Wander the narrow bustling streets of today’s Saint-Malo and you’ll see few obvious signs of its electrifying history of pirates and wartime destruction. The walled port city on France’s northern shores was once home to the corsairs, French maritime privateers; and in the 20th century barely survived Nazi occupation and allied liberation in World War II. While 80 percent of the old city was destroyed in the last days of the war, the ramparts, castle, and a few of the 17th-century half-timbered houses survived, and the remainder of the walled city was carefully rebuilt to recapture its original style and skyline.
And while the privateers no longer ply nearby waters demanding “tributes” from passing ships, you can still get a taste of the salty air by venturing down to the sandy flats beyond the ramparts and exploring the nearby forts and small islands accessible only during the low tide. The dramatic tides yield another surprise as well: an ocean-fed swimming pool that’s visible only when the waters recede.
Where is it? On the English Channel at the mouth of the Rance River in northwestern France’s Brittany region.
Where to stay? A stay at Hotel l’Universe puts you in an ideal spot inside the city walls just across from the castle. Weekend rates start at about €67 (about $88; see Xe.com for current exchange rates) in winter and €89 in early summer.
What else should I know? While in Saint-Malo, be sure to try some of the famous local oysters from the nearby village of Cancale. Or feast on regional specialties such as Breton crepes (made with buckwheat), mussels, and hard cider.
Who’s it for? Fans of the seaside, World War II history buffs, seafood lovers, pirates.
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