Tuesday, May 27, 2008

St. Malo - The Granite Jewel of Brittany

Brittany's most visited place, St. Malo is a stark grey jewel - its austere elegance is very Breton. It may look inhospitable from the outside but inside the granite walls there is reputedly the highest concentration of seafood restaurants in France. On a sunny day St. Malo's beaches are teeming with tourist crowds. Skimpily dressed sunbathers form quite a contrast with the steep and mighty fortification walls towering over them.

The city’s past as the seat of corsairs terrorizing the passing ships inspired an opera by Cèsar Cui, a Russian composer of French-Lithuanian parentage. At one point of time, the pirates even established a short-lived republic that bowed neither to the Breton duke nor to the French king. St. Malo’s most famous son, Jacques Cartier set sail from here in 1545 to found what is now known as Québec or French Canada.

Between St. Malo and Dinard lies the Barrage de la Rance – the first tidal power station in the world. Apart from being the bottleneck causing constant traffic jams on the road that runs on top of it, it is also a testimony to the French engineering genius: in 1967 it became the first power station to harness the energy of ocean tides.

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