France Trips

Le Mont Saint-Michel

Silvja Helmanis

France

Le Mont Saint-Michel - part 1:

Main Attractions: Dol-de-Bretagne, 

Duration: One day is enough for Mont Saint-Michel. If you opt for a nigit visit - consider 1 night in MSM. IT IS A SPECIAL, MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE TO VISIT THE TOTALLY QUAINT, DESOLATED ISLAND WITHOUT THE HERDS OF TOURISTS - UNDER THE PALE LIGHT OF THE MOON AND/OR ROADS' LAMPS.

When: The best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is March to October when the weather is at its best. July and August are high season so crowds are at their thickest. Low season runs November to February when the weather is at its worst.

Introduction: Le Mont Saint Michel (or Saint Michel’s Mount) is the kind of attraction you would see featured on a series entitled “bizarre churches of the world.” For Le Mont Saint Michel, it is not so much the church itself that is bizarre, but its location: engulfing the top of a small mount that can quickly change from being inland to island thanks to a rapidly flowing tide. Should you have some time to take a trip outside of Paris, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see. Most of our trip in May 2017 had been in Bretagne. BUT, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, WHICH is an island, IS, ACTUALLY IN Normandy. The island stands, exactly on the border between Bretagne and Normandy. The island resides 1 km. off France mainland northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River. Very few people live on the island (approx. 50). The Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most breathtaking sights. Mont Saint-Michel is the second most visited site in France (after Paris) visited by more than 3 million people each yea., Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay are an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 60 buildings on the island are protected in France as historic monuments. The abbey and the fortifications on the island stand since the 8th century AD. Until the 7th century, the place was actually called Mont Tombe and belonged to the Diocese of the Avranches. According to legend, it was the archangel Michael himself who directed the building of this magnificent abbey in the 8th century. The local legend adds that the bishop of Avranches, Saint Aubert, had a dream in which the patron of a sailor – Saint Michael, told him to build a church on top of the Mont Tombe. However, since he ignored the dream a few times Saint Michel bore a hole into his skull what made him do it. The real skull, kept in Saint-Gervais Basilica, presents the hole in it... Once the church was built it’s been captured by the Vikings what made the monks move away. But in 966 the Duke of Normandy allowed the Benedict Monks to settle there and add a pre-Romanesque church of the abbey. By the time of the French revolution, the abbey was closed and converted into a prison which led Mont Saint Michel to more deterioration. This prison was finally closed in 1863 and from then on, various efforts of restoration to this architectural wonder were started. These efforts bore fruit when it was regarded as a historical monument in 1874.

In ancient times, and nowadays, the citizens (farmers and fishermen) lived (live) outside the walls - very few on the island and the others, the majority, outside the island. Mont Saint-Michel island was accessible, for hundreds of years, only  at low tide - mostly, for the many pilgrims to its abbey. The Mont Saint-Michel remained unconquered during the Hundred Years' War. King Louis XI  turned the Mont into a prison. Since 28 April 2012, the huge car park on the mainland has been located 2.5 kilometres  from the island. Visitors can walk or use shuttles to cross the causeway.

From 2016 there is a long wooden causeway which connects the island with the mainland. A FREE shuttle bus runs every 10-15 minutes from the mainland to Mont Saint-Michel island and the opposite direction. You can use the public transportation or walk along this causeway (all free). Visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast are exposed to a severe danger of high tide and floods. Occasional flooding have created salt marsh meadows that are found to be ideally suited to grazing sheep. The well-flavoured meat that results from the diet of the sheep in the salt meadows -  makes salt meadow lamb, a local specialty that may be found on the menus of restaurants that depend on income from the many visitors and pilgrims to Mont Saint-Michel abbey and the walled complex on the island. 

Transportaion to the Mont Saint-Michel island:

In summary - the best two options are: BY TRAIN (note that there are no direct train services between Paris and Le Mont St Michel):

OPTION 1 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Rennes and then the Keolis Emeraude bus which takes passengers directly to Le Mont Saint Michel (click here for more details - no reservation necessary except for groups of 10+ people). Often the Rennes connection is unavailable on off-season Sundays. In this case, take the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Dol-de-Bretagne where the same Keolis Emeraude buses to Le Mont Saint Michel also operate from.

OPTION 2 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Saint-Lazare) to Caen, then a TER regional train to Pontorson, and then the Pontorson–Le Mont shuttle to Le Mont Saint Michel. The shuttle takes about 10 minutes and its timetable is coordinated with when the trains arrive at Pontorson railway station.

The trip between Paris and Mont St Michel via train plus coach will cost from about €35 to €100. To get the best prices for the TGV trip, we recommend you buy your tickets as early as possible (you can buy these up to 3 months in advance of your trip).

Now, more in detail: we did the way, from Saint-Malo, easily using a combination of train and bus. There are several trains, every day leaving Saint-Malo and heading to a small town, Dol-de-Bretagne. From there - we caught a convenient bus to Mont Saint-Michel. Typical time-table for the morning trains Saint-Malo --> Dol-de-Bretagane (25-30 minutes ride): 08.44, 10.19, 12.10, 13.15, 14.15. We did not find information on the current timetables of  bus from Dol-de-Bretagne to Mont Saint-Miche. The bus stop was opposite the railway station in Dol-de-Bretagne. Prices: Dol de Bretagne – Mont Saint Michel : 8€, Rennes – Mont Saint Michel : 15€. WE SUSPECT THAT THIS COMBINATION DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE. This option is based on the Rennes–Dol-de-Bretagne regional coach line which takes you directly to Mont Saint-Michel in only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Rennes or 30 minutes from Dol-de-Bretagne. The line operates seven days a week (including bank holidays). You can depart from either Rennes or Dol-de-Bretagne: In Rennes, the coach departs from the bus station (upon exiting the train, follow the sign marked “Sortie Nord” and then “Gare Routière”). In Dol de Bretagne, the coach departs from the SNCF train station (upon exiting the train, cross through the lobby and turn right). WE ARE NOT SURE THAT THE DIRECT BUS LINE OF DOL-DE-BRETAGNE ---> MONT SAINT-MICHEL STILL FUNCTIONS. Your best bet is the SNCF web site. Here, we found a service of everyday bus at 10.50 and another one at 12.25 (not everyday). Please have a look at: https://en.oui.sncf/en/results?clientId=964f3ab1-a43a-48d1-9429-0e9fc1062c38&language=en&country=EN#!/?queryId=jT1m7

Another option is the bus from Pontorson to Mont Saint-Michel. You can catch a train from Paris or from Rennes to Pontorson, the gateway town to the MSM Abbey. Better, take the train to Rennes, then transfer to Pontorson. Then continue with a bus to MSM. All tickets can be purchased at the Pontorson station.

Instead we were surprised to see a direct bus from Saint-Malo to Mont Saint-Michel and vice versa. This is the Keolis bus service. As far as we understand there are two buses everyday (Spring and Summer months), in every direction EXCLUDING SUNDAYS. Departures from Saint-Malo: 09.15, 13.15. Departures from MSM: 15.45, 18.35. The ride is 75 minutes. The mandatory ticket is bi-directional and costs 23 euros/person. We must say that you can (not easily) cope with the tough time-table. 4-5 hours strolling around the island are enough (probably, with giving-up sitting in a local restaurant in MSM). There's plenty to see. All depends if you can look beyond all the souvenir shops, restaurants, and crowds. Please advice the web site:       https://storage.gra1.cloud.ovh.net/v1/AUTH_2e10c334b62a4c6f99f893e18b2832f4/armor/upload/pdf/keolis-armor-v160617.pdf?temp_url_sig=556c6f8e8e56b5f93adbf0eea958cf6eb5f4ce93&temp_url_expires=1546297200&inline=1

Note: Valid to July 2018 - the web page of Keolis bus company states shortly that "there are disturbances in the line of Dol-de-Bretagne and Mont Saint Michel". https://keolis-armor.com/index.php?

Arriving to Mont Saint-Michele does not bring you, immediately, to the island.  A particularly cheap deal, costing from only €27 is known as the Le Train du Mont-Saint-Michel – start the journey in Paris on a slower Intercités rather than the fast TGV train and change to the Oui bus in Villedieu des Poules with total traveling time around four hours. This deal, while it lasts, is only available for traveling on the following departures: from Paris Montparnasse 3 Vaugirard (from Mont St Michel) on weekdays at 7:38 (18:05) and weekends at 8:50 (18:05). All visitors to Mont St Michel, whether arriving by bus or car, have to either walk (40 minutes) or take the free shuttle buses (10 minutes), or a horse-drawn carriage (25 euros), the last 3 km to Mont St Michel. (Cycling is only allowed at quiet times.).

The views are obviously better walking towards Mont St Michel than back towards the parking lots. Free shuttle buses (Passeur navettes) transport visitors with high frequency from the parking lots to Mont St Michel. The buses stop en route at La Caserne / Grand’rue (the hotel and shopping complex on the mainland) and at Le Barrage (the dam), which offer some of the best views of Mont St Michel. (From here, it is a ten-minute walk back to the parking lot should the buses arriving from the island be too crowded.).  These Passeurs operate daily, at very regular intervals, from 7.30am to midnight. Alternatively, you can book a special horse-drawn carriage (a Maringote) or you can walk all the way from the car parks, contemplating the full magnificence of the Mont-Saint-Michel as you approach. That's what we did !

Special tips for your visit in Mont Saint-Michel:

* Avoid the restaurants and shops on the island. They are more expensive. Expect a slow service in these restaurants. Take a picnic with you. Another advice: buy just quick-to-prepare  crepes on the island.

* The whole visit in the island (and not just in the abbey) is concerned with plenty of stairs. There are flights of stairs on the way to the Abbey, and more stairs to reach the top of the Abbey after the ticketing booth. This tour is not suitable if you have walking difficulties. Prams are literally unpractical on the island.
* There are sections around the island without sufficient measures of safety (no benches, steep sections of paths, smooth or wet sections of cobbled-stone paths). Watch young kids !

* Be prepared for a lot of walking. The section of walk from/to the parking lot to/from the abbey's entrance is 35-45 minutes. 

* Most of the paths on the island are cobbled-stone ones. Come with solid, tough shoes.

* Come as early as possible - to avoid the queues in the abbey's entrance.
* Skip several "partisan" museums around the island.

* By all means take light luggage. There are security control at the island's entrance and it is all an uphill crowded climb.

* Go to the bathroom as you come into the island area.  There are no frequent or many of them further around. There is a nice clean restroom ALSO in the parking area.

* The winds and sea rapidly change in this area. Make sure to bring some layers and umbrella just in case.

* Online tickets: You can buy your ticket online for admission the same day or later. Additional charge: 1 euro processing fee.  

* If you have the opportunity to have an overnight accommodation near MSM island - come and visit the island also  later in the day, during the evening or night hours. The crowds were on their way home. The later - the better. You feel like you have the place mostly or totally to yourself. It is easy to see how the peace and serenity of the abbey, the island fortification and the ocean around - ALL help focus your attention on the contemplation of a higher power. Remember: the shuttle buses run till midnight.

* Check timelines of tide - before your visit day: https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/horaire-marees/mont-saint-michel.htm

https://ticket.monuments-nationaux.fr/Offres.aspx

* The shuttle bus gets crowded as early as 9.30. Get in early. The group tours usually arrive around 11.00. If you happen to be there during the middle of the day prepare to be swamped by other visitors.

Mont Saint-Michel Opening hours and prices:

Last admission one hour before closing.

FROM 2 JANUARY TO 30 APRIL: Open every day 9.30-18.00.
FROM 2 MAY TO 31 AUGUST: Open every day 9.00-19.00.
FROM 1ST SEPTEMBER TO 31 DECEMBER: Open every day 9.30-18.00.

CLOSING DAYS: January 1st, May 1st and December 25.

Last admission one hour before closing.

For 3 or 4 days around the following dates: February 2nd ; March 3rd ; August 13th ; September 11th ; October 10th the entrance is limited for 2-3 hours ONLY, during each day - due to a potential danger of high tide. 

Accessing the island is FREE. BUT, entering the Abbey is concerned with paying an admission fee. FULL PRICE: 10€, REDUCED PRICE (Students and pensioners): 8€.
Audio guide price: 3€. FREE admission for under 18 years.

Lodging: There are a few hotels within Mont Saint Michel that you can book into; however, it’s helpful to note that since this is a highly isolated touristy area, the prices of these accommodations can be quite expensive (especially with the high demand as there are only a few hotels in this small island). Avoid the expensive hotels on the island. We paid more than 150 euros/double room/night in the Mercure hotel. Very good hotel, good breakfast. Silent and convenient stay. Very helpful and polite staff members.

The small town of Pontorson nearby has a better range of hotels at even lower prices and some nice French provincial restaurants.

 

The Navette buses can take you (FREE)  to an extensive area where there are about 6 modern hotels, restaurants, snack bars, stores and camping. From here, one can walk to Mont Saint-Michel (about 30 minute walk) or continue with the Navette bus right up to the Mont. The bus stops also near the hotels (opposite the supermarket).

Dol-de-Bretagne: This is a little historic city which boasts some exceptionally old medieval houses along its high street and with a fascinating, huge  cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Samson). Dol de Bretagne developed around Saint-Samson Cathedral. Countless buildings were listed Historical Monuments decades ago. Dol has therefore retained a wealth of medieval features and buildings and is very picturesque. All the half-timbered buildings that still border Dol are stunning.

However, the ancient shop with a granite counter at no1 really stands out!

It is now a restaurant, Le Porche au Pain.

The cathedral is an outstanding, defensive 13th-century church. The cathedral was built when Dol was one of the foremost ecclesiastic centres of Brittany. Naughty King John of England’s troops burned down the Romanesque cathedral, so a mighty new Gothic one went up – one hideous gargoyle on it is said to resemble the evil monarch. The church was saved from destruction in WWII by a joint effort of American military commanders and the town mayor. The cathedral patron saint is St Samson who allegedly crossed the English Channel in a stone boat. To mark the last Millennium, a new stone boat was carved and now is anchored outside the church. Outside, there are two un-matching towers, a large porch, and very interesting and unique buttresses. Inside, there are some beautiful stained-glass windows. FREE. The tourist office is next block:

Dol town is built above marshes extending to the Baie de Mont St-Michel. The town developed on the top of a hill that peaked above a vast marshy area. However, in the 10th century the monks attached to the monastery Saint-Samson of Dol drained the marsh in order to reclaimed the land. They also built a dike, which has left place to the current road linking St-Malo to Pontorson. The reclaimed area, the Marais de Dol, has two distinct zones. The white marsh, closer to the sea, consists of white silt formed from ancient marine deposits. The decaying vegetation that colonized the reclaimed land produced the black marshes. Go in the direction of the river and allow 20-30 minutes for a circular itinerary along these marshes. There is a "dry" wooden causeway/path near the river:

The best part is probably walking or driving up to the island and its striking, perched-above abbey. There cannot be anyone who is not struck with awe when you first see the Mont Saint-Michel island and abbey from afar. It looks utterly stupendous. From the distance - it will forever remain one of the most fantastic sights on earth. The island and the abbey magically appear and get bigger and bigger as you get closer:

On your walk to the island you see, on your left the Couesnon river dam. Commissioned in May 2009, by regulating the water levels the dam over the Couesnon gives the river enough strength to push sediment out to sea and away from the Mont. In addition to its hydraulic function, the dam blends in with the new approach, causeway wooden route to the Mont-Saint-Michel as a work of art and a structure to welcome the public:

When you approach this beauty - the island and the Abbaye: it’s mesmerizing, sublime, a view like no other, a monument that deserves to be remembered for ever. Mont-Saint-Michel served as an inspiration for creating the town of Minas Tirith (the capital of Gondor) in the Lord of the Rings film series:

One need to go and feel the magnitude of MSM site. It goes beyond the normal WOW factor ! One of wonders in this world ! You must visit it at least once in your life !

Like all the worlds treasures, be prepared to share the experience with thousands of tourists:

After we entered the village, I followed the Grand Rue. It’s the main street of this city and a shopping paradise. It is by this point that you will witness the narrow and charming streets of Mont Saint Michel! (This is a 200 meter paved pathway that climbs progressively to the top).

La Porte du Rey:

Going Up the Abbey: There are 3 routes going up to the Abbey.

* From the Center Gate - Passing through all the souvenir shops and restaurants
* From the left before entering the Monastery - Some winding slopes before a flight of stairs and more stairs along the way to the Abbey
* After the Gate where La Mère Poulard is - There is a flight of stairs on the right leading up and you can also view the causeway from there.

The abbey is a long climb but worth the effort with the surrounding views. The Grand Degré staircase has 700 steps leading to the Abbey. This will be quite a climb and unfortunately, there are no elevators. Therefore, Mont Saint Michel isn’t friendly for disabled people. Actually, you do it 10 to 20 at a time, stopping off for a rest and photos at each level before you continue climbing:

Cedar trees:

Raise your head and get a wonderful view of the abbey, hung above:

As we said before: even if it is a long way upstairs, rest and take photos at each level before you continue climbing. The road upstairs in the western part of the complex:

View to the south - houses of the Mont Saint-Michel village:

The Eglise Saint Pierre, a small church just off the main street, is also worth a look inside to see its narrow stained-glass windows and golden chandeliers. Be sure and see the statue of Joan of Arc at the entrance to Eglise Saint Pierre church as you walk up to the abbey:

Inside are colorful stained glass windows, and the columns around the altarpiece date from the 1600’s:

there is a large statue of St Michael, slaying the dragon, in a side chapel of the main church:

As you approach the abbey, after climbing the stairs and the narrow road upward -  the abbey might be extremely crowded. A line to enter the abbey might be starting at the bottom, what will scare you at first. But, the queue clears out quite quickly:

At last, near the top is the entrance to the Abbey itself: 

From the entrance - we head to the viewing platform. More stairs to climb INSIDE the abbey. To reach this platform, we already climbed up through many stairs and rising streets before the abbey and, now, also some stairs inside of it.

