We picked St Malo as a destination mainly because it was on the coast and not a too long drive from a wedding we attended. Without really knowing what we where doing, we made a great pick, full of history and low cost things to do.
The old town of St Malo is on a rock island in northwestern France just off the mainland. There is a road to it (aerial Google pics are inviting). To start off with, we hopped on a tourist train on wheels (not free, 21e for our family), which was a good way to get a general idea of the place (and to save the kids legs for later walking). The island is not very big though, so if we had been there without our young children, we would have walked. A bonus with the guided train ride was to get a short version of the history of the place.
The are old stone walls all around the old town and all the old houses have their ancient charm, so the place is pretty to walk around in, not to mention how exciting it was especially for the children to also walk on the walls. The old town was loaded with small shops and a good variation of restaurants.
I’ve heard many times that small children don’t remember that much of the travels and it’s most important for them to spend time with their parents no matter where. Well, maybe, but in the ancient setting I couldn’t help but think how this for a home schooling parent would have been a great history lesson: the now 5 yo daughter was full of questions like why walls were built back in the day and who they protected from. I even ended up having to explain the reasons for the French revolution because there was a building that now held cultural events but initially was a monastery turned into a prison during the revolution. And then she asked if these buildings were built before or after the medieval stuff we experienced last summer in Bavaria. It is amazing what they pick up on the way!
Anyway, the scenery was amazing. The small forts build on small islands made it even more interesting, and then there where the beaches. Unfortunately with a wind blowing over 30m/s it was too cold to swim but kids had loads of fun on the beach anyway.
Quite a few French towns seem to have these beautiful old styled merry-go-rounds were a ride is only a couple of euros. In St Malo this one was almost next to the port.
One of the last things we did was also one of our sons highlights: we got to go into the “real pirate ship” as he said. May not have been a real pirate ship but still beautifully restored (and watching the paintwork being done mesmerised our 3 yo fully), gave us an opportunity to learn about how captains and crew lived while on the ship. A visit well worth the few euros it cost.
All in all, a great day trip, and these glimpses tempt me to spend more time exploring the northwestern coast of France!