On their first day trip, our students explored the Corsair City of Saint Malo which has an extraordinary naval history, only 45 minutes north from Rennes by train.
It was a step back in time as we made our way into the paved city, walking around its two-kilometers-long ramparts, enjoying a breathtaking view of the Emerald Coast (its name refers to the emerald-green color of the sea at some moments during the day).
One of the first things people see while entering Saint Malo Intra-Muros is the remarkable Duchesse Anne’s Castle. If one looks carefully at it, s/he will notice that Saint Malo’s flag flies higher than France’s flag. This isn’t an unimportant detail considering that generally speaking, the French flag should be above any other flag.
Indeed, Saint Malo has a long history of being proudly independent, separated from Realm of France and the Duchy of Brittany. In fact, Saint Malo’s motto is “Ni Français, ni Breton, Malouin suis”, which means « I’m neither French nor Breton, I’m Malouin” (Malouins are the inhabitants of Saint Malo).
In the afternoon, at low tide, our students also enjoyed a healthy walk along the beach, and were able to admire some of the surrounding islets such as Grand Bé, which houses Chateaubriand’s tomb, Petit Bé and Fort National, which were built to protect Saint Malo from English and Dutch vessels.
During the excursion, our students learned about some important local historic facts and figures: Jacques Cartier, who during his travels opened the Newfoundland route and discovered Canada; Duguay-Trouin and Surcouf, famous merchant ship owners who contributed to Saint Malo’s outstanding prestige through trading. During the war, these merchant ship owners couldn’t trade anymore. They became Corsaires (privateers), which means that they could fight and loot the enemy’s ships thanks to an official authorization (lettre de marque) from the French King, which distinguished them from pirates.
(Privateer Robert Surcouf is pointing out the enemy's ships)
To conclude this step back in time, our students had a warm cup of tea and an interesting conversation with center staff concerning some culinary aspects of the French and Breton cultures. They also had a good amount of free time to wander around and enjoy the walled city and the beach by themselves.
Saint Malo is certainly a rich natural, cultural, and historic site that is absolutely worth a tour…or maybe more than just one since it is easily and quickly accessible from Rennes!