Entrance to the abbey - the Cafeteria stairs:

Entrance to the abbey - arriving to the 2nd floor:

Entrance to the abbey - Continuing to climb the stairs into the abbey:

The end of flight of stairs into the abbey:

There’s no harm in going for a look around on your own. But, there are guided visits, and if you enjoy getting great explanations about the history of the area, you can join free or guided tours of one hour every day without reservations (except for exceptional dates). THESE GUIDED TOURS START AT THE OBSERVATION TERRACE - IN THE END OF THE FLIGHT OF STAIRS JUST DESCRIBED. For a more detailed visit, sign up in advance for a ‘Visite conférence’. These tours are led by specially licensed guides, who have access to parts of the abbey not normally accessible to the public. These tours last about two hours and happen at weekends and every day during school holidays (except for exceptional dates). The conference visits are NOT only in French. We remember there are tours in English, Spanish and Italian:

There are imposing views from the viewing platform on the top of the abbey. At the top you get some stunning views from the Mount out across the sea and Normandy & Brittany. In a bright day there are fantastic views of the La-Manche Channel from the top. Those who make it to the top have the Abbey to explore and view the vast emptiness of the surrounding beach. You can also see many seagulls who are flying around the island and also on the viewing platform of the abbey:

More breath-taking views of the the muddy terrain surrounding  MSM abbey from the viewing platform (where the guided tours start):

Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel museum - Architectural model:

From the small museum with the abbey model - there is ADDITIONAL flight of stairs leading to level 3 of the abbey with ANOTHER viewing terrace:

If we look down from level 3 viewing platform or terrace that's what we see....:

the level 3 viewing platform is the best place to have a look at the abbey's high-rising tower turret. The spire of the abbey church is nicely constructed of timber, copper, gold leaf and slate:

And in close up:

Michael Archangel in the top of the tower spire:

The abbey church is surprisingly stark and plain on the interior. The inside is stripped of its colours and decorations. The abbey, inside, is very well preserved for as many as thousand years. Within the building, it is very interesting to see how the rooms and chapels were structured and constructed. The church, reminiscent of a medieval castle, is huge with several halls and secret rooms to visit. The church is also surprisingly large – given that it is on the top of the hill and required building enormous underground supporting rooms/vaults to make sure that a level floor was possible for a room of this size and height. There are beautiful views in every window that you have the opportunity to snoop around. The Benedictine Abbey is a mix of medieval religion, a military fort and an important pilgrimage site from the 8th century to the 18 century. Today, 24 brothers and sisters from Jerusalem reside and conduct services in this unique wonderful abbey, and it is open to the public:

The abbey is divided into 2 parts. First is the church which three crypts built: the Trente-Cierges chapel (under the North wing),

the choir crypt (to the East)

and Saint-Martin chapel (under the South wing):

A gift from the King of France, Philipe Auguste, in the 13th century would enable the construction of one of the most impressive elements seen today at Le Mont Saint Michel: the Gothic style "Merveille." These two three-storey buildings, with the famous cloister and refectory on the rooftop, were the living quarters for resident monks. Finally, as a result of the Hundred Years’ War, military constructions were added to the Abbey in the 14th and 15th centuries.

So, the second part of the abbey is the “Merveille” or monk’s living area which is further subdivided into two parts: the East and the West. The East side was built first and has 3 rooms: the chaplaincy (cistern of the aumônerie),

the hosts room (visitors descend down a few steps to get to the lower floor of the abbey. This is the so called “Merveille” floor where the monks lived and also where guests where hosted). The “Salle des Hôtes” or “Hosts Room” was used to welcome honorable guests and offer them dinner. Therefore the room has/had very large fireplaces to allow proper heating. It is located directly under the monks refectory/dining room  (which was not heated):

and the dining-hall:

The West side was built seven years later with 3 rooms too: the wine cellar, the Knights room

and the cloister (garden quadrangle):

Mont Saint-Michel - the tower from the cloister. The Cloister is a tourist favourite. Surrounded by two rows of arches, the cloister has a beautiful garden in the center that was formerly used as a food-garden by resident monks. The cloister serves as a key access point, with each side providing access to a different wing of the church. All except the north side which gives visitors a beautiful view of the church’s gardens and the ocean below:

Entrance door to the cloister:

The charming cloister garden started in the thirteenth century. Today the garden is planted with herbaceous plants. They would not have been here during the Middle Ages but they create an unexpectedly soft domestic character to a dramatic place with dramatic views:

Coat of arms of abbey, bas relief, Le Mont-Saint-Michel - is it the order of Jerusalem Kingdom ?

Bas-relief from the 9th century. Archangel Saint Michael appearing before Saint Aubert:

Saint Madeleine Chapel:

The original lady of Mont-Saint-Michel was a classic example of a Queen of the Underworld. Until the 8th century her island was called Mont-Tombe, i.e. Mount Tomb because it was a Gallic burial site - the Black Madonna of Mont Saint-Michel:

The 11th century would see the construction of the Romanesque-style church designed by William de Volpiano. It was this Italian architect who decided to position the church’s transept crossing at the apex of the mount: the closest to God as possible. Great idea in theory, although the mount did not provide enough level ground for the foundation. To compensate, four immense crypts were built whose roofs would serve as the large level foundation necessary to build the church and abbey on top of. The Cryptes de Gros Piliers (Crypts of Big Pillars) gives you a firsthand look at the massive pillars that now keep the crypts from collapsing and meeting the same fate as one did in 1421. Since there are only a few small windows, it is a very dark yet somehow majestic room:

You then leave the crypt and follow a few corridors. Afterwards you enter the Ossuary – which was later transformed into a storage facility and also houses the tread wheel crane that was used to transport goods up to the abbey building. The Grand Roue (big wheel) is also an element that always fascinates. The goods lift wheel was installed around 1820 during the time when Le Mont Saint Michel served as a prison. Its purpose was to hoist provisions to those being held prisoner in the Abbey:

Adjacent to the former ossuary is the small chapel of Saint-Etienne. The other side of the chapel has a door to the grand staircase that leads again to the main northern building. Chapelle Saint Etienne, or St Stephen's Chapel, was built in the 8th century (and so one of the earliest Christian sanctuaries) with later 13th century rib vaulting, part of the Romanesque abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. The chapel served as a mortuary chapel and beneath the archway is a Pieta sculpture where there was a stone bath used for washing the dead: 

The gorgeous Scriptorium - here, the monks copied and documented scrolls, maps, monastic documents: 

Here, in this point we complete our long climb to the Mont Saint-Michel abbey. We exit the glorious, historical wonder and turn to our part 2: lunch, walking along the walls, having a glance at the salty sands around the island and visting, again, Mont Saint-Michel at dark hours. Turn to Part 2.

Saint-Malo - Day 2

Silvja Helmanis

France

Saint Malo - Day 2:

Main Attractions: Statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais, Bastion Saint Louis, Porte Saint Louis, la Grande Porte, Porte Saint Vincent, L'Etoile du Roy, Place Chateaubriand, Château de Saint-Malo, Cour la Houssaye, Saint-Malo Cathedral, Rue Porcon de la Barbinais, Grand Rue,  Rue des Vieux Remparts, Porte de Dinan, Bastion Saint-Philippe, Creperie le Corps de Garde, Place Gasnier Duparc, Place de la Croix du Fief, Place de la Poissonnerie, Place du Pilori, Place aux Herbes, Passage Grande Hermine, La maison du Sarrasin. 

Orientation: we dedicate the second day in Saint-Malo to a nice, picturesque and quaint day of strolls in old Saint-Mal, o INTO THE WALLS. Most of our itinerary, today, are the narrow roads of Saint-Malo intra-muros. We'll take a glimpse, here and there, of the ocean, as well...

Start & End: Statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais, Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice. Duration: 1 day. Distance: 11-12 km.

A short introduction: we found Saint -Malo to be one of the most picturesque and beautiful town in Europe. It retains its medieval character, it is quite quaint and pastoral. Even if flooded by herds of tourists - its vast area and variety of parts (inland, coastal or into the ocean), still, let it be explored leisurely, quietly, with no pressure of noise and dirt - and... almost free (with no admission fees or other "penalties"). Saint-Malo is NOT a tourist trap. It holds true - IF you have a sunny day in Saint-Malo. We think it is worthwhile to dedicate a second, ADDITIONAL, day to Saint-Malo under the condition that both your staying days - are SUNNY, not windy or rainy. Bonne Chance with your couple of days in Saint-Malo !

Our 2nd day Itinerary:  We start at the most south-east corner of Saint Malo walls, at Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice - where stands the statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais. We, actually, start our daily route in the square where Espl. de la Bourse and Quai Saint-Louis intersect out of the walls (Rue de Chartres and Rue d'Orléans intersect into the town). We walk along Quai Saint-Louis from south to north along (out of) the walls on our left.

Beyond the walls you can see the bright roof of Bastion Saint Louis, 1 Rue d'Orléans (see our Tipter blog from 13 May 2017 - "Saint-Malo Day 1"). The bastion, named in honour of King Louis XIV began, was constructed in 1714,  during the second expansion of the city and was completed in 1721 during the third increase of Saint-Malo. It defended the access to harbour. During the French Revolution, the ground floor housed the terrible guillotine. Bastion Saint-Louis occupies the south-east corner of the town wall and, along with Bastion Saint-Philippe to the south-west and the curtain walls that link it to the Porte de Dinan, forms the town’s second expansion (1714-1720). This whole neighbourhood was created by filling in the sea, based on plans drawn up by the engineer Siméon de Garengeau (Paris 1647 - Saint-Malo 1741):

 130 m. further north from the statue - we see Porte Saint Louis on our left. This is one of the 8 gates to enter within the fortified walls. With their 1754 m, the city walls are a major attraction of the city. Some gates date back to the 15th century and are decorated by original sculptures:

210 m. further nort we arrive to la Grande Porte. This is the OLDEST gate of Saint-Malo walls.  Built in the Middle Ages, during the 15th century, the Great Gate of the ramparts of Saint-Malo ensures the passage between the city and the Vauban basin. It was restored during the 16th century and during the following century, the belfry that surmounted it was destroyed. Every evening, a bell rang the closing of this entrance to the city. In the early nineteenth century, the gate's door was still the subject of development work. The Grande Porte or Grand'Porte is composed of two towers and an artillery platform, typical of the second half of the 15th century. There was a stone quay, which was located just outside this gate where goods from the South Seas, China and Arabia were off-loaded to be traded by the Saint-Malo ships' owners. The entrance takes you straight into the area where there are many restaurants: 

We continue to walk additional 230 m. northward along Quai Saint-Vincent arriving to Porte Saint Vincent. The main and best way to walk into St Malo. This gate was built in 1708. The current gate is made of granite dates from 1733. Two Coats of Arms appear on the front gate: on the left (2nd photo below), the Coats of Arms of the City. On the right (3rd photo below), it symbolizes the Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Brittany:

Our next attraction is the... Tourist Information office and the adjacent L'Etoile du Roy or la frégate corsaire in Quai de Terre Neuve.  It stands 250 m. east of the Saint-Vincent gate. You can't miss it with its blue-yellow colors. L'Etoile du Roy (the Royal Star) is a replica of a British corsair frigate ordered by Robert le Turc (long line of shipowners) and built in Saint-Malo in 1745 (the 18th century). Originally named Grand Turk , it was built in 1996 in Turkey (the British television series Hornblower) under the supervision of Michael  Turk (heir to this long line of shipowners). This ship is 47 meters long, has 3 masts, 310 gross register tonnage, counted 240 sailors on board and was armed with 20 cannons. It is, actually, a floating museum. Open: everyday. Prices: adult  - 6€, child - 3€, family -  15€.

Head west on Quai de Terre Neuve toward Espl. Saint-Vincent, 40 m. Turn right onto Espl. Saint-Vincent, 30 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Chaussée du Sillon, 60 m. and turn left, walking 80 to arrive to the beach - Plage de l'Éventail. This the idyllic, picturesque strip of beach opposite Fort National in the Petit Bé (small island), behind the entrance to the old town. During the low tide hours, it is also the point of entry to get to the island of Fort Vauban. Some snacks along the promenade and ramparts with a terrace of a refreshment bar. Access to this beach is via Chaussée du Sillon. No smoking is allowed on this beach. The sights of the fortifications on the Petit Bé - are wonderful. Nonetheless, the wooden pillars on the sea shore:

This is the best spot in Saint-Malo to see, so close, the Petit Bé island and its Vauban fort:

From the beach we renter the town and walk westward into the walls. From Plage de l'Éventail we, first, head  east toward Chaussée du Sillon, 80 m. We turn right, 35 m. still along Chaussée du Sillon. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit, 130 m. Turn right onto Avenue Louis Martin, 40 m. Turn right onto Porte Saint-Thomas, 5 m. We turn left toward Place Chateaubriand for 25 m., turn further right toward Place Chateaubriand for 35 m. Now, we turn right, again, onto Place Chateaubriand, 50 m. and turn left to stay on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. You can't miss the elegant building of Hotel Chateaubriand Saint-Malo. Built in the traditional neo-classical style of 19th-century French seaside resorts - but, inside, far beyond its past glory. 

François-René Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848), was a French writer, politician, diplomat and historian. He was born in Saint-Malo in the house #3 rue Chateaubriand. Around the square are many hotels and restaurants including the famous Hotel White at # 2, where Chateaubriand lived from 3 to 8 years. The writer and his family were dislodged by a fire in 1776 and then returned to settle in the birthplace of François-René, the hotel de la Gicquelais located at number 3 rue Chateaubriand. Historical Monuments have since rebuilt identically the facade of the hotel White dating from the eighteenth century. On this square, Place Chateaubriand, are also the Château de Saint-Malo , Quic-en-Groigne Tower and the Museum of History of the city. The Château de Saint-Malo dates back to the 15th and 18th centuries. The construction of the castle was done in several stages. The construction of the great dungeon was ordered in 1424 by Duke Jean V of Brittany son-in-law of King Charles VI of France . In 1475 the General Tower which was built under the orders of Duke Francis II. From 1498 to 1501 the daughter of Duke Francis II, Anne of Brittany ordered to build the tower Quic-en-Groigne (in the north-west). Four other towers were raised a few years later, these are the Ladies' Tower (in the north-east), the Tour des Moulins (in the southeast), the Square Tower and the Petit Donjon. If you look closely at the shape of the castle, you will not fail to notice that it looks like a carriage, such was the wish of the Duchess. The History Museum of Saint-Malo has been located since 1927 in the Grand Donjon. The General Tower houses the Ethnography Museum. The Castle also hosts, nowadays,  the Hôtel-de-Ville of Saint-Malo. The Museum of History of Saint-Malo traces the past of the corsair city through some famous people in Saint-Malo, like Jacques Cartier, Duguay-Trouin and François-René Chateaubriand. If you climb to the  turrets of the Grand Donjon - you'll have a nice view of the northern Saint-Malo bay. Opening hours: APR-SEP: everyday 10.00 -12.30, 14.00 - 18.00; OCT-MAR: everyday except Mon 10.00 - 12.00, 14.00 - 18.00. Closed: 1 Jan, 1 May, 1 and 11 Nov, 25 Dec. Prices: adult - 6 € (child -8 years old 3 €), family - 15 €. Most of the explanations are in French.

From the Musée d'histoire de la ville in Place Chateaubriand you walk  north on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. Turn left to stay on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. Place Chateaubriand turns slightly left and becomes Rue Chateaubriand, 90 m. Turn right onto Cour la Houssaye or Rue de la Corne de Cerf, 20 m. to see the pretty Cour la Houssaye (Courtyard La Houssaye). The house and garden of "La Houxaie" or Houssaye are mentioned in the oldest accounts of the city since the end of the 15th century. The architectural details of the turret house located at Rue de la Corne de Cerf No. 2 date back to this time and can be considered as the oldest house in the city. Tradition says that Anne de Bretagne would have stayed there when she came to inspect the work of the castle.

Rue de la Corne de Cerf meets Rue de Pelicot in its west end. In their intersection - you can see these interesting panel with carved medallions representing the profiles of Jacques Cartier (Saint-Malo, 1491 - Saint-Malo, 1557) and his wife, Catherine Granges, who lived on rue de Buhen (now rue Chateaubriand):

From Cour la Houssaye head southwest on Rue de la Corne de Cerf toward Rue du Pelicot. Continue to follow Rue de la Corne de Cerf, 15 m. Continue onto Escalier de la Grille, 20 m.

Turn left onto Rue Mahé de la Bourdonnais, 5 m. Continue onto Rue du Gras Mollet, 60 m. Continue onto Rue du Collège:

Head south on Rue du Collège toward Rue de la Blatrerie, 40 m. Slight right onto Rue de la Blatrerie, 40 m. Turn left onto Place Jean de Châtillon, 15 m.

Saint-Malo Cathedral from Place Jean de Châtillon. Dedicated to St. Vincent, martyr of the 4th century of Zaragoza (Spain), the Cathedral of St. Malo was enlarged from the 13th to the 18th century and surmounted by a high neo-Gothic spire which was destroyed on August 6, 1944 at the beginning of the fighting for the liberation of the city, in the WW2, in August 1944 (see below). The church is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, and constitutes a national monument of France. It was built in a mix of Roman and Gothic styles during the episcopacy of Jean de Châtillon (1146-1163) on the site of an ancient church founded in the 7th-century. The cathedral suffered damage during WW2 when several bombs fell onto the Sacred Heart Chapel. An organ which had been built in 1893 by Louis Debierre was destroyed. On 21 May 1972, after twenty-eight years of work, a ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the restoration:

From Place Jean de Châtillon - head south toward Rue Guillaume le Gouverneur, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue Guillaume le Gouverneur, 85 m. Turn right onto Rue Porcon de la Barbinais. The story of Pierre Porcon from La Barbinais - is half-myth/legend, half-reality: In 1665, the Saint-Malo shipowners entrusted the command of a 36-gun frigate to Pierre Porcon de La Barbinais to protect their ships that were sailing in the Mediterranean against attacks by the Algerians. Pierre Porcon was at first happy in the execution of his expeditions. In October 1680, Barbary corsairs seized several French ships without declaration of war. On 18 October 1681, ruler of Algiers Baba Hassan officially declared war on France. The Algerians having assembled a large fleet against Pierre Porcon, and he became the prisoner of the Algierians. At the time of the preparation of an expedition of a squadron of the French monarch Louis XIV against the Algierians to put an end to their acts of piracy, the  Algierians charged him to bring to Louis XIV proposals of peace, on the condition that he would come back and take his shoes if the negotiation failed. The life of 600 French prisoners, in the hands of the Algierians, depended on the respect of this last condition. The peace proposals of the  Algierians having been judged unacceptable. Pierre Porcon returned to Algiers after going to Saint-Malo to put his affairs in order. The Algierians, unhappy with this refusal of the king cut off his head in 1681. Similarly named roads are in Rennes and Dinan. The Rue Porcon de la Barbinais is the most CULINARY road in Saint-Malo. The most delicious, smelling, colorful and appetizing road in Saint-Malo.

