smitten. There is truly nothing like old-world Europe.

BeachGypsy said...

I love beautiful old cities. I learned alot in this post, I know very little about French things, so neat how we can learn so much about each other and also far away places, just by blogging! I love that last picture the most! And that old fort is neat.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

What a wonderful visit to a beautiful city! Thank you!

Sketchbook Wandering said...

Beautiful! I hope to go there and to read the book! Lucky you to have made this visit. I am thinking locally lately (see current post) but I re-visit my journals from French trips from time to time...Maybe I will make one more trip there...

Joyful said...

It looks like a beautiful town. I was unaware of it's history so your post was informative.

JaneGS said...

What a wonderful post--your photos are wonderful and the commentary excellent. I cannot wait to visit St Malo in less than a month now. I loved All the Light You Cannot See so much, I got an audio version so I could listen to it with my husband on a couple of road trips so that I could convince him that St Malo was a must-see on our trip to France. I love how they rebuilt in the same style instead of modernizing the town.There is so much to see in the area that I wish we had more than an afternoon to visit.

Thanks for a marvelous travelogue--the Plat looks delicious and a street of dancing cats appeals to me too!

vvb32 reads said...

Lovely post. Thanks for sharing your trip pics and that bit of history about the town.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

I have read this lovely book and too see the city now is wonderful. Oh I dream of another trip to Paris/France and maybe someday. For now I'll enjoy Paris in July! I love the photo of you with the street named after cats! We dance with cats here at my house also!!

Angela said...

Your travel pictures are beautiful. I've never been to France, so it's always enjoyable to get to look at other people's pictures from their travels.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What a beautiful city! I’m impressed by the extensive rebuilding they did after the war. It’s so sad to think of all that was destroyed during the war. That stain glass window is stunning!!

Jann Olson said...

So much history. I would love to visit some day! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

Katie Mansfield said...

Brings back memories of France. The food! Thanks for linking to Keep in Touch.

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