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Experience "All The Light We Cannot See" in Real Life: Take a Day Tour of St. Malo, Brittany, France

Updated: Jun 10

France, St. Malo, Day tour, travel to France, Cultivating Connections Travel Planners
Experience "All The Light We Cannot See" in Real Life: Take a Day Tour of St. Malo, Brittany, France

St. Malo, known as the "City of Corsairs," is a port city surrounded by tall granite walls. These walls, which once served as a shield against invaders, now offer stunning panoramic views of the sea and the surrounding region. The city boasts an array of historical buildings, gourmet restaurants, and charming boutiques, making it a perfect destination for any traveler.

St. Malo offers an experience that goes beyond the ordinary. It's not just about the things to do in St. Malo, but about immersing yourself in its spirit, history, and way of life. It's about walking in the footsteps of privateers, exploring ancient fortifications, and losing yourself in the labyrinth of narrow streets that crisscross the old town.

Brief history of St. Malo

St. Malo's history is as captivating as its landscape. The city traces its roots back to the 1st century BC when it was a Gallic settlement. It later became a Roman port before evolving into a stronghold for pirates in the Middle Ages. The city got its name from Maclou, or Malo, a monk who fled from Wales during the 6th century and established a monastic settlement here.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, St. Malo gained fame as the home of French privateers, state-sanctioned pirates who preyed on English and Dutch shipping vessels. The city's strategic location on the English Channel made it a crucial hub for maritime trade and warfare.

St. Malo's rich history is palpable in its architecture, from the ancient walls that still encircle the old town, to the sprawling forts that dot the coastline. When you walk through the city, you're walking through layers of history, each leaving its unique imprint on the cityscape.

The connection between "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr Book and St. Malo

There's a particular magic to St. Malo that has captured the imagination of many, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr. His acclaimed novel "All The Light We Cannot See" is set in St. Malo during World War II, and brings the city to life with vivid descriptions and powerful storytelling. The book tells the tale of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide amidst the turmoil of war.

Reading the novel, it's easy to picture the city's narrow streets, the looming ramparts, and the sea that seems to stretch endlessly. Doerr's portrayal of St. Malo is so immersive that it feels like a character in itself, shaping the lives and destinies of the protagonists.

A visit to St. Malo offers the unique opportunity to walk through the pages of Doerr's novel, bringing to life the places and experiences described in the book. It's a chance to see, hear, and feel "All The Light We Cannot See" in a very real, tangible way.

How to get from Paris to St. Malo

Paris, the City of Lights, is a common starting point for many travelers in France. The journey from Paris to St. Malo is straightforward and offers several options. The most convenient way is by train. The high-speed TGV train from Paris to Rennes takes about two hours, and from Rennes, a regional train can take you to St. Malo in about an hour.

If you prefer driving, the route from Paris to St. Malo via the A11 and A81 highways is scenic and takes approximately four hours. Car hire services are readily available in Paris.

Alternatively, for those who prefer the freedom and flexibility of air travel, the Dinard–Pleurtuit–Saint-Malo Airport is located just a short drive from the city and offers regular flights to and from several French cities, including Paris.

Top things to do in St. Malo

St. Malo is a city that invites exploration. With a variety of attractions to choose from, you'll never run out of things to do in St. Malo. One must-do is a walk along the city walls. The walls, or "ramparts" as they're locally known, offer stunning views of the old town and the sea.

The Fort National is another popular destination. Built in the 17th century, the fort stands on a tidal island and is accessible at low tide. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's past as a stronghold for privateers.

Don't forget to visit the St. Malo Cathedral, a beautiful blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles, and the Maison du Quebec, a museum dedicated to the history of St. Malo and its connection with Canada.

Exploring St. Malo: Major points of interest

St. Malo is not just about the popular attractions; it's also about the hidden gems that reveal the city's true character. One such place is the Intra-Muros, the walled city. Here, you can explore the narrow streets, stop by charming boutiques, and enjoy a cup of coffee at a cozy café.

The Grand Bé and Petit Bé are small islets located near the city walls. At low tide, you can walk to these islets and enjoy breathtaking views of St. Malo. Grand Bé is also the final resting place of the famous French writer, Chateaubriand.

Another point of interest is the Solidor Tower, a 14th-century tower that houses the Museum of Cape Horners, dedicated to long-distance maritime travel. You'll also want to explore the picturesque fishing village of Saint-Servan, just a short walk from the Intra-Muros.

St. Malo's hidden gems: Lesser-known attractions

Beyond the major points of interest, St. Malo is filled with lesser-known attractions that offer unique experiences. One of these is the Sculptured Rocks, a series of bizarrely shaped rocks carved by the Abbé Foure in the late 19th century.

The Parc de la Briantais is another hidden gem. This vast park offers serene walking trails, beautiful gardens, and stunning views of the Rance estuary.

For those interested in maritime history, the Jacques Cartier Manor House, the birthplace of the famous explorer, is a must-visit. It's now a museum dedicated to his life and voyages.

The culinary scene in St. Malo

A visit to St. Malo wouldn't be complete without indulging in its culinary delights. The city is famous for its seafood, particularly its oysters, which are considered among the best in France. The local cuisine also features delicious crepes and galettes, a type of savory pancake made with buckwheat flour.

In St. Malo, you'll find a variety of dining options, from gourmet restaurants to charming bistros and creperies. The city also boasts several markets where you can buy local produce, seafood, and other regional specialties.

5 culinary experiences you must try in St. Malo

In a city renowned for its culinary scene, here are five experiences you must try in St. Malo:

1. Oysters at Cancale: Just a short drive from St. Malo, Cancale is known as the "oyster capital" of Brittany. Try the fresh oysters right on the seafront.

2. Creperie experience: Try a traditional galette or crepe at one of the city's many creperies. Don't forget to pair it with a glass of local cider.

3. Seafood platter at a local bistro: Enjoy a seafood platter featuring a variety of locally caught seafood.

4. Breton pastry: Try a kouign-amann, a traditional Breton pastry that's a delicious blend of sweet and salty.

5. Local cider: Brittany is known for its cider. Try it at a local bar or buy a bottle to take home.

Working with your Virtuoso travel advisor to set up the perfect "All the Light We Cannot See" Book Day Tour: A Literary Adventure

To fully immerse yourself in the world of "All The Light We Cannot See," consider setting up a Book Day Tour with Cultivating Connections Travel Planners. We have the expertise and network to ensure a perfect itinerary that will take you to key locations from the book, offering you a deeper appreciation of the story and its setting.

Walk along the ramparts, visit the beaches, explore the narrow streets of the old town, and perhaps even visit the Museum of Fine Arts, where the Sea of Flames diamond in the novel was kept. A Book Day Tour is not just a journey through the city, but a journey through the pages of a beloved novel.

The final chapter: The unique experience of St. Malo in the light of history and literature

St. Malo is a city where history and literature come to life. It's a place where you can walk through the pages of a novel, where you can touch the stones of ancient fortifications, where you can taste the salt in the air as you stroll along the beach. It's a city that invites you to explore, to discover, to immerse yourself in its stories.

Whether you're a fan of "All The Light We Cannot See," a history enthusiast, or simply a traveler in search of unique experiences, St. Malo offers an adventure like no other. From its rich history to its vibrant culinary scene, from its stunning vistas to its literary connections, St. Malo is a city that captures the imagination and stays with you long after you've left its shores.

So, are you ready to experience "All The Light We Cannot See" in real life? To step into the world of Marie-Laure and Werner, to explore the city that shaped their lives, to see the world through their eyes? Your journey begins here, in St. Malo, Brittany, France.

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