Kouign Amann, 6 rue Porcon de la Barbinais, a takeaway bakery stand which offers a range of savoury and sweet pastries along with fresh bread. Try the Far Breton which is a pastry case filled with a set slightly sour custard filling, sometimes with fruits inside. This bakery stall also offers the other local favourite – apple tarts which are well worth trying:

Head south on Rue Porcon de la Barbinais toward Grand Rue, 10 m. Turn left onto Grand Rue, 50 m. Be sure to take in the view down the Grand Rue towards the Cathedral St Vincent:

Sample Creperie des Lutins at 7 Grand Rue. A small creperie with gallettes, soups, ciders, mussels and other Bretagne takeaway portions:

Head WEST on Grand Rue toward Rue des Marins, 10 m. Turn LEFT (south) onto Rue des Marins, 45 m. Continue onto Rue Boursaint, 25 m. Continue onto Rue de la Herse, 110 m. Turn right onto Rue des Forgeurs, 60 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Fossé, 10 m. Note the house in #4 in Rue de la Fossé (from 1620). Head south on Rue de la Fossé toward Passage du Cap-Horn, 10 m. Turn right onto Rue des Vieux Remparts, 20 m. The houses, along this road, from years 1708-1744:

Slight left to stay on Rue des Vieux Remparts, 35 m. Head west on Rue des Vieux Remparts toward Rue Robert Surcouf, 45 m. Turn LEFT (south)  onto Rue de Dinan, 80 m. Continue onto Porte de Dinan and get out, 40 m.  from the walled town, out of the walls to the promenade opposite Porte de Dinan. This gate was built in 1714 as part of the second expansion of Saint-Malo. It replaced an old gate called the Poterne de Brevet, which was once the southern entrance/exit from the town.
It was also called the Porte de la Marine (Navy Gate) because the French Navy had its offices on the ground floor of the building to the south of the gate (1 Rue Saint-Philippe). The famous corsair Robert Surcouf (Saint-Malo 1773 - 1827) lived there following his marriage in 1801. The Porte de Dinan leads to the wharf of the same name. It was called this because boats very frequently used to sail down the Rance River from Dinan in order to supply Saint-Malo with fresh provisions. In 1838, it was extended as far as the Saint-Louis and Saint-Philippe bastions. As we said in the "Saint-Malo Day 1" blog - the Saint-Philippe bastion is connected to the Môle des Noires strip of beach. This breakwater is named after the rocks called the Roches Noires which it was built on. Construction of this mole began in 1837, it was extended to a length of 520 metres in 1933, and it was rebuilt after 1944. There are FREE toilets nearby:

We retrace our steps and change our direction (for a few minutes only), heading north. From Porte de Dinan head west on Porte de Dinan toward Rue Saint-Philippe, 40 m. Continue NORTHWARD onto Rue de Dinan. Note the figures hung upstairs on the houses' walls:

After sampling Rue de Dinan - we walk back heading southalong rue de Dinan, toward Rue des Vieux Remparts, 85 m. Climb right onto Rue Saint-Philippe, 130 m. Rue Saint-Philippe turns right and becomes Rue Guy Louvel and Bastion Saint-Philip is on the left. Bastion Saint-Philippe occupies the south-west corner of the town wall and was constructed during the second expansion (1714-1720). Saint-Malo’s ship owners, who made their fortunes from captured ships, seafaring along the Pacific coast of Latin America, and the Saint-Malo East Indies Company, formed a company with 24 shareholders in order to constitute the new fortifactions.
However, the houses’ construction proceeded quite slowly: only 13 houses were built in 1725, along with 15 other houses up until 1770. This neighbourhood was called “La Californie” because it was inhabited by rich, wealthy people such as gold diggers. In 1944 (WW2), most of the fine houses in this neighbourhood caught fire, but the famous row of façades termed “Corsaires” along the ramparts was rebuilt exactly the way it had been before. The building to the WEST of the entrance to the Rue de Dinan, which has a chimney stack decorated with a sundial (1 Rue Saint-Philippe), was the home of the famous Robert Surcouf, the French corsair, from his marriage in 1801 until his death in 1826. The building was also used for administrative offices by the French Navy. You can wonderful views of the western and southern shores of Saint-Malo - through holes in the western walls of the city. One of them is the light-house in the end of Phare Môle des Noires:

Continuing NORTH along the walls of Saint-Malo we arrive to the Statue de Jacques Cartier:

View southward from the western walls - near the Statue de Jacques Cartier:

View northward from the western walls near the Statue de Jacques Cartier. The road downstairs - Rampe des Moulins Colin:

View westward, to the Petit Bé, from the western walls near the Statue de Jacques Cartier:

We can continue walking northward along the walls for 230 m. or we can descend to the town roads (Rue de la Crosse) (via Porte Saint Pierre) - and we arrive to the famous (and permanently crowded) restaurant Creperie le Corps de Garde. This world reputed "dining institute" has several dining areas, some in the old, stone-fenced house, and some on a covered terrace overlooking the bay. The latter is probably for the tourists wanting the overview of the bay while dining, and indeed, the view is magnificent. The interior in this restaurant is not so interesting though, wooden benches and stone slab tables, surely good for wild touristic groups. It is a VERY popular and bustling place - even, in rainy days. If you can select, more precisely, your sitting time here - probably target the Creperie for  the sunset hour with clear skies. BUT, make sure to order a table well in advance. Expect a lot of: people, sugar, cream, sauce and creams....:

The restaurant supplies straw hats for the diners sitting under the sun:

This is the famous terrace - where the whole fuss is about:

In case we are, still, on the walls - we descend down and continue walking, into the town, northward, along Rue Sainte-Anne. On our LEFT (north-west) and our right (east) is Rue de la Cloche. Turn RIGHT (east) to Rue de la Cloche and walk eastward (RIGHT) to Place Gasnier Duparc with its unique collection of sculptures. The square is named after Alphonse Henri Gasnier-Duparc, born on June 21 , 1879 and died in Saint-Malo on October 10 , 1945 and was a French politician, Mayor of Saint-Malo and Minister of the Navy:

Head east on Place Gasnier Duparc toward Place Jean de Châtillon, 25 m and turn left onto Place Jean de Châtillon, 30 m. to arrive to Place Jean Moulin and to see, again, Saint-Malo Cathedral. Head south on Place Jean Moulin toward Rue de la Blatrerie, 15 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Blatrerie, 30 m. Turn left onto Place Saint-Aaron, 55 m. On our left - Palais de Justice and on our right - Chapelle Saint-Aaron. Nothing special.  We continue north along rue Maclaw. Turn RIGHT (east) to rue de la Victoire. We descend the stairs in Escaier de la Grille. We return to Cour la Houssaye. We continue descending down along the narrow Rue de la Corne de Cerf. At number 2 on rue de la Corne de Cerf, before 1944, a curious wooden house with 16th century painted carvings and stained glass windows was erected, in which the famous pirate Rene Duguay-Trouin was born (Saint-Malo , 1673 - Paris, 1736). His conquest/capture of Rio de Janeiro in Brasil, in 1711, and his memories made him famous. His remains were brought back from Paris to Saint-Malo in 1973 and deposited at the cathedral. On the 5th intersection of Rue de la Corne de Cerf to the left (east) - turn onto Place de la Croix du Fief. The Cross of the Fief once marked one of the limits of the "fief", that is to say the domain under the common seigniory of the bishop and the canons of the chapter of the cathedral. This square is adjacent to the Place de la Poissonnerie. The fish market was designed by the architect Henry Auffret (1954) and the sculptor François Pellerin (Cancale, 1915 - Rennes, 1998). The market hall is adorned at the entrance with a sculpture called L'Orbiche and represents a dogfish, shaped like a small shark. It was restored in 2006. The interior frame, evoking that of a Breton chapel, is also carved in the shape of a fish highlighted by black. Very typical Bretagne sight. We take the most southern end of Place de la Poissonnerie and continue SOUTH along the narrow (and a bit dark) Rue des Merciers. Continue south along rue des Marins. Turn RIGHT (west) to Rue du Puits aux Braies and we ascend to Place du Pilori. The Pilori Square recalls the place where the condemned people were exhibited publicly before being executed. It was also called Place du Martroy by deformation of the Latin name martyretum, meaning torture. The "pillory" consisted of a movable pillar furnished with metal shackles in which the arms and feet of the culprit were engaged, bound by chains. The neck was enclosed with a  collar. The guilty man was turned around this pillar to make it visible to all, to allow him to be recognized and to raise complaints or vocal protests against him or her. In Saint-Malo, "to do the pilo" was the expression used to make an appointment to find the soul mate, in this central part of the Saint-Malo town.

Head west on Place du Pilori toward Rue Broussais, 20 m. Continue onto Rue Gouin de Beauchesne, 45 m. The name of the road refers to the Captain from Saint-Malo who rounded Cape Horn in 1700 after an exploratory voyage along the coasts of Chile and Peru. Turn left onto Place aux Herbes, 15 m. Place aux Herbes is a square that was laid out during the reconstruction of the historic town, which began in 1946 after WW2. Its name comes from the old Rue des Herbes. The east side of the square is flanked by an ensemble that was rebuilt according to drawings drafted by Louis Arretche, the architect who headed the reconstruction of Saint-Malo from 1947 onwards. The square’s west side is opened up by another passageway under a building; Rue Vincent de Gournay, where the Auberge de la Malice (Malice Inn) was once located, and featuring buildings at numbers 9, 11 and 13 which were rebuilt after the Anglo-Dutch bombardment in 1695. Head south on Place aux Herbes toward Rue Vincent de Gournay, 30 m. We walk through the small passage (see above) and turn left onto Rue de la Harpe, 35 m. Continue onto Passage Grande Hermine, 25 m. Turn right to stay on Passage Grande Hermine, 20 m. :

Note houses #3 and #5 in Passage Grande Hermine:

Here, we make a short detour to a special shop. Head east on Passage Grande Hermine toward Place du Marché aux Légumes, 15 m. Continue onto Rue de l'Orme, 30 m. to land upon "La maison du Sarrasin", 10 Rue de l'Orme. The whole shop is dedicated to buckwheat. A "temple" for people who are sensitive to Gluten. 

We continue walking along (again, narrow and a bit dark) Rue de l'Orme from west until its east end. Turn RIGHT (south) to Rue de la Herse. Turn LEFT (east) to Rue de la Halle aux Blés.  Turn RIGHT (south) to Rue des Cordiers. Head south on Rue des Cordiers toward Rue de l'Abbaye Saint-Jean, 10 m. Turn left onto Rue de l'Abbaye Saint-Jean, 30 m. Turn right onto Rue de Chartres, 110 m and turn left onto Porte Saint-Louis, 15 m.: At the moments we had arrived to Porte Saint Louis - Emmanuel Macron had been sworn as the president of France:

130 m. further south and we arrive to the statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais. 

Saint-Malo - Day 1

Silvja Helmanis

France

Saint-Malo Day 1:

Main Attractions: Port de plaisance Vauban, Quai Saint-Vincent, Quai Saint-Louis, Bastion Saint-Louis, statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, Porte de Dinan, Esplanade de la Bourse, Môle des Noires,  Ramparts Walk, Bastion Saint Philippe, Bastion de la Hollande, view of Fort du Petit Bé, Porte Saint Pierre, La Tour Bidouane, Bastion Fort La Reine, Porte Saint Thomas, Place Chateaubriand, Place de la Poissonnerie, Porte Saint-Vincent, Town Hall (Mairie) (out of the walls), Bon-Secours beach, Grand Bé, Petit Bé, Place du Marché aux Légumes.

Start & End: Gare de Saint Malo. The SNCF Station is in the Square Jean Coquelin. The station serves TER regional trains connecting Saint-Malo with Rennes, and TGV trains to and from Paris (Gare Montparnasse). The Gare is also the regional Gare Routière (bus terminal), with buses to Cancale, Dinan, Dinard, Pontorson (for Mont Saint-Michel) and Rennes.  Duration: 1 day. Weather: A bright day with blue sky - a MUST. With a fine weather - Saint Malo is one of the most wonderful attractions in France. Distance: 13 km.

Our Hotel: Hotel ibis Styles Saint Malo Port, 6-8 Quai du Val, 35400 Saint-Malo. There is a bus from the train station to the hotel. There is a bus stop  next to the swimming pool (La piscine du Naye) - 7 minutes walk from the hotel. The train station is located about 20 minutes walk from the hotel. DELIGHTFUL STAYING. ENJOYABLE. ALL FACILITIES are EXCELLENT. Good breakfasts. Comfortable and quiet room.

A statue near the hotel:

Transport: Taxis cost approximately €8.50 (€12.50 after 19:00, on Sundays and public holidays). Buses run every 20 minutes and go directly to the city centre and the train station. The shuttle bus is called 'Coeurs de Ville' and costs around €1.30 per person. Visit the Keolis Saint-Malo website for more information: https://www.ksma.fr/

Introduction: St-Malo is 417 km (259 miles, 4 hours) west of Paris on the Brittany (west) coast of France. It is an historic walled town bordered by golden sand beaches. During the summer months it is packed with visitors who come to stroll the circuit of its medieval ramparts. St-Malo is packed solid in high summer (July, August, and the first few days of September), very busy April through June and September through mid-November, especially on weekends; and sleepy from mid-November through March. It is a wonderful, VERY PICTURESQUE place. Within the medieval walls (Intra-Muros, designating the historic district) are narrow streets lined with solid granite buildings that, on second look, do not appear to be as ancient as the city or its walls—and, in fact, they aren't. A disastrous fire in 1661 reduced much of the town to ashes, and aerial bombardment during World War II (1 to 14 August 1944) destroyed 80% of the buildings within the walls. You don't come here looking for medieval atmosphere except for the ramparts along the city walls. Come for the delightful seaside atmosphere, the beaches, the sunsets, and boat cruises along the Breton coast. Warning: The tides at St-Malo and surrounding areas can be dangerous, and it's important to be aware of the times of high tide. There are signs posted at various access points to warn that if you get caught on an island. Do not try to return. Rather, wait until the tide recedes and you can safely return. Times of high tides are posted at the Tourist Information Office, or you can check with your hotel. A tide table will tell you the times of high tides (pleines mers) and low (basses mers).

How long ?  2 DAYS IS ENOUGH FOR VISITING THIS WONDERFUL TOWN.

L'Office de Tourisme de St-Malo, Esplanade St-Vincent,  St-Malo. The Office du Tourisme is outside the Porte Saint-Vincent (one of the main entrances to the walled town). Just go across the boulevard toward the marina and you'll see it next to the Palais des Congrès. If you're planning to visit the Fort National, the Grand Bé, or the Petit Bé (see below), check with the tourist office for information on tides and the timing of visits.

Our Itinerary: The walk from the Railway Station to our first destination - Port Vauban is 1.3 km (flat terrain). From there It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk to the town centre. From Gare de Saint Malo we walk 75 m. southwest on Avenue Anita Conti. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Rue Théodore Monod (actually, continue direct westward), 190 m. Slight right to stay on Rue Théodore Monod, 25 m. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Avenue Louis Martin (slight left, then, slight right) and go through 2 roundabouts for, totally, 1.0 km. Actually, after 900 m. along Avenue Louis Martin - you see the water on both sides.  On your right (north-east) is Quai Surcouf. We are in Port de plaisance Vauban or Bassin Vauban. Port de plaisance Vauban and its continuation (to north-west), Espl. Saint-Vincent enjoy a prime location under the walls of the old fortified city, just a stone's throw from the Porte Saint-Vincent and the tourist office (see below).

City Walls from Espl. Saint-Vincent (north-west from Port de Vauban). On the left side of the photo below - resides the Tourist Office of Saint-Malo in Esplanade Saint-Vincent:

We walk around the Port Vauban basin. We came along  Avenue Louis Martin with our face to north-west. we slight left (our face more to the west) and, then, again, left (our face to south-west). Doing this 180° turn along the water basin - we see, on our right (north) the Porte St-Vincent (main entrance to Intra-Muros):

We walk along Quai Saint-Vincent, and,later, along Quai Saint-Louis, with our face to the south. The city walls, along both of the docks - are on our right (west):

Grande Porte (where Quai Saint-Vincent changes to Quai Saint-Louis) on our right (west):

Further south is further, southward along Quai Saint-Louis, with our face to the south - we see on our right (west) Porte Saint-Louis (another gate/entrance into the Intra Muros):

WE approach the southern end of Quai Saint-Louis. Bastion Saint-Louis resides in its most southern edge. The construction of this bastion, named in honour of King Louis XIV began, in 1714 during the second expansion of the city and was completed in 1721 during the third increase of Saint-Malo. This bastion was, after its construction, called bastion Saint-François and, then, changed its name to bastion Saint-Louis in honor of the King. It defended the access to harbour. During the French Revolution, the ground floor of the bastion was used as the storage room for the terrible guillotine.

At the south-west corner of the walls (where Quai saint-Louis meets Rue d'Orléans) stands the statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais (Saint-Malo 1699 - Paris 1753) - French naval officer and administrator, in the service of the French East India Company:

As we cross the Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice (the round square with Bertrand-François Mahé statue) - we see the Espl. de la Bourse - stretching on our right to the west:

Further south, on our right, Gare maritime de la Bourse:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you walk 1.3 km south from Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice, along Chaussée Eric Tabarly - you'll arrive to the Ibis Styles hotel. In this case - we return from the hotel BACK north to Porte de Dinan via Quai de Trichet. From Hotel ibis Styles Saint Malo Port, 6-8 Quai du Val head west on Quai du Val Rue le Pomellec. Go through 1 roundabout, 350 m along Quai de Trichet. It is 750 m. walk to Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice. Head northwest on Quai de Trichet toward Terre-Plein du Naye, 190 m. At the roundabout, take the 4th exit onto Chaussée Eric Tabarly, 500 m. Slight right to stay on Chaussée Eric Tabarly, 45 m. we enter Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice. 200 m. further to the west and we arrive to Porte de Dinan. Exit the roundabout onto Espl. de la Bourse, 130 m. Continue onto Porte de Dinan, 40 m.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

View from Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice and Chaussée Eric Tabarly to the bastion Saint-Louis:

From Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice - we continue east to Porte de Dinan. Exit the roundabout onto Espl. de la Bourse, 130 m. Continue onto Porte de Dinan, 40 m. The gate of Dinan was built in 1714 during the works of the second growth. It then served as an outlet on the south side of the original precincts of the city. It was also called the Navy Gate because the offices of the Navy were on the ground floor of the building to the left of the door entering (1, rue Saint-Philippe). The famous naval commander Robert Surcouf (Saint-Malo, 1773 - 1827) also lived, after his marriage in 1801, in this former hotel, whose facades were rebuilt identically after 1944. It was called, also, "The Bishop Gate" because the bishops of Saint-Malo had to go through it at their first entry into the city:

With your face to the gate - the whole promenade to your right (EAST) is Esplanade de la Bourse. Breathtaking views of the water and beachfront as well a views of the city. Many photo opportunities:

The walk along the esplanade is MAGNIFICENT. The sights of the sea and the ferries dock on your left (south) and the ramparts (on your right and back) are stunning:

We continue walking from Esplanade de la Bourse further south along Môle des Noires. It is a narrow stretch of land with a lighthouse in its southern end. The black pier in Saint-Malo is located at the entrance of the Port. It was put into service in 1838 and was moved in 1934 to the end of the new extended pier. It was a cylindrical turret masonry 9.70 meters. Destroyed by the Germans in 1944. It . Why "Black"? It would be women in mourning who were gathering here. It would also be because of the black rocks on which the lighthouse was built:

We walk BACK from the lighthouse to the city ramparts - with our face to the north and, later, to the east:

We recommend climbing to the walls at Porte de Dinan with our face to the north, on our left (west) Rue Saint-Philippe and on our right Rue d'Orléans (both of them are quite narrow roads). We started our St-Malo ramparts walk at the Porte de Dinan and spent a delightful couple of hours wandering at our leisure. Since, we approach the midday or afternoon hours - we opt for the LEFT side (the sun coming from the west). We start walking on the ramparts over Rue Saint-Philippe. We are in the south-west corner of the ramparts:

Exactly in the south-west corner of the walls - stands Bastion Saint Philippe. Dating from 1714, Saint Philip Bastion has the shape of an irregular triangle - 2 embrasures open towards the west to protect the entrance to Saint Malo harbour and neighboring Dinard:

We go clockwise from there , turn right and start walking along the WESTERN side of the walls. 

start walking the western side of the walls - view to the south:

As we advance along the western walls - the road below us (on our right, east) is Rue Guy Louvel:

On our left(west) is a stunning view, deep below, of Plage du Môle (Beach of the Mole). As we said before - one of the explanations for the name "The Black Mole" is for the rocks (or dam, called Black Mole, 500 m. length) on which the beach and pier were built: the Roches Noires, named after their color. it is a very nice sandy beach for swimming: 

As we advance northward along the western walls - we arrive to the section of Bastion de la Hollande (Holland Bastion). This section was built to protect Saint Malo from Dutch fleet attack. Constructed 1675 – 1689. Transformed at the time of the first expansion of the city 1708. Holland Bastion was armed with 24 cannon. In 1696, the Count of Toulouse replaced them with larger pieces: 12 of 36 calibre and 12 of 48 calibre. This gift was given to the inhabitants of St Malo for their courage and successful defense during the 1696 attacks.

Further north, still in the green area of Bastion de la Hollande,  we arrive to an extensive area with cannons and statues facing the Fort du Petit Bé (an island in the sea during the tide hours). A gem of French military architecture. At the end of the 17th century, the maritime war between French, English and Dutch raged. At the heart of this economic and military battle, Saint-Malo is fast becoming the first port in France. It was urgent to defend the famous corsair city of Saint Malo, where its strategic position is of prime importance. To do this, Louis XIV commissioned the architect Vauban to implement a military defense. Vauban designed and constructed an ambitious defense system that perfectly integrated the geography of the coasts and the possible maritime attacks. At the center of this complex of fortifications, the Petit Bé island fort was built under the direction of Garangeau. It is located 700 meters from the ramparts of Saint-Malo and not far from the Grand Bé. The fort could accommodate a garrison of 160 men during the sieges. It consists of a large platform, a building on three levels and two bastions. Until 1885, it was occupied by the French army which maintained it. Beyond this date, it downgraded militarily. Although classified as a Historic Monument in 1921, the Petit Bé was abandoned for more than a century. From year 2000 the island is restored by the municipal authorities of Saint Malo and the Petit Bé is open to the public (during the low tide hours). Since then, many works have been done and guided tours allow walkers to discover  the history of Petit Bé. It is Accessible all year round at low tide or by boat (free) (see below). Guided tours of Petit Bé include: presentation of the defense systems of the Bay of Saint-Malo, commented exhibition on the mechanism of the tides, models of the 5 versions of the fort of the bay. The fort is still standing proud. A building like that which is over 300 years old, located in the open sea, with 120 years of abandonment, it is fabulous. On this island - you rub shoulders with history:

THe long and wide space of Bastion de la Hollande is quite extensive (5 minutes walk). It is bordered, below the walls, on the east side  by Rue de la Clouterie and, in its northern edge, by Porte Saint Pierre - a gate in the walls. The massive building on your right (east) is Logis Hôtel de la Porte Saint Pierre (run by the Tiphaine family since 1936). The Hotel-Restaurant Porte Saint-Pierre boasts a wonderful location, not just within the walls of the old St. Malo, but right next to a gate in the walls giving access to the beach and offering stairs up to the top of the wall. The views to the ocean are spectacular !

We continue 150 m. further north, along the western walls of Saint Malo - arriving to Crêperie Le Corps de Garde (on our right), 3 Montée Notre Dame - a nice little place overlooking the bay.  Rue de la Crosse is below the walls on our right:

220 m. walk further north will bring us to another (smaller) green area over the walls - Passage de la Poudrière and La Tour Bidouane. The Bidouane Tower is one of the main fortified towers of the Malouin ramparts. 23 m high and 13 m wide, it is part of the desire to make Saint-Malo an important stronghold. It was built on a rocky promontory during the second half of the 15th century, at the northwest corner of the Intra-muros enclosure. The tower changed its name several times: Bidouet, Tour des Champs-Vauverts or Bell Tower. It took its current name only in 1691, during its repair. It was also against this tower that the Anglo-Dutch tried to lead in 1663 an "infernal machine", that is to say to blow it up by sending a ship filled with explosives. It consists of a horseshoe plan very characteristic of the artillery towers of the fifteenth century. The fortified structure at the back of the tower, on the city side, is called the Champs-Vauverts rider. Its corner turret built in corbelling bears the date of 1652. On the platform, we find the statue of Robert Surcouf (Saint-Malo, 1773 - 1827) - a famous French corsair. The Bidouane Tower rises on three floors and allows, from its upper platform, to observe the tip of the Cap Fréhel. For several years, the Bidouane Tower has hosted many exhibitions. The views back to the south along the western walls - are not less than breathtaking ! 

The views of the beach (Passage Des Bés), downstairs are also wonderful:

On your right (east) is La Maison du Québec. Its goal: to make Quebec known and loved in France, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two Francophone communities. Here, beyond this green space, in the most north-west corner of the walls - we leave the walk over the walls and descend down to the old city of Saint Malo - continuing from west to east along  We have an opportunity to get a closer glance  to the beach from this road:

Walking 180 m. eastward along Rue du Château Gaillard - and we see, on our left, the Bastion Fort La Reine. The bastion was originally an artillery battery called the White Horse Bastion, built on Vauban's orders in 1694 after the first Anglo-Dutch bombardment of the city. At its feet are the rocks where exploded the "Machine infernal" in 1693, a powder ship launched by the English to attack the port of Saint-Malo. This military fortification was raised to its current level during the work of the fourth growth of the city (1737-1744). This stage of work connected the fort with the gate (into the walls) of Saint-Thomas (Porte Saint Thomas):

Offshore (more to the west, in the sea)  is the fort of La Conche, begun in 1692 to defend the entrance pass of the Pit Norman. The latter is considered the masterpiece of the maritime forts of Vauban:

Towards the southwest, stands the islet of . The tomb of François-René de Chateaubriand (Saint-Malo, 1768 - Paris, 1848) stands out at its northeastern end (see below):

You can return to the walls from Rue du Château Gaillard (or from Place Chateaubriand a bit south to this road). Attention: we shall return to this point and to Hôtel de Ville in Place Chateaubriand downstairs within several minutes:

The northern walls command nice views over the northern beach with the relics of the Vauban glorious fortifications. Here, in Porte Saint Thomas - there is a "kink" in the walls. The St. Thomas Gate was opened in 1740 during the work of the third enlargement of the city. Near this gate were located the famous baths of Saint Malo. In 1835, the city of Saint-Malo made the decision to develop the baths which knew a growing success. The first mobile cabins were made available to bathers and a bathhouse opened in 1838 on the north side of the ramparts. In 1843, men and women were still bathing in separate parts of the beach. In 1905, wearing trousers below knee, shirt or vest were still mandatory...

The northern wall - view to the west:

The northern wall - view to the east. Further to the east - we see Château De La Duchesse Anne and the Hotel De ville (see below):

Now, as we promised before - retrace your steps and return back and down to the old city (walk back westward along the walls and descend to the city in Place Chateaubriand).  The main attraction here is the Hôtel de Ville. Open: MON - FRI: 8.30 – 12.15 and 13.30 – 18.00:

You may find yourself in the Hotel de Ville area around midday and quite hungry. The restaurants here are quite fluent, touristic and pricey. Better walk deep into the old town to find a nice, more budget, crêperies) -  restaurants specialising in making crêpes. We found a nice restaurant in Rue Sainte-Marguerite - 170 m. from Place Chateaubriand. Head east on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. Turn right to stay on Place Chateaubriand, 80 m. Continue onto Place Guy la Chambre, 40 m. Turn right onto Rue Sainte-Marguerite, 80 m. Slight left onto Place de la Poissonnerie. Here, we found Crêperie Le Touline, Place de la Poissonnerie. 21.60 euros for two portions of  generous Crêpes and two cups of cider (be cautious !).  Delicious Galettes in the heart of old Saint-Malo. A nice local crêpe experience. A special atmosphere around. BTW, the Hotel Bristol Union in this square - might be a viable option with reasonable prices.

Our next stop is Porte Saint Vincent (150 m. walk). From Place de la Poissonnerie we head back north toward Rue Sainte-Marguerite, 10 m. Place de la Poissonnerie turns slightly right and becomes Rue Sainte-Marguerite, 80 m. Turn left onto Place Guy la Chambre, 40 m. Turn right onto Porte Saint-Vincent, 20 m. In 1616, a Benedictine convent (Our Lady of Victory) was established here. Some arcades of the old cloister are still visible, as well as the spire of the bell tower of the old church rebuilt in 1959. The first (military) extension of Saint Malo, planned by Vauban in 1689, opened the Porte Saint-Vincent in 1709 and gained a whole new district on the sea, connecting it to the Grande Porte with a new wall pierced by twenty-two embrasures and sheltering thirty-two shops topped with vaulted dwellings, "bombproof". The whole area around this gate was planned by engineer Simeon de Garengeau (Paris, 1647 - Saint-Malo, 1741) during the years 1709 to 1742. Merchants enriched by Peru's silver imports purchased spaces around and built stately homes there. In 1890, a second identical gate was added south of the first. The gate of 1709 is surmounted by the sculpted coat of arms of Brittany with the motto Potius mori quam foedari: "Rather death than defilement" and that of 1890, bears the motto Semper fidelis: "Always faithful": 

When you exit the gate of Saint Vincent (out of the walls) you can see, more clearly, on your back the bastion (and the parking lot with amusement facilities):

Looking forward you see the Jardin des Douves, left side - Tourist Information office and right side - the pier with a small marina:

Slight 45° and turn left towards the outer side of the Town Hall (Mairie). The section of the walls near the Town Hall - is very impressive:

AGAIN, we return walking over the walls. We shall climb the stairs near Saint Vincent Gate and start walking on the EASTERN walls with our face to the SOUTH.

View of the Tourist Information Office from the eastern section of Saint Malo ramparts:

Our first section of walk over the eastern walls of Saint Malo is over Rue Jacques Cartier. When Quai Saint Vincent changes to Quai Saint Louis (downstairs, on our left) - also Rue Jacques Cartier meets Place du Poids du Roi  (and Hotel ibis Styles Saint Malo Centre Historique) - downstairs, on our right.

Further south, on your LEFT (east) - Quai Saint Louis and the harbour:

On our right, downstairs - We keep walking southward along the eastern walls until we arrive to the south-east corner of the walls:

Here we see AGAIN the statue of René Duguay-Trouin:

The harbour near the south-east corner of the walls and the ferry to Saint Severine (annexed town to Saint Malo):

From here - we REPEAT part of our daily itinerary. We RETURN to the western beach of Saint-Malo in order TO ACCESS THE FAMOUS ISLANDS, adjacent to the town, DURING THE AFTERNOON LOW-TIDE HOURS (basses mers). It is 450-500 m. walk, again, to Porte Saint Pierre (the best entry point to Saint Malo western beaches). We choose the shortest (and different) route (already not explored, yet, today...). Head west on Rue d'Orléans toward Rue d'Asfeld, 85 m. Turn right onto Rue Feydeau, 50 m. Continue onto Rue de la Fossé, 130 m. Continue onto Rue André Desilles, 50 m. Continue onto Rue de la Pie Qui Boit, 120 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Crosse, 10 m. Turn right onto Place du Guet, 40 m. Cross Porte Saint Pierre and continue westward, down, onto the beach. You have, now, different views of the western walls of Saint-Malo from the Bon-Secours beach  opposite Porte Saint Pierre:

The path to and from the island is only accessible at lower tide levels, so plan accordingly where possible to ensure that you can get both on and OFF the Grand Bé. During the low tide hours -  the island can be reached on foot from the nearby Bon-Secours beach and you can climb along a coastal path to the fortress and Tombeau de Chateaubriand:

 In a bright day, during the afternoon hours - the scenery is beautiful: bright blue waters, white sand, magnificent coastline, small islands and forts out in the water. A magical place !!!

For instance: this is the stunning coastline you see from the ascent to the island:

Go for the sunset, it is stunning. With low tide you can enjoy the beach even more. Standing on the Grand Bé gives the opportunity to see the city walls and out to sea from a different angle:

The ascent up the hill of the Grand Bé island (and down back to the beach) are a bit demanding and quite time-consuming. BUT, on the top  - you are afforded with glorious views of the ocean and the city and a few VERY ROMANTIC moments:

François-René de Chateaubriand, a romantic French writer native to Saint-Malo, is buried on the island, in a grave facing the sea on both sides of the island: west and north:

From the Grand Be - you can have a view even further (west) out to Petit Bé, which has recently opened up its 17th century fort and battery to visitors. Fort National can also be reached on foot from the Grand Plage ('great beach'):

We did the walk to the Petit Bé and it took us further 15 minutes to walk along the cobbled-stone path from the Grand Bé to the Petit Bé and its fort. In 1667 the French government built a small fort on the island of Petit Bé. Construction of the island's fort began in 1689. The fort was part of the defenses that Vauban designed to protect Saint-Malo from British and Dutch fleets. The defensive works included the walls of Saint Malo, Fort National, Fort Harbourg and Fort de la Conchée. Construction works began under the direction of the engineer Siméon Garangeau. The fort was still under construction in at the time of the British attack on Saint-Malo in November 1693. When an Anglo-Dutch force attacked Saint-Malo again in 1695, the fort helped repel the attack. It was finished in 1707, the year Vauban died. The French army occupied the fort until 1885. Later, the army turned the fort over to the city of Saint-Malo. We did not enter the fort but you can pay a small fee for a guided tour (All the explanations are in French) of the fort (6 euro per adult and 4 euro for youngster). The fortress has been restored by a private enthusiast and its well worth making the visit to support him:

There are VERY impressive views of the south-western walls of Saint Malo from the Petit Bé:

You have to hurry up returning to the mainland. Otherwise you are stranded in the high tide for hours (do not dare swimming back !!!). The way back from the fort can also be done by boat if the island(s) is (are) surrounded by water. If the tide is still low - make the way back along the cobbled-stone (and cemented) path to Saint Malo. The sun is on your back and the sights of Saint Malo town, opposite, are FANTASTIC. It is a breath-taking 500 m. walk from the island(s) to Porte Saint Pierre.

We shall CLIMB along the path (100 m.) when the boats of the Société Nautique de la Baie de Saint Malo are on your left and arrive to the Porte Saint Pierre to enter (again) the town of Saint Malo:

From Porte Saint Pierre - head east on Place du Guet toward Rue de la Clouterie, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Crosse, 10 m. Turn right onto Rue de la Pie Qui Boit, 120 m. Continue onto Rue André Desilles, 50 m. Turn left onto Place du Marché aux Légumes, 30 m:

 We are in the centre of Saint Malo. To return to the railway station - it is a 2 km. walk. Head north on Place du Marché aux Légumes toward Passage Grande Hermine, 25 m. Continue onto Rue de la Vieille Boucherie, 75 m. Slight right onto Rue Porcon de la Barbinais, 140 m. This road is full with colorful, delicious and aromatic Bretagne shops and foodies: chocolates, Belgian waffles, scoonies etc':

Turn right onto Rue Saint-Vincent, 140 m. Turn right toward Porte Saint-Vincent, 10 m. Turn left onto Porte Saint-Vincent, 25 m. Slight right onto Avenue Louis Martin, 40 m. Turn right toward Quai Saint-Vincent, 30 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Quai Saint-Vincent, 120 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Avenue Louis Martin, 120 m. Slight left to stay on Avenue Louis Martin. Go through 2 roundabouts, 900 m (!). At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Rue Théodore Monod, 230 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Avenue Anita Conti and the station is on the right 90 m further.

Rennes

Silvja Helmanis

France

Rennes:

Main Attractions: Jardin (Palais) Saint Georges, Parc du Thabor, Place de la République, Hôtel de Ville at Place de la Mairie, Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes, Portes Mordelaises, Tour Duchesne, Hôtel de Blossac, Rue du Chapitre, Basilique Saint-Sauveur, Parlement de Bretagne, Le Champs Libres.

Distance: 12 km. Duration: 3/4 - 1 day. Weather: no rain or wind. Start and End: Gare de Rennes.

Introduction: Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany. Rennes is a medium size town and well worth a visit.  BUT, during the years 2016-2018 it is under heavy construction works (underground lines) which makes a little damage to its lustre and young appeal. and It has more than 200,000 inhabitants, of whom about 60,000 are students. This gives the town a vibrant nightlife: a ‘city with a small town vibe’. Rennes is a perfect blend of city and small town life. It is considered as the best city in France for foreigners to live - beating the likes of Lyon, Nice, and yes, even Paris. Most people thoughts inevitably go to Paris, and then perhaps to the sunny French Riviera. But in a quality of life - this humble city in Brittany in western France came out as the surprise winner. French voters pointed on Rennes as an excellent place to live for foreigners (and French people as well, of course). Ther city has an exceptional historical heritage. It is welcoming and diverse. Rennes is a lively university and student city that is accustomed to opening the door to foreigners. There are parts of Rennes that are quite similar to Montmartre (in Paris), with lots of bars and cafes. But, of course it’s not as expensive as Paris. In 2018, L'Express named Rennes as "the most liveable city in France". Some streets, such as the Rue Saint Michel, have only bars on both sides. (The locals actually call it "la rue de la soif", which means "Street of Thirst". The most exciting night on "Rue de la Soif" would be the "Jeudi Soir", Thursday nights, during the universities terms. Jeudi Soir is the night when bars are most often packed with students. The sights on Thursday nights out on the town are very memorable and interesting. Rennes is particularly nice in early July, during the "Festival des Tombées de la Nuit". Its streets are then full of people enjoying the free street entertainment and eating or drinking at the terraces of the restaurants and cafés. In recent years, Rennes's bars and cafes are bustling all throughout the year. There are more than 70,000 students in Rennes. it is the eighth-largest university campus in  France. Rennes is now a significant digital innovative centre in France. Now, it is the tenth largest in France.

Short History: Rennes's history goes back more than 2,000 years, at a time when it was a small Gallic village. It was one of the major cities of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. From the early 16th century until the French Revolution, Rennes was a parliamentary, administrative and garrison city of the historic province of Brittany of the Kingdom of France. Due to the presence of the Parlement de Bretagne, many "hôtels particuliers" were built, and still exist, in the northern part, the richest in the 18th century. The Parlement de Bretagne is the most famous 17th century building in Rennes. It was rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1994. Since the 1950s, Rennes has grown in importance and increased its number of inhabitants through plans to accommodate upwards of 200,000 inhabitants. During the 1980s, Rennes became one of the main centres in telecommunication and high technology industry.  

Our Hotel: Hotel ibis Styles Rennes Centre Gare Nord, 15 Place de la Gare. Opposite the railway station, bus station and metro and 10 minutes’ walk from the historic city centre and Parlement de Bretagne. 

Our 1-day itinerary: From Hotel ibis Styles Rennes Centre Gare Nord we head northwest on Place de la Gare toward Avenue Jean Janvier, 50 m. We turn right onto Avenue Jean Janvier. Walk 500 m. northward (passing Rue Albery Aubry, Rue Descartes, Boulevard de la Liberté and Rue Saint Thomas on your left). Note at #7 Avenue Jean Janvier this building  of the municipality of Rennes. The building dates from 1928. Its architect is Jean Poirier who built several other housing buildings in Rennes between 1928 and 1936. The mosaics are of Isidore Odorico:

We return back (south) to the intersection of Avenue Jean Janvier and Rue Saint Thomas and turn RIGHT (west) (our face to the south) onto Rue Saint-Thomas, 200 m. Turn right onto Rue du Capitaine Alfred Dreyfus, 160 m. Captain Alfred Dreyfus street connects Emile Zola quay to the north and Carmes street to the south. Alfred Dreyfus was victim, in 1894, of a miscarriage of justice which is at the origin of a major political crisis of the beginnings of the Third Republic, the Dreyfus scandal upset the French society during twelve years from 1894 to 1906. The scandal began in December 1894 with the treason conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian and Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil's Island in French Guiana, where he spent nearly five years. Dreyfus was judged in Rennes, in the premises of the high school (today high school Émile Zola ) from August to September 1899. The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice. Open letter published in a Paris newspaper in January 1898 by famed writer Émile Zola blamed the French society in an horrible injustice. In 1906 Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He died in 1935. Alfred Dreyfus was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor on July 20, 1906, then promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor on July 9, 1919.  We shall zig-zag, here, to get better vies of the Vilaine river in Rennes. Turn left onto Quai Emile Zola, 110 m. It bears the name of the French writer Émile Zola (see above), born in Paris on April 2 , 1840 and died in Paris on September 29 , 1902. This road is a quay of the Vilaine river stretching between the Place de la République (west)nand the Place de Joseph Loth . Located on the left (south) bank of the river, it faces the Chateaubriand wharf to its north side. The Parlement de Bretagne is not far from here (to our north-west) - but, we'll return to this building later.  We walk 300 m. to our next destination - Jardin Saint Georges. Head east on Quai Emile Zola toward Rue Léonard de Vinci, 150 m. Turn left onto Place Pasteur, 85 m. Turn right onto Rue Kléber, 5 m. Turn left 55 m.and face Jardin  & Palais Saint Georges. The Saint George Palace, 2 rue Gambetta (It is served by the Métro station République) was built in 1670 to replace a much older abbey building that stood on the same site. The Benedictine Abbey of Saint George (Abbaye Saint-Georges de Rennes) was closed in 1792 during the French Revolution and the property was seized by the government. Since 1930 the building has been listed as a monument historique of France. It is situated in the Thabor-Saint Hélier quarter of Rennes. The building now  houses the fire services for the city and other civil administrative offices. The front facade of the building consists of a long gallery of nineteen two-storey windows and paired nineteen granite arches. A landscaped formal garden, Jardin Saint-Georges, is situated in front of the building, with gravel paths leading to the main entrance. There are benches in the garden in front of the building where you can sit,to admire the garden. A heaven in the center of the town:

We continue walking NORTHWARD along Rue Gambetta - crossing Place de la Motte on our right. When we arrive to Place saint Melaine and see the church of Notre Dame St. Melaine on our right - we turn right to enter Parc du Thabor. Its name refers to a mountain overlooking Tiberias' lake in Israel , Mount Thabor. The main feature of Parc du Thabor is its mix of: a French garden , an English garden and a large botanical garden. Access to the park is through six entrances. It is served by lines C3 and 44 , stop Thabor; the nearest metro station is Sainte-Anne. The park is open all year. The park was, mainly, enhanced between 1866 and 1868 by the contributions of Denis Bühler by setting up various areas as: bowling , "hell", French gardens and English gardens . At the beginning of the 20th century, the southern part of the park, called "les Catherinettes", was built as an extension of the English garden. It reflects the idea of ​​the time of a "school garden". You'll admire the considerable maintenance to meet the criteria of a highly structured garden with floral decoration elaborated and varied in the species used according to the seasons and and the expectations of regulars and tourists alike.

1)The square Du Guesclin .
2) Hell (the RED area) .
6) French gardens (the PINK area).
4+5+7) The botanical garden and the rose garden .
8) The landscaped garden of Denis Bühler (the LIGHT GREEN area).
2+3) The Catherinettes.

The entrance is marked by a monumental portal, bearing the arms of Rennes. It is a work of Jean-Baptiste Martenot which replaced the grid previously executed by Vincent Boullé, Rennes' municipal architect during the Restoration:

The first sight (from the west entrance) is the July column (La Colomne de Juillet) of the Du Guesclin square completely renovated, in 2014.

The Guesclin square is, actually, a trapezoidal lawn with a promenade bordered with chestnut trees:

 The rest of the park includes an aviary, performance spaces, walking/running paths, formal gardens, recreational fields, a nicely-equipped children's playing park, greenhouses and specimen garden/nursery. Formal and informal lawns and flower-beds.  Wonderful statues and fountains. Variety of trees from large sequoias to Ginko Bilobas. Huge rose garden (make a visit during the blooming season !). During a sunny weekends, it could be a bit BUSY. Better, visit it during weekdays. Loads of space to relax and wander around. One of the best parks in France:

A monument in tribute to the Breton poet Glenmor adorns the junction between the English garden, hell and the bowling greens. June 27 , 1998:

Dovecote - a structure intended to house pigeons or doves:

The park's gardens are built on many levels with water features: lakes, ponds, waterfalls and fountains:

Amazing flower-beds, fantastic colours, and huge variety of plants:

the Rose garden in the east side is stunning (come in June-July):

Le Jardin Botanique - Sibirian Iris:

We loved these innovations !!!:

We make the whole way back south to the Vilaine river - all in all 1 km. From Tabor Park or Place Saint-Melaine we head south, 190 m. Turn right toward Rue Martenot, 30 m. Turn left toward Rue Martenot, take the stairs, 45 m. Turn right onto Rue Martenot, 170 m. Continue onto Rue Victor Hugo, 130 m. Turn left onto Contour de la Motte, 10 m. Continue onto Rue Gambetta, 200 m (the Palais Saint George on your left) and continue onto Place Pasteur, 45 m. Arriving to the Vilaine river - turn RIGHT (west) onto Quai  Châteaubriand. Walk 300 m. westward along  Quai Châteaubriand (following the yellow sign of  "Place Saint-Germain") and turn left at Rue Jean Jaurès, 35 m. Turn right onto Place de la République, 100 m.

Place de la République is a mighty square, served by the République metro station, the most central of the line, is a crossing point for many STAR bus lines, including lines that take a moment, either to the east or to the east. west, the quays of the Vilaine on both sides of the square. Its southern side consists mainly of the Palace of Commerce, being a gate between the northern part and the southern part of the city. It is bounded by the Lamartine Quay to the north and south by the Palais du Commerce, begun in 1890. Under the square, the Vilaine river flows. The creation of the rectangular square was undertaken by the cover of the Vilaine river in 1912 and 1913 under the leadership of Mayor Jean Janvier. A white stone wall surmounted by candelabrum lampposts with three branches surrounds the square. It's THE TRANSPORT HUB of Rennes when it comes to taking a bus. Overwhelmed by the local company Star's vehicles, the Place de la République will "lose" some of its lines in the years to come. The city wants to reduce bus traffic in the square in 25% - during the years to come:

We return walking northward, still moving from the east to the west. Our next destination is the town hall in Rennes. Head north and continue onto Rue d'Orléans, 90 m. Continue onto Place de la Mairie and the Hôtel de Ville at Place de la Mairie is on the left. The Opera is on the opposite side. The Town Hall itself is a nice building. There is a small chapel dedicated to those people from Rennes who have lost their lives in various wars that the French have fought in:

Head north on Place de la Mairie toward Rue de l'Hermine, 65 m. Turn left onto Rue de l'Hermine, 75 m. Continue onto Rue Duguesclin, 80 m. Turn left onto Place Saint-Sauveur, 15 m. Turn right onto Rue Saint-Sauveur (note: Basilique Saint-Sauveur, see photo below), 120 m. 

Basilique Saint-Sauveur:

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes is in front of you. The existing façade with its neoclassical granite towers in four stages was constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries. Rebuilding began in 1787, shortly after which the French Revolution began and all work was suspended. It did not recommence until 1816, initially under the supervision of the architect Mathurin Crucy. He died in 1826; the work was continued under the local architect Louis Richelot, and finished in 1845. The building was badly damaged during World War II. On the imposing facade,you can admire the French weapons and the sun, the emblem of Louis XIV and symbols of royal power. Note: the Cathedral is closed between 12.00 and 15.00:

Pop in behind the cathedral (to the west of the church) into Rue des Portes Mordelaises - where you can see the Portes Mordelaises. A castle entrance gate with two towers, defended by a drawbridge and featuring two smaller gates for carriages and pedestrians, once led to Mordelles. This symbolic setting was where the future Dukes of Brittany swore an oath to defend Brittany's freedoms. The medieval walls to the west were built on the site of a third-century wall. An artillery platform was added on the fortified gateway (or barbican) to protect this entrance to Rennes. It was a nice surprise to see the old city entrances retained and so well preserved:

Portes Mordelaises - Half-timbered houses in Rue des Portes Mordelaises:

Head northwest on Rue des Portes Mordelaises toward Rue de Juillet, 55 m.  Turn left onto Rue de Juillet, 25 m. Turn left onto Place du Bas des Lices, 30 m. Slight left to stay on Place du Bas des Lices and 15 m. further you see the Gout et Gourmandise restaurant, 5 Place du Bas des Lices, on your left. Divine crêpes and galettes, hot chocolate and hot soups. VERY friendly staff members. ost of the crêpe ARE GLUTEN FREE (as in most places in Bretagne / Brittany). Very authentic place to enjoy the culinary delights of Brittany:

We continue to Tour Douchesne. We take the Rue Nantaise with our face to the south. On our left we see the old walls and ramparts of Rennes with Tour Douchesne. Tour Duchesne is an old tower dating from the 15th century, it is located near the Mordelaises gates we've seen before. The tower derives its name from Jehan du Chesne, who was the first inhabitant of the tower, who was responsible for the opening and closing of the gates of the city. The tower is part of the original city walls, which date back to the 3rd century, but were rebuilt between 1447 and 1459. Today it is integrated into the Artillery Hotel:

We loved the promenades along the river in Rennes. So, we opted NOT for the shortest routes in our visit - BUT for the most romantic pieces of walk. Continue walking south along Rue Nantaise toward Place Maréchal Foch. Continue straight onto Place Maréchal Foch, 45 m. Turn right onto Mail François Mitterrand/Place Maréchal Foch and continue following Mail François Mitterrand for 90 m. Turn left (south) onto Quai d'Ille et Rance, 15 m. Turn left (east) onto Pont de Bretagne, 130 m. 

Continue onto Quai Lamennais, 30 m. Turn left onto Place de Bretagne, 5 m. Turn right onto Quai Lamennais, 40 m. Slight left toward Quai Duguay Trouin for additional 40 m. Turn left toward Quai Duguay Trouin, 15 m. Turn right onto Quai Duguay Trouin, 20 m. Turn left (NORTH) onto Rue le Bouteiller, 50 m. Continue onto the narrow Rue Georges Dottin with your face to the north, 60 m.  The Cathedral is on your left. Turn right (east) onto Rue du Chapitre and beyond 90 m. you see, on your left, the Hôtel de Blossac in 6 Rue du Chapitre. Now, office of the direction régionale des Affaires culturelles. The building, which has two main wings, was constructed in 1728. A fire in 1720 had destroyed much of the city of Rennes. The architect is said to have been Jacques Gabriel. The building has a unique classical architecture for Brittany, including its size, the assembly of several architectural components, and its grand staircase. It was private hôtel particulier for, approx., 50 years from 1947. FROM 1982 the apartments gave way to offices. It houses, now the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles (DRAC, Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs of Brittany) and the Territorial Service of architecture and heritage of Ille-et-Vilaine:

Note the houses and buildings in Rue du Chapitre: many of them are half-timbered and/or with sculptures. It starts with Café Babylone in the west and ends, in the east, with Rue de Montfort. This street was not attacked by the fire of 1720 and the buildings are, for the most part, of the 17th century. Note, at #3, the Hotel de Brie. You can also see, in the courtyard of the Escu de Runefaut hotel, at  #5, a pretty wooden staircase with turned balusters. Note the house in #20:

In  the middle of Rue du Chapitre, in the intersection with Rue de la Psalette (#1 Rue de la Psalette) - you see this house with small sculptures:

11-13 Rue du Chapitre - Eleven Art Gallery:

In the east end - turn left to Rue de Montfort. Attention, on your left, the Basilique Saint-Sauveur. Its foundation, under the name of Saint-Sauveur, predates the twelfth century. Extended several times and rebuilt in the early eighteenth century:

.

Turn right (east) to the impressive Rue Duguesclin (impressive and quaint road). In this part of the city, many inner courtyards remain invisible from the street. From Rue Duguesclin turn left (north) to Rue Chateaurenault. Continue north-east with Rue du Champ Jacquet. Here, you see the sculpture of Leperdit - Mayor of Rennes, 1794-5:

Return back (your face to the south) to Rue Chateaurenault. Turn LEFT (EAST) to Rue La fayette and continue walking along this road. It continues eastward as Rue Nationale. Walk until the eastern end of Rue Nationale and turn LEFT (north) to the narrow and atmospheric Rue Salomon de Brosse. Here, stands the famous Parliament of Brittany. The road bears the name of Salomon de Brosse  (1571 - 1626) - the architect of Parlement de Bretagne (1617) (also architect of the Palace of Luxembourg in Paris). It has survived the ages untroubled. It was spared in the great fire of 1720, only to be partly burnt down in 1994. It now houses the Rennes Court of Appeal, the natural successor of the Parlement. Inside, the Parlement building boasts prestigious French-style ceilings, sculpted gilded wood panelling and allegorical paintings, culminating in the magnificent Grand Chambre, or main chamber. Prices: adult - € 7.20, concessions - € 4.60, 7-18 years - € 4.60 €. Parliament's opening hours change regularly. Visiting this building is NOT easy. You must  contact the Tourist Information Office on 02 99 67 11 66 to arrange a conducted tour in advance.... Exact schedule / opening hours and admission payments - at the Rennes Tourism Office:

The Parlement de Bretagne is our last attraction in Rennes. We return to the new section of the city with our face to the south. Our final destination will be a marvelous shopping centre in Rennes. Full with restaurants, supermarkets and... the Museum of Brittany, Espace des sciences and le Théâtre National de Bretagne. Head south on Rue Salomon de Brosse toward Rue Nationale, 35 m. Turn left onto Place du Parlement de Bretagne, 70 m. Continue eastward onto Rue Victor Hugo, 160 m. Turn right (south) onto Contour de la Motte, 10 m.  Continue southward onto Rue Gambetta, 200 m. Continue onto Place Pasteur, 90 m. We keep on walking southward. Continue onto Avenue Jean Janvier, 450 m. Turn RIGHT (west) onto Rue Albert Aubry, 80 m. You face the Museum of Brittany. Le Champs Libres is on your left, extending further west along  Cours des Alliés. Metro: Charles de Gaulle. A WONDERFUL ATTRACTION. Ggreat spaces. Interesting new architecture. The Museum's Opening hours: TUE - FRI: School periods : 12.00 to 19.00, Half term holidays : 10.00 to 19.00, July & August : 13.00 to 19.00, SAT - SUN: 14.00 to 19.00. Closed:  Mondays and bank holidays. The Museum of Brittany is, usually, closed during the first two weeks every SEP. FREE - first Sunday of every month. Prices: adult - 6 €, concessions (under 18 years old) - 4 €.

It is a 300 m. walk to the Railway Station. Walk east on Cours des Alliés toward Boulevard Magenta. Turn right onto Boulevard Magenta, 190 m. Turn left onto Avenue Jean Janvier and Place de la Gare and the station is  on the right.

Vitré

Silvja Helmanis

France

Vitré:

Main Attractions: Château de Vitré, Rue de la Baudrière, Rue de la Poterie,  Norte Dame Church, Promenade du Val, Rue de la Bridolle, Rue Sévigné, Rue d'en Bas, Place Saint-Yves, Rue du Château. District of Rachapt (optional detour).

Duration: 1/2 day. Distance: 3-4 km. Weather: any weather.

Our Hotel: Minotel, 47 rue de la Poterie, 35500 Vitre. Low-budget, good sleep, convenient beds, quiet, a small room, friendly owner, good breakfast, charming decor, no sockets.  61 euros/couple including breakfast. The reception is closed everyday 13.00 - 15.30.

The cat of Hotel Minotel, Vitré:

Orientation: Go to Vitré for no crowds and excellent photo , opportunities. Vitré is perhaps the most impressive medieval town in Brittany. It is one of the few places in France where you can see a complete Gothic style town. With its small sheer size and its narrow roads - Vitré can be explored within a few hours. At nightfall Vitré is illuminated and in 2000 won an award for its night time illuminations. Note: the town is very rainy and exposed to storms. Market days are Monday and Saturday mornings until 14.00 for Vitré and are held on the square in front of the church of Notre Dame. The town is very clean, lots of little shops (not touristic shops) and restaurants, very helpful and friendly locals. Most of your walk will be along cobbled-stones alleys. The architecture in Vitré is largely unspoilt and it is very enjoyable to just wander and marvel. The town is quite compact. The streets are narrow and cobbled so there is very little traffic to worry about and you can walk all over it in 1-2 hours if you don’t stand around too long. BUT, we recommend allowing 3-4 hours for the town. You can get a little map of the key sites from the Tourist Office at the railway station. The inner courtyard of the chateau is free to visit as are the local buses.

Introduction: About 25 kilometres east of Rennes. Vitre is 275 km from Paris. In 1999, Vitré obtained the label "Town of Art and History" because of its rich cultural inheritance. The town's monuments attract many tourists each year. Vitré is a perfect example of a town of 500 years ago - with its houses with porch or timber-framed, its ramparts, its religious heritage, old streets, etc. Many 15th and 16th century buildings remained much as they were in the days when it was one of the most powerful towns in Brittany. A significant part of the original ramparts of the town is also still intact.

History: The site of Vitré was occupied in Gallo-Roman times. Around year 1000 a small wooden castle, on a feudal mound, was built on the Sainte-Croix hill. The castle was burned down on several occasions. A stone castle was built in 1070 by Robert Ier on the current site, on a rocky outcrop dominating the Vilaine's river valley. Certain parts of the original stone castle are still visible today. In the 13th century, the castle was enlarged and equipped with robust towers and curtain walls. During this period the church of Nôtre-Dame, developed on the eastern side of Vitré. The city was encircled by fortified ramparts and ditches. Since the 13th century, Vitré has integrated together all of the elements of the traditional medieval city: a fortified castle, religious buildings, churches, colleges, and suburbs. In the 15th century, the castle was transformed from a military post to become a comfortable residence for Jeanne of Laval-Châtillon and her son Anne de Montmorency. At the same time, many half-timbered houses and private mansions were built inside the city. These medieval districts are characterized by their sturdy timber frame construction and their narrow, dark streets, as well as by a network of lanes. The fronts of the houses are made either of half-timbering or stone. They protected pedestrians from bad weather, and they channeled rainwater into the central gutters, helping preserve the wooden facades. The names of the Vitré's streets often originated from the trade guilds in the region. Vitré's economy flourished during the Renaissance as any city in Brittany. The merchants built large private mansions with ornate Renaissance decorations that are still visible today with the city walls. During the 17th century the city lost much of its vitality, becoming a town of secondary importance. This situation lasted through 18th century and until the arrival of the railroad in the middle of the 19th century. To prepare for the arrival of the railroads, the city decided to destroy the southern fortifications of the city to open up the closed city and to improve visibility. Vitré has been a railway hub since the first lines were opened on 15 April 1857 on the Paris-Brest line. Vitré did not suffer massive destruction during the two World Wars, and preserved its historical inheritance. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Vitré experienced an economic boom along with the rest of France. The population of Vitré expanded from 8,212 inhabitants in 1931 to around 19,000 in 2018.

From Gare de Vitré to Chateau de Vitré - 450 m. easy walk: Head west on Place du Général de Gaulle, 25 m. Turn right to stay on Place du Général de Gaulle, 35 m. On your left the Office de Tourisme de Vitré. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Prom. Saint-Yves, 260 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Yves, 20 m. Turn left onto Rue Rallon, 95 m. Turn right at Place Galbrun, 45 m. In front of you - Vitre Chateau or Château de Vitré, Place St-Yves. Dating from the 13th century, the castle, with its pointy slate turrets, hosted the Parlement de Bretagne on three occasions in the 16th century when plague ravaged Rennes. These days it houses a museum with an extensive range of sculptures and artworks from the region, mostly paintings, sculpture and tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum which is housed in the castle has been built in 1876 by Arthur de La Borderie, a Vitreans Historian to provide an encyclopedic history of the period. Opening hours: July & August: Everyday from 10.00m to 18.00, April, May, June & September: Everyday from 10.00 to 12.30 am and 14.00 to 18.00, March & October: Everyday from 10.30 to 12.30 am and from 14.00 to 17.00, January, February, November & December: Everyday from 10.30 to 12.30 am and from 14.00 to 17.00 BUT closed on Tuesdays (all the day) and on Saturdays and Sundays mornings. Prices (pricey !): adult : 6 €, concessions : 4 €, Free -12. As we said before - the inner court is open for FREE visit. The castle, an imposing building with many towers inset in the high walls and reached across a drawbridge, surely competes with Chateau de Jumilhac in the Dordogne for being the castle with the most pointed turrets. Wonderful for those of us who like old military architecture. The Chateau is unusual in that, with its attached buildings, it has been built in a triangular pattern. This is because of the shape of the raised rocky area it was built on. The Mairie of Vitré is housed in one of the buildings in the Chateau complex - wander into the triangular courtyard to see the lovely building. Well, the castles in Fougeres and fortifications in Dinan are BETTER than the ones in Vitré ! NOT MUCH to see in the various rooms (or halls) - but fun to climb around and enjoy the view from the windows. It is all in French with no English explanations or audio guide. NOTE: to exit the castle - press the white wide button and DO NOT use the bar-code ticket (see below):

You use the ticket's bar code to scan at the door on the building on the left to enter. You scan every other room' door with your bar code ticket (7 different rooms). Each floor is a mini museum on its own. The spiral stairs are beautiful but do be careful when it's wet. There's one level where you can walk around the tower. My guess is it was once used as a watch tower to look out for enemies. The 1st floor has a small collection of artifacts. The second floor is the bedroom. Then you have the watch tower. Then another bedroom. The very top floor is a circular room with some beautiful oil paintings of the castle and surrounding areas. Then you head down to one of the levels to get across to the other 2 towers in the north side, which have more artifacts. The last one used to be a chapel and it has religious artifacts left behind. Unfortunately, the other wing is used as the city (Mairie) hall with no public entry.

The Museum:

View from the castle windows - in the centre - Restaurant La place: 

Vitré old city houses from the castle windows and turrets:

1st floor:

2nd floor:

View from the 2nd floor to the inner court:

Views from the 3rd floor:

3rd floor wooden ceiling and coupola:

Château de Vitré in a sunny day:

In the south-west corner (outside) of the castle - there  is a splendid viewing platform:

The Place du Château, outside (east to) the castle, used to be the castle forecourt where stables and outbuildings were. It is now a car park that properly shows off one of the most imposing castles in France. We dined in La Place Restaurant, 8 Place du Château. 10.50 euros for the main portion/person. Good quality Plat du Jour. Efficient, professional service. Modern looking restaurant. Expect full capacity and heavy traffic in the rush hours - with loads of tourist groups. Check the parking lot - before sampling this restaurant. Stunning view of the castle from the dining hall (partial) and the terrace.

The strong point of this city is its historic centre as a whole. The town is basically north of the train station and there are signs around for touristy locations so you won't get lost. A superb, well preserved historic town centre. The most atmospheric street in Vitré is Rue de la Baudrière (street of people who worked with leather), where you’ll find grand high-rise half-timbered houses (colombage). These were built by merchants who made their money from the cloth trade; the town had a thriving canvas industry from the 14th century. They look like they belong in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. So we head to the southern end of Rue de la Baudrière. From Vitre Chateau - head northwest toward Rue Rallon, 45 m. Turn left onto Rue Rallon, 95 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Yves, 20 m. Turn left onto Prom. Saint-Yves, 180 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Baudrairie:

If you walk along Rue de la Baudrairie from south to north-  Rue de la Poterie (Pottery Street) is the second to the right (east). Rue de la Poterie is also worth a look for its preponderance of ‘porch houses’, whose first floors extend over the street creating an arcade underneath. Rue de la Poterie is the only street in Vitré on which such a large number of half-timbered houses, also known as porch houses or overhangs, remain intact. Note particularly the house of Isle, at the intersection of rue Poterie Street and rue Sévigné, double corbelling (east end of Rue de la Poterie). these overhangs created a covered market alley perfect for displaying produce. We'll return to Rue de la Poterie later in this itinerary (see below):

From the north-east end of Rue de la Poterie (where it meets Rue Sévigné -  you turn left onto Rue Duguesclin, 65 m.  Turn left onto Rue Notre Dame and walk 110 m. to find Church of Our Lady of Vitre on your right. The Norte Dame Church is well worth entering and looking upwards to the fascinating ceiling paintings and stunning stained glass windows. The attractive 15th century Church of Notre-Dame is quickly recognizable because of its decorated spire. Don't overlook this church because the castle is the principal monument in Vitré. The spiritual life was immensely important . The Basilica of Vitre is dedicated to Our Lady and responds to a common model of the region. It was built during the last medieval period, so the Gothic style dominates the construction. Although being dated near the Renaissance, the finishing is simpler than in other churches of the same period. The church also contains interesting items including an impressive stained glass windows. Note: the Gothic style south side is the most interesting part of the cathedral so don't rush straight in the front entrance without looking around the outside !  Another tip: near the church - there is an a viewing terrace with a wonderful view of the town and the surrounding fields.

From the Church of Our Lady of Vitre (Notre Dame) - we continue east on Rue Notre Dame toward Rue Saint-Louis, 180 m. Continue onto Place de la République, 35 m. Here, the weekly market takes palce. Here, stands the Post office building:

At the intersection of Place de la republique (its south-west edge) and Rue Notre Dame, with you face to Rue Notre Dame - you can turn RIGHT (north) and walk along Promenade du Val to see the majestic ramparts of Vitre. The ramparts of Vitré are the fortifications built between the 13th and 17th centuries to protect the town of Vitré and Brittany against the French Kingdom. The city was located near the Breton border, near Maine, Anjou and Normandy. They cover a length of 500 m long and 200 m width. The fortifications of the thirteenth century are the best preserved in Brittany. The ramparts were built in 1240 by Baron Andrew III and reinforced with the development of artillery in the 15th century. Vitré was a Protestant city, rich and prosperous. But during the religious wars, attacks by the Catholic leagues destroyed a part of the towers and ramparts east of the ancient city. At the end of the 16th century, a bastion was built in 1591. The fortifications were destroyed in the south in the 19th century to connect the old town with the modern neighborhood. The towers you see from south to north are: Tour des Prisonniers, Tour Doré, Tour du Géomètre, Tour Rompue or Tour de la Fresnaye:

When you arrive to the north end of Promenade du Val - turn RIGHT (north-east) (here, you see the Bastion), and, again, RIGHT (south) to return back via Rue de l'Éperon - Back to Place de la Republique. Here, turn RIGHT to meet, again, Rue Notre Dame. Turn LEFT (south) to Rue de la Bridolle. Here, we can see the famous Tour de la Bridole (or Tour du Coin or Tour du Marché). The tower of the Bridole is built in the 13th century. It has three levels with archers still visible but only from the inside. The tower is not accessible except during guided tours, Heritage Days , and exhibitions. The lack of access to the floors does not allow a wide opening to the public:

After arriving to the southern end of Rue de la Bridolle we turn right onto Rue de la Borderie, 100 m. Turn right onto Rue Duguesclin, 50 m. Turn left (again) onto Rue de la Poterie, 35 m:

Slight left onto Rue Sévigné, 50 m. Walk down along Rue Sévigné from north-east to south-west: marvelous wooden houses, some of them with striking  bold colors:

Between Borderie Street (main facade, south side and garden side) and Sévigné Street stands Hotel de Sevigne. The mansion dates from the 18th century. It was built by the Hay family of Nétumières in 1750 at the southern fortifications, on the house of the Sévigné tower, property of Madame de Sévigné (Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné, born Feb. 5, 1626 in Paris - died April 17, 1696 in Grignan, French writer whose correspondence is of both historical and literary significance, of old Burgundian nobility):

Head southwest on Rue Sévigné toward Rue Garengeot, 20 m. Continue onto Rue de la Tremoille, 80 m. Turn right (again) onto Rue de la Baudrairie, 35 m. Turn left onto Rue d'en Bas. At #1 Rue d'en Bas stands a red wooden house with the sign of "Au Vieux Vitré": a well-reputed restaurant: 

Rue d'en Bas is fluent with colorful wooden houses. We walk along this road from east to west until it ends with Place Saint Yves.

#5 Rue d'en Bas:

#19-21 Rue d'en Bas:

More wooden houses in Rue d'en Bas:

#30 Rue d'en Bas:

#32-34 Rue d'en Bas:

End of Rue d'en Bas and entering Place saint-Yves:

Place Saint-Yves is THE place for festivals, concerts and spectacles in Vitré. From this impressive square you get another insight of ancient Vitré walls:

We RETURN northward to Rue de la Baudrière:

The third turn to the left is Rue du Château:

La ville de Vitré a ses Heroes:

Here, we returned to Rue de la Baudrière - to our Minotel hotel.

In case you have time and you are, still, in fit- make a detour to Rachapt (1.5 - 2 km. walk both directions).  You have to repeat several roads, we've already explored, to pave you way to Rachapt. From Rue de la Baudrière - turn right onto Rue d'en Bas, 120 m. Continue onto Place Saint-Yves, 40 m. Continue onto Rue Rallon,150 m. Turn right onto Rue des Augustins, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue Pasteur, 150 m. Slight left onto Rue du Rachapt. On the north side outside the 13th-century town walls is the district of Rachapt, where old stone cottages are built into the slopes. The area is reached through St Pierre postern, a medieval covered gateway that was big enough for riders and walkers but not carriages. This district was occupied for several years by the English during the Hundred Years' War whereas the town and castle withstood all attacks. The people of Vitré paid the invaders to leave and the district took its name from this event. This peaceful place at the foot of the castle is situated in the Vilaine valley and offers a fine view of the fortress:

Angers - Day 2

Silvja Helmanis

France

Angers - Day 2:

Main Attractions: La Maison Bleu, Place du Ralliement, Maison d'Adam, Place Sainte-Croix, Rue Saint-Aubin, Place Saint-Éloi, Musée des Beaux-Arts, jardin du Mail, Pont de Verdun, La Doutre, Jean Turc Promenade.

Start & End:  Gare d'Angers Saint-Laud. Our Hotel: Hotel ibis Styles Angers Centre Gare. Duration: 1 day. Distance: 7 km. Weather: No rain or wind.

Our 2nd day in Angers: From Gare Angers St Laud, 1 Esplanade de la Gare we head west and turn right onto Espl. de la Gare, 45 m.  Turn RIGHT (north-east)  onto Avenue Denis Papin and go through 1 roundabout, 220 m. Continue straight onto Rue du Haras, 120 m. Continue onto Boulevard du Maréchal Foch, 450 m. In the crossroads with Rue d'Alsace (the 5th road to the left) - stands the Blue House (La Maison Bleu), 25 rue d'Alsace and 10 boulevard Maréchal-Foch. At the corner of rue d'Alsace and boulevard Foch, the building with blue and gold highlights is one of the masterpieces of Art Deco between the two wars. The Blue House is an Art Deco apartment building built in 1929 as a result of the significant demographic growth experienced by Angers in the early 20th century. Built by the architect Roger Jusserand and decorated by the mosaicist Isidore Odorico. This was the first building with elevator in the city. One of the buildings with the largest facade, in the world, covered with mosaic in the Art Deco style. From the ground floor to the upper floors, the color changes from a beige ocher united to an ultramarine blue:

The interior of the building is also covered with mosaic floor-to-ceiling through the walls and stairs with dominating blue , green and gold . All the rooms in the building are ornamented with mosaics, like parrots frescoes in the bathrooms and navy blue entrance halls . The elevator cages and the railings of the stairs and balcony are wrought iron with bright geometric shapes with cutaway characteristic of the Art Deco style:

From the Blue House we head northwest and continue along Rue d'Alsace
for approx. 200 m. The Galeries Lafayette Angers, 6 Rue d'Alsace is on our left. Go up to the top floor to see a splendid view of Place du Ralliement:

The medieval city center was redeveloped and expanded from 1791. The Place du Ralliement, the main square, was then built in place of three churches destroyed during the French Revolution and, later, ring boulevards planted with trees replaced the city walls. The architectural style used is mainly Haussmanian, but leaves sometimes room for Palladian, Art Nouveau or Art Deco buildings. Place du Ralliement is also the place chosen to place the guillotine (1792-17930. Place du Ralliement is the commercial heart of downtown Angers. It hosts major stores including Galeries Lafayette. The Place du Ralliement is, since 2010, is pedestrian-only and accessible only to Line A of the tramway which crosses the square with the Ralliement station:

The Grand Théâtre d 'Angers , in Place du Ralliement, is a theater built in 1794 in the old Grandes Ecoles of the Place du Ralliement 2 , and opened in September 1795. On the night of December 4 to 5, 1865 , a fire destroyed the building. The municipality decided to rebuild it, which began in 1867 under the leadership of Alphonse Botrel, succeeded by Auguste Magne. The new building was inaugurated in 1871:

The famous Allard Pâtissier Chocolatier, Place du Ralliement. 2 rue Chaussée St Pierre:

From the delicatessen shop of Allard Patissier Chocolatier, 2 Rue Chaussée St Pierre we head southwest on Rue Chaussée St Pierre toward Rue Plantagenêt, 60 m. Turn right at Carrefour Rameau onto Rue de l'Aiguillerie, 60 m. Note in R. de l'Aiguillerie, this old building:

Turn left onto Rue Montault, 75 m. Turn left onto Place Sainte-Croix and Maison d'Adam or Adam House (House of artisans), 1 Place Sainte-Croix is on your left. Thisa half-timbered house is located at the crossroads of Montault street and Sainte-Croix square , just behind the cathedral. It is a medieval house, built in year 1491, with some incredible and ornate carvings and  timber framings built in the13th century and is decorated with numerous sculptures. The building consists of a ground floor surmounted by three floors, plus two floors of attic, totally of six levels. If you are looking for the reason for the house's name - the original figures of Adam and Eve are missing but only the tree remains on the bottom floor on the corner. Duringt the French Revolution, the revolutionaries destroyed the figures of Adam and Eve with the serpent, leaving only the apple tree carving . From 1990, the house houses the House of Artisans d'Angers (see below). Even Just watching this house from outside is very nice. The façade is beautifully decorated with wooden sculptures: 

Tree of Life:

Couple of Lovers:

There is a very interesting gallery at street level with all kinds of locally created designs (scarves, jewelry, tapestry, sculpture, glass work, etc.). Artworks and unusual gifts fill the shop - to the delight of the herds of tourists who fill this splendid shop. Do not miss the original, inspirational art on display. Incredible, exceptional shop. You can purchase online: http://www.maison-artisans.com/index.php?lang=en: 


The little square outside, Place Sainte-Croix, makes it possible to take good pictures:

From Place Sainte-Croix continue waking southwest toward Rue Corneille (turning left) for 90 m. Slight right onto Rue Voltaire (one of the most beautiful street of the city with its buildings with the Haussmanian architecture), 55 m. Turn left onto  Rue Saint Aubin.  Rue Saint-Aubin is the longest shopping street in Angers.  It is one of the five main pedestrian streets of the city center with the rue d'Alsace (see above) , rue Lenepveu , rue de la Roë and rue Saint-Laud (see Angers - Day 1):

In the crossroads where Rue Saint-Aubin meets Rue des Lices - we see Benoit Chocolates, 1 Rue des Lices. Hand made chocolates made from  cocoa beans that are imported from Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. You can find, here, a huge range, more than 70 varieties, from deliciously sweet to very bitter  chocolates:  

We advance, slowly, to the Musée des Beaux-Arts. From Benoit chocolate we head BACK northeast on Rue des Lices toward Rue Saint-Aubin, 10 m. We turn left onto Rue Saint-Aubin, 30 m. Turn left onto Rue du Musée, 50 m. Turn RIGHT onto Place Saint-Éloi - a VERY PRETTY square with the spires of Saint Maurice Cathedral (north side in the background) , a famous  sculpture and an abbey  around. Galerie David d'Angers and Musée des Beaux-Arts are on the west (left). This square is one of the most beautiful places in downtown Angers. Closed by the Museum of Fine Arts, the Café des Orfèvres, the Municipal Institute, the Saint Aubin Abbey/Tower and centuries-old houses, it hosts in its center a magnificent sculpture depicting a woman's face. The tufa of the surrounding buildings forms a marvelous setting for this jewel of sculpture. The statue, "Per Adriano", is an unfinished portrait of the French-Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj:

The Saint-Aubin Abbey of Angers:

Statue Per Adriano ( For Hadrian ), work of the wonderful sculptor Igor Mitoraj:

Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) : Angers calls itself the "City of History and Art," and the Musee des Beaux Arts is one of the jewels in the crown. The collection does not include any major works. BUT it does include 18th-century masterpieces by French painters, such as Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard and Chardin and 19th-century works of  Sisley, Corot, and Ingres.  The largest collection is by a 19th century painter born in Angers, Guillaume Bodinier.  The whole layout is confusing (labels and descriptions only in French). A temporary gallery focuses on contemporary artists and heritage exhibitions. The “Parcours Histoire d’Angers” is a trail that ushers you through the collections from Angers’ former museum of antiquities, with portraits of the historical personalities and landscapes of Angers through the ages to convey the development of the city. Then the “Parcours Beaux Arts” shows the Flemish, Italian and French school paintings that once enriched the homes of the city’s elite. The building 
is an old  private mansion, known as the ‘Logis Barrault’. This listed Historic Monument was built between 1486 and 1493. Throughout the ages, this dwelling has received several prestigious guests including Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, César Borgia and Marie de’ Medici. Opening hours: everyday - 10.00 - 18.00. Prices: 4 euros. combined entry with the MUSÉE JEAN-LURÇAT ET DE LA TAPISSERIE CONTEMPORAINE: 6 €:

La déclaration attendue, Jean-Antoine Watteau:

Cephalus and Procris, Jean-Honoré Fragonard,1755:

San Marino près de Rome, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1826:

"Jeunes Baigneurs sur un Rocher à Capri", Guillaume Bodinier,1828:

The gardens of the Musée des Beaux-Arts originally belonged to the Saint-Aubin abbey, built c. 534 AD. Part of these gardens was given up to the canons of the Toussaint abbey church (dating from the 13th century) in 1419. In 1422, Saint-Aubin sold the north part of the garden which would become from 1495 onwards, the garden of the Barrault private mansion. This is now the museum terrace. In 1834, a fruit garden was planted in the former garden of the Barrault private mansion and the Toussaint abbey church. This ‘fruit school’ contained 1,700 varieties of fruit and sought to improve knowledge of, and teaching about the cultivation of fruit. In 1850, the Doyenné du Comice pear was first grown here. This variety is still considered to be the best pear in the world. Later, the garden became known as the Jardin des Beaux-Arts. From the 1920s an ornamental garden had been established around the museum - decorated with flowerbeds and statues, shaded by trees and rare shrubbery donated by nurseries in the Anjou region. Garden opening hours: everyday 08.00 - 20.00:

We continue to stroll around the old city of Angers, returning, sometimes, to sites - visited in our Day 1 in Angers. We head, now to Logis Pincé or Musée Pincé, 32 Rue Lenepveu. From the Beaux-Arts Gardens we head northeast, 35 m. We slight left toward Rue Toussaint, 60 m. Turn right toward Rue Toussaint, 50 m. Turn right onto Rue Toussaint, 160 m. Continue, again, onto Place Sainte-Croix, 130 m. Look for Carrefour Rameau and continue onto Rue Chaussée St Pierre, 25 m. Slight left to stay on Rue Chaussée St Pierre, 70 m. Continue straight onto Place du Ralliement, 35 m. Continue onto Rue Lenepveu and Hotel/Logis/Musée Pincé is 35 m. further on your left (32 Rue Lenepveu).  On your right - a giant store of FNAC. The Logis Pincé is a Renaissance building built between 1525 and 1535 , by the Renaissance architect Jean Delespine from Angers at the request of its owner Jean de Pincé , mayor of Angers. This mansion has been classified as a historic monument since 1875. In 1861 , the painter Angevin Guillaume Bodinier gave the house to the city of Angers to create a museum. In 1889 , the museum was opened to the public. it is devoted to Greek , Roman , Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities, as well as Chinese and Japanese art. The museum is currently closed for construction works.

From the closed Musée Pincé, 32 Rue Lenepveu we retrace southwest on Rue Lenepveu toward Place du Ralliement, 35 m. Turn left onto Place du Ralliement, 85 m. Turn left onto Rue Saint-Maurille, 130 m. In the intersection of Place du Ralliement and Rue Saint-Maurille - you see Residence Gmim and this sculpture:

Turn right onto Rue David d'Angers, 110 m. Turn left onto Impasse de la Mairie, 80 m. Turn left onto Boulevard Résistance et Déportation, 45 m. Turn right toward Boulevard Résistance et Déportation, 15 m and you face the Le jardin du Mail, Boulevard Résistance et Déportation. We took our lunch at the Black Peat, 2 Boulevard du Maréchal Foch restaurant. Menu de Jour + Dessert: 12.90 euros/person. It advertises itself as a Scottish bar. So, you can drink beer, eat burgers and enjoy, "Au plaisir", a whisky bar in the heart of Angers. The upper floor is more pleasant than the ground one (a bit dark). It is opposite the Mail gardens. The Mail Garden is a park which was constructed around the 17th century, the " game of mail ". Marie de Medici and the Bishop of Luçon (future cardinal Richelieu ) played in this garden. In the middle of the 17th century - the garden had been abandoned.  It became a walk as it is today under the name of Avenue Jeanne d'Arc. The flowering, every year, consists of 20,000 to 30,000 flowers in massifs with perfect symmetry. The bandstand, a fountain and the statues contribute to the life of these gardens. BUT, this is a park WITHOUT TREES !

In the east side of the gardens - Palais de Justice:

We exit the gardens from the western entrance. We walk, now, 1.2 km. back to the Maine river. From 2 Boulevard du Maréchal Foch we head northeast on Boulevard du Maréchal Foch toward Rue David d'Angers, 15 m. Continue onto Boulevard Résistance et Déportation, 150 m. Turn left onto Rue du Mail (a bustling road) and walk down 450 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Parcheminerie, 15 m. Turn right to stay on Rue de la Parcheminerie, 280 m. Continue onto Rue de la Poissonnerie, 70 m. Turn right toward Rue Baudrière, 40 m. Turn left toward Rue Baudrière, 95 m. Turn right onto Rue Baudrière, 40 m. Continue onto Pont de Verdun, 35 m. The Verdun Bridge connects the city ​​center to the district of La Doutre. It does NOT commemorate the Battle of Verdun in 1916. It is renamed "Verdun Bridge" with the erection of the statue of Lieutenant-Colonel Beaurepaire , officer of the French army, who died in 1792 in Verdun during the surrender of this city against the Prussians:

La Doutre, an old quarter located on the western bank of the Maine and facing the castle, contains two major medieval sites, the former Abbaye du Ronceray, built during the 11th and 12th century, and the Hôpital Saint-Jean, founded by Henry II of England and used as the city hospital until 1870. La Doutre is a clutter of streets and alleys, many with covered passageways and lined with timber-framed houses. All you have to do is take Rue Beaurepaire from the bridge and let yourself be drawn down the side streets. Place de la Laiterie has a real village-like feel in what is still the centre of the city, while Place du Tertre Saint-Laurent is where the 19th-century bourgeoisie settled, and all the adjoining streets have refined stone mansions. With its avenue of giant plane trees Quai Monge is as grand as it gets, and belongs to the Berges de Maine, a 300 hectare public space by the River.

We retrace our steps and return to Pont de Verdun on the Maine river. We head southward to the famous Angers Castle. From Pont de Verdun head southeast toward Quai René Bazin, 35 m. We see, opposite us, the stairs leading to the Saint Maurice Cathedral:

Continue onto Rue Baudrière, 75 m. Turn right onto Prom. Jean Turc, 20 m. Slight right (and, later, turn right) to stay on Prom. Jean Turc, 70 m. Slight left to stay on Prom. Jean Turc, 25 m. Slight right to stay on Prom. Jean Turc, 10 m. Turn left to stay on Prom. Jean Turc, 120 m. On our left the mighty walls of Château d'Angers:

Jean Turc Promenade, formerly known as the "Quai Ligny Walk" is the Maine  riverbank road. In purpose to clear the Château de Angers surroundings, the city in the 1970s decided to demolish the buildings along the Ligny wharf. It left a wide strip of land at the base of the castle. A long and wide island of greenery, lines of  trees were planted in the middle of this island and extending up to the Boulevard De Gaulle. In 1981, the gardens were extended to the bridge of Verdun. A pleasant rose garden, with a regular outline, is planted with its pergola covering the central path, a vast construction of metal arches, however well proportioned to the imposing mass of the rock which dominates it. But a few years are needed to get an interesting cover of roses and honeysuckle. At the bottom of the Saint-Maurice climbing stairs, a large pond was built with its water games covering the traffic noise.

These gardens, very pleasant walk at any time, form today a magnificent set of greenery, lying under the giant walls of the Castle:

It is a 750 m. walk back to Angers railway station from the intersection of Prom.. Jean Turc and Boulevard du Général de Gaulle. Head southeast on Boulevard du Général de Gaulle, 210 m. Slight right to stay on Boulevard du Général de Gaulle, 45 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Place de l'Académie, 100 m. Turn left to stay on Place de l'Académie, 15 m. Continue onto Rue Hoche, 160 m. Continue straight onto Place de la Visitation, 20 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Rue de la Gare, 130 m. Turn left onto Place de la Gare, 45 m. Slight left onto Espl. de la Gare, 30 m. to see the Gare Angers St Laud.

Angers - Day 1

Silvja Helmanis

France

Angers - 1st day:

Main Attractions: Galerie David d'Angers, Château d'Angers, Tenture de l’Apocalypse (Apocalypse tapestry), Saint-Maurice Cathedral, Rue Saint-Laud, Place du Pilori, Jardin des Plantes, Pont de la Haute Chaîne, Musée Jean Lurçat et de la Tapisserie Contemporaine. 

Part 1: Galerie David d'Angers, Château d'Angers, Tenture de l’Apocalypse (Apocalypse tapestry).

Part 2: Saint-Maurice Cathedral, Rue Saint-Laud, Place du Pilori, Jardin des Plantes, Pont de la Haute Chaîne, Musée Jean Lurçat et de la Tapisserie Contemporaine. 

Start and End: Ibis Styles, 23 B rue Paul Bert / Le Gare. Duration: 1 day. Weather: Only bright day. Distance: 15-16 km.

Orientation: We spent 2 days in this rich and wonderful city.  The first day is quite busy and involves a long deal of walks on both sides of the Maine river. The second day is more in leisure. A lively university city today, Angers makes an engaging western gateway to the Loire Valley. The old city is on the river’s left bank, with three bridges crossing to Doutre. Despite the damage of past wars, particularly World War II, Angers is still rich in medieval architecture. NOT ALL the attractions are "covered"@ in our two blogs.
Introduction: Angers is located 91 km from Nantes, 124 km from Rennes, 132 km from Poitiers and 297 km from Paris. Getting to Angers By Train (SNCF-TGV) : 35 min from Nantes, 90 min from Paris. The old medieval center is dominated by the massive château of the Plantagenêts, home of the Apocalypse Tapestry, the biggest medieval tapestry ensemble in the world. Before the French Revolution, Angers was the capital of the province of Anjou. Angers enjoys a rich cultural life, made possible by its universities and museums. The Angers metropolitan area is a major economic center in western France, particularly active in the industrial sector, tourism and horticulture. The city’s traditional industries such as slate quarrying, distilling, rope and cable manufacture, and weaving have been supplemented by electronics, photographic equipment, and elevators. Angers is on both the Nantes-Paris and Nantes-Lyon railways. The city has several train stations, all originally built in the 19th century.  The main station, Angers Saint-Laud, is on a TGV line and has a direct TGV service to Paris (1 hour 30 minutes), Lyon (3 hours 45 minutes), Strasbourg (4 hours 35 minutes), and Lille (3 hours 25 minutes), as well as Avignon, Marseilles and Montpellier. Regional trains go to Cholet, Saumur, Tours, Blois, Nevers and Bourges. The nearest airport is Angers - Loire Airport.  The airport is located 20 kilometers from Angers. The mostly pedestrianised old town supports a thriving cafe culture, thanks in part to the dynamic presence of 38,000 students, as well as some excellent places to eat. The city is famous for two sets of breathtaking tapestries: the 14th-century Tenture de l’Apocalypse in the city’s medieval château, and the 20th-century Chant du Monde at the Jean Lurçat museum - both of them are "covered" by our daily itinerary. Largest city of the department of Maine et Loire (795 000 people, 27th most important department in France), Angers is situated in the center of the Pays de Loire Region and is home to 149 017 people, and the urban center of an area with a population of close to 270 000 people (18th city of France). Angers is a very young city with 48% under the age of 30.

Major festivals and events:

  • Festival Premiers Plans (January): an annual competition for promoting young European film makers.
  • Made in Angers (February): more than one hundred companies open their doors to the public for behind-the-scenes tours.
  • Cinemas of Africa (April, biennial).
  • Artaq festival of urban arts (June).
  • Festival d'Anjou (June-July): France’s second-largest theatre festival features some 20 performances, all outdoors and in historic venues.
  • Tempo'Rives (July-August): along the banks of the River Maine. You can enjoy 10 free concerts held in the historic Angers suburb of La Doutre.
  • Festival des Accroche-Cœurs (September): this 3-day pan-European ‘Kiss Curl’ Festival mixes culture, entertainment and fun: street theatre, dance, music, outdoor cinema and art installations.
  • Soleils d’hiver (December): this ‘winter sunshine’ event lights up Angers with a traditional Christmas market and jolly street illuminations.

Angers Loire Tourisme: 7 place Kennedy 49000 ANGERS. Telephone:
02 41 23 50 41. Email: receptif.individuel@angersloiretourisme.com

Our hotel: Ibis Styles, 23 B rue Paul Bert. VERY pleasant hotel. Pretty close to the railway and bus stations. Quiet but central. Clean. Colorful decor. Good, filling, rich buffet-breakfast. Reasonable price. Comfortable beds and bathroom. Coffee and tea were available at reception with take away cups also. A computer for guests use. Turn left out of the hotel, and then up (a modest climb) the street, left again and you reach the heart of Angers.

Our 1-day Itinerary: From the train station or the Ibis Styles hotel, Paul Berth 23 you head northwest (the railway station is on your left) on Rue Paul Bert toward Rue Béclard, 190 m. Continue onto Boulevard du Roi René, 500 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Place du Président Kennedy, 70 m. Continue and climb onto Rue Toussaint  (follow the sign of "Jardin de Musee des Baux Arts") and after 140 m. the Galerie David d'Angers, 33Bis Rue Toussain is on your right. You can enter the gallery from the street (through an old stone arch)

or via the Beaux Artes museum:

The way from Jardin de Musee des baux Arts:

The David d'Angers Gallery : beautifully restored, the former 13th-century Toussaint Abbey is now the home containing works by the sculptor David d'Angers. The Angers-born sculptor Pierre-Jean David (1788–1856) (the French Revolution), or David d’Angers, is renowned for his lifelike sculptures, which adorn public monuments such as the Panthéon and can be seen in the Louvre and Paris' Père Lachaise cemetery. You can see, inside, Interesting sculptures of famous historic people. The setting is also exquisite; the 12th-century or 13th-century Toussaint Abbey was in ruins before it was converted for this museum in 1984, with a new glass roof filling the galleries with natural light. Here in the  Toussaint Abbey, you can admire models and most of his creations. The site is very nice with a mix of ancient style and modern architecture. The church fell into ruin but in 1984 it was restored, a glass roof was added. The ruins have been turned into a bright museum space by the use of copious amounts of glass. This all made an ideal backdrop for the works of sculptor Pierre-Jean David, known as David of Angers. While the sculptural artwork is worth the visit to this museum, the fact that they are displayed in such a dramatic setting greatly enhances the experience !

David d’Angers was a leading sculptor in the 18th and 19th centuries, receiving commissions from all over Europe and even America.  The gallery is not a big one, but it is packed with so many sculptures and drawings that you are overwhelmed. There are 985 statues, medallions and busts in all, including those for preeminent contemporary figures like Goethe, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Chateaubriand, Paganini, Napoleon and La Fayette. On the gallery's upper floor you are invited to make your own drawings of the exhibited pieces of art. Papers, pencils and drawing-boards are made available.

You can buy combined ticket (€10 combined) for the gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts. There is, even, a better , more extensive-combined ticket, 15€,  for 5 museums in Angers and the Castle (that's a bargain !). Photography allowed.

Gutenberg:

Honore de Balzac:

Victor Hugo:

Jean Bart:

Condé:

Nicolo Paganini:

Austerlitz Battle:

From Galerie David d'Angers, 33Bis Rue Toussaint we head west on Rue Toussaint toward Place du Président Kennedy, 140 m. On our right is the Tourist Information Office. We turn right onto Place du Président Kennedy, 110 m. Continue onto Promenade du Bout du Monde for 85 m. facing Château d'Angers, 2 Promenade du Bout du Monde. The  Castle of Angers  was during the Middle Ages the core of the city defense system, composed of tall city walls and river chains to prevent enemy ships from going up the Maine. In the tenth century the counts of Anjou erected a palace inside the Gallo-Roman town enclosure of Angers. From 1230 onward king Louis IX built a massive fortress boasting seventeen towers and two gates around the palace, incorporating part of the town walls. In 1356 king John II granted Anjou to his second son Louis. Becoming Duke, the latter and his descendants refurbished the great hall, rebuilt the residential wing of the palace and added a ceremonial wing and service buildings. Of particular mention are Louis II (built the chapel prior to 1410) and René I (built the royal residence between 1435-1440 and the chatelet in 1450). At the end of the sixteenth century the fortress was adapted to modern warfare. The towers were cropped, the walls were thickened and artillery platforms were installed. Henceforth the site served as a military camp and a prison. 500 British sailors were imprisoned in the castle between 1779-1781 and some carved their names into the walls. Only a single wall of the tenth century palace still stands. Less than one quarter of the buildings erected by the Dukes of Anjou have survived to this day. Today, portions of wall are still visible in Rue Toussaint and Boulevard Carnot, as well as some towers, like the Tour Villebon and the Tour des Anglais. The massive walls (2.5 m. thick) are about one kilometer long and punctuated by 17 towers - each 18 metres in height. Some imagination will be required to visualize the fortress in its heyday. The remaining structures are unfurnished and are mostly used as exhibition rooms, displaying excellent scale models of the castle in its various phases of construction.

The castle dominates the river Maine and the old town. You can walk around the top of the castle's ramparts, which afford spectacular views, along the Chemin de Rond (Parapet Walk). Some parts of the parapet walk includes steep steps, one access port does has a gently sloping ramp. The Mill Tower in the north corner is the only tower to have retained its original height, and once supported a windmill. On the southern side of the ramparts near the restaurant you can see the original entrance to the castle with its defensive systems and portcullis:

The Castle Courtyard:

As you walk around the ramparts you also have lovely views across the roofs of Angers, the flower gardens in the moat, as well as various gardens on the ramparts including a vineyard and a herb garden. There are great views of the Maine and town from the castle walls and you can also take stroll in the sweet formal gardens at the base of the walls in the castle’s former ditches. The interior gardens offer a haven of peace and are well worth lingering. Visitors can discover the stronghold of Angers with the help of a guidebook or an audio guide. They can also participate in a guided tour, lasting about one hour. Allow at least an hour to walk the chateau and perhaps another hour for the tapestries. We spent several hours looking around:

A purpose built gallery houses the famous tapestry of the Apocalypse, manufactured for duke Louis I between 1373 and 1382. It is the stunning Tenture de l’Apocalypse (Apocalypse tapestry), a 104m-long series of tapestries commissioned in 1375 to illustrate the story of the final battle between good and evil, as prophesied in the Bible's Book of Revelation. it is a majestic work of art. In the 1370s, Louis I, the Duke of Anjou commissioned artist Jean Bondol to make the preliminary sketches for what would become the immense tapestry that is presented inside the castle. The Apocalypse Tapestry was finished in 1382 and would have required as much as 85 accumulative years of labour from its weavers at their workshop in Paris. When it was done it had six sections, each one just over six metres high and 24 metres wide, and is seen by critics as one of the greatest artistic representations of the Book of Revelations and a medieval wonder. The colours are vivid. BUT, to preserve the tapestries, there is little light in the exhibition area, and the interior is painted black, so be aware, it may be difficult to move in there without stumbling. Better guiding lights should have been in place. Each of the panels of the tapestries is labelled so if you don't know what it's about it is difficult to follow the story, which is explained in the guide that you're given but it's too dark to read it. Moreover: the hall with the tapestries is extremely cooled. Bring a sweater or jacket. To see the tapestries in detail - bring your binoculars. Viewing the tapestries is not to be missed. Said to be the largest collection of tapestries in the world. One simply cannot be prepared for the immensity of the tapestries. Words really cannot describe the beauty of a work of art miraculously rescued (for the most part) from having been cut into separate panels. The guided tour of the tapestry leaves from the gift shop:

From the movie on restoration of the tapestries:

Now, skip to Tip 2 (below)

Saumur

Silvja Helmanis

France

Saumur:

Main Attractions: Pont Cessart, Saumur Mairie, Place Saint-Pierre, Château de Saumur, Rue Jean Jaurès (old town), Saumur  Theatre.

Start and End: Hotel ibis Styles, 15 Avenue David d'Angers / Gare de Saumur. Distance: 6-7 km. Weather: Bright day. Duration: 6 hours only.

The town of Saumur was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for its resistance and display of French patriotism during the war. In World War II, Saumur was the site of the Battle of Saumur (1940). The town and south bank of the Loire were defended by the teenage cadets of the cavalry school. In June 1944 the town was bombed several times by the Allied planes to stop planned German divisions, travelling to engage the newly landed allied forces in Normandy.

Transportation: Trains from Paris Montparnasse are frequent (though not direct) and take around 2-2.5 hours. Flights run to and from London City to Angers Loire airport, and from London City and Gatwick to Nantes Atlantique airport.

Orientation: Our itinerary is a SHORT-day one. OUR ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE: Musee des Blindes, Le Cadre Noir - the horsemanship show, wine caves, Musee de la Cavalerie and Les Légumes Jardins du Puygirault. Saumur skyline is best seen from the Loire river.  It has a marvelous riverside setting, all topped by its grand chateau set on a hill above the town. Look at the two following photos - they remind the skyline of Bratislava from the Danube river:

The architectural character of the town owes much to the fact that it is constructed almost exclusively of the beautiful, but fragile, Tuffeau stone. The most famous monument of Saumur is the great Château de Saumur which stands high above the town. The Place Saint Pierre is particularly attractive with the imposing church of Saint Pierre which dates to the 12 and 13th centuries and contains some lovely stained glass windows. Also on the square are some attractive half-timber buildings from the 15 and 16th centuries. Two other attraction are concerned with horses and military vehicles. It is home to the Cadre Noir, the École Nationale d'Équitation (National School of Horsemanship), known for its annual horse shows. Saumur is home also to the Armoured Branch and Cavalry Training School and to the officers' school for armored forces (tanks). Saumur hosts the national tank museum, the Musée des Blindés, with more than 850 armored vehicles, wheeled or tracked. Saumur has a famous Saturday market with hundreds of stalls open for business in the streets and squares of the old town. Do not come before 09.00. Saumur excels with its wine industry producing white, red, rosé and sparkling wines. Wine cellars cluster the outskirts of town. The annual Grandes Tablées du Saumur-Champigny is a popular annual event held in end of July or early August end of July as the biggest restaurant in the world which is formed using two kilometres of tables set up in Saumur so people can sample the local foods and the local wines. 

Our hotel in Saumur: Ibis Styles Saumur Gare Centre, 15 avenue David D Angers: fabulous, clean, QUIET, friendly, efficient, modern, budget price, good breakfast, cheerful decoration and furniture. A few steps from the railway station. 10-15 minutes walk to town centre. A supermarket is nearby. Recommended.

From the IBIS hotel we turn EASTWARD (left, with our back to the hotel)

Graffitti opposite the hotel:

and walk 300 m. east to the Pont des Cadets de Saumur. We cross the Loire from north to south over this bridge.

We continue direct south west along Avenue Charles de Gaulle and cross, again, another branch of the Loire, over Pont Cessart - a bridge that was built from 1756 until 1770 with arches and pillars of stone:

From Pont Cessart we get magnificent views of the Chateau de Saumur and the town:

We turn LEFT (east) along Quai Gautier:

After walk of 120 m., and after passing Rue Corneille on your right - you see the imposing  Town Hall or Mairie, on your left, in Rue Molière. Formerly lapped by the Loire, the town hall was part of the surrounding fortifications, hence its fortified appearance. The façade overlooking the courtyard is finely sculpted in the transitional Gothic-Renaissance style. Only the left side of the building (the Papegault tower) remains from the 16th century. It once had a wooden parrot on the top which was there as target practice for the archers. A large wing was added in the 19th century, in neo-gothic style. You can walk around to see the rear of the Town Hall, which is equally impressive. The Town Hall was built from 1856 until 1862:

 

The 8th of May is WWII Victory Day (la fête de la victoire, le jour de la libération) - an holiday to celebrate the end of World War II and the French people's freedom. It is the anniversary of when Charles de Gaulle announced the end of World War II in France on May 8, 1945. We saw an impressive ceremony opposite the Town Hall with many ex-pats of the French army in WW2:

We walk, now, 260 m. east and south to Place Saint Pierre. Head southeast on Rue Molière toward Place de la République, 60 m. Continue straight onto Place de la République, 60 m. Turn right onto a small road called Rue de la Tonnelle, 120 m. Slight right onto Place Saint-Pierre, 15 m. The Saint Pierre Square is equipped with a Gothic-style (pure white)  church (Eglise Saint Pierre) and wooden houses. The main church building was constructed in the12th-13th centuries. The facade of the Saint Pierre Church dates from the 17th century. The church  is lit up in various colored lights after dark. The interior has Romanesque elements and is considered Gothic Plantagenêt style. It also has some beautiful stained glass windows and an impressive organ, which is often used for recitals The church is usually open from 09.00 to 18.00. Entry is FREE. Definitely worth a visit:

Timber-framed houses in Place Saint Pierre:

We head , now, to the town’s crowning glory, the chateau. We have to climb for 500 m. Several sections are quite STEEP. Follow the signage in the sloping roads or follow these instructions. From Place Saint-Pierre head southwest toward Montée du Fort, 15 m. Turn left onto Montée du Fort, 110 m. You'll see,a long this narrow road more timber-framed houses. Turn left onto Rue des Remparts, 110 m:

Turn right to stay on Rue des Remparts, 60 m. Turn your head backward to see some splendid views of the Saumur town:

Slight left and continue climbing for 180 m. and you face the Château de Saumur  on a bluff overlooking the river:

The castle is closed until 31 MAR 2018. Opening hours: From 31 MAR to 14 JUN:  TUE - SUN to Sunday, public holidays Mondays, 30 APR, 7 MAY: 10.00 - 13.00, 14.00 - 17.30. 15 JUN - 30 JUN: daily 10.00 - 18.30. From 1 JUL - 31 AUG: 10.00 -to 18.30. 1 SEP -  15 SEP:  daily 10.00 - 18.30. 16 SEP - 11 NOV:  September, every day from 10.00 to 18.30. and from September 16th to November 11th: TUE - SUN to Sunday, public holidays Monday:  10.00 - 13.00, 14.00 - 17.30.  22 DEC - 6 JAN 2019:  Mondays and Wednesdays to Sundays, from 10.00 - 13.00, 14.00 -  17.30. No visit on: 25 DEC and 1 JAN. Prices: adult: € 6 (€ 7 High season 1 July - 31 AUG), concessions (high school students, students, 7-16 years old):  € 4 (€ 5 H/S), Family rate (2 adults and 2 children and more): 18 € (€ 20 H/S) , Adult group rate (from 12 people): 4,5O € (€ 5.50 H/S). Belvedere (open from 15 June to 15 September): 3 € in addition to the entrance fee - with guide / duration: 30 min / groups of 8 people maximum. Pets are not allowed in the castle grounds. There's a little café in the chateau grounds and another café opposite. Allow 1.5 - 2 hours.

It is a wonder it is there at all, having weathered all sorts of bad treatment from its time as a prison under Louis XIV and Napoleon. Within is a mishmash of items bequeathed to the municipal museum, but the location and chance to glean a little of its tumultuous history make a visit worthwhile. Views of the iconic 10th-century Château can be enjoyed from all angles from below (like the rest of the town, it's carved from the region's pale Tuffeau stone, formed when the Loire Valley was a seabed over 90 million years ago). But don't miss the opportunity to climb up to the (well-signposted) viewpoint that takes in the town, the river and the castle from above. The views over the town and Loire are fantastic. The chateau we see today originates from the 14th century but it was in the 15th that it was made into a comfortable residence by Duke Rene d’ Anjou. During its long history it has been the governor’s house, a jail before the town purchased it in 1906 to restore and turn it into the tourist attraction it is today. 

Then head over to explore the castle from the inside, reached via a dramatic moat bridge and broad cobbled approach where there's also a café overlooking the town. From its lofty position you have great views of the town and river -- it is worth parking riverside and hiking up the hill to appreciate this as well as the chateau itself. Note: This castle has been long neglected and is only now receiving the attention it needs. Very few of the castles rooms are open to the public and those that are opened contain very little information. It is still under restoration so you cannot see the whole site. 

View from the eastern wooden Bridge and Belvedere:

The views of Lorie are spectacular and worth the ticket price. Go and see the Chateau even if it's just for the views !

In the right side of the next photo - Pont Cessart:

The chateau serves as the town of Saumur’s museum. The former royal apartments now house two museums – ‘Musee des Arts Decoratifs’ and Musee du Cheval’.  The first houses European china and tapestries. The interior has a  nice decorative arts collection, and a few stunning, exceptional  tapestries we have ever seen (goats legs on men...):

As you tour the interior, a collection of artefacts points to its history as a battle stronghold, noble's residence and state prison. There is a free tour in English which makes the visit more interesting:

The second museum is located in the attic of the Chateau being dedicated to equestrian pursuits where you are taken into a world of saddlery from across the world – all lovingly worked:

On summer evenings, a light-and-sound show plays out in the Chateau grounds:

Incidentally, the grass by the vineyard beyond the car park is about as fine a place to spread a picnic blanket as you’ll find:

From the Château de Saumur we descended to the old city - heading to Cafe du Coin Rue Saint Jean x Place de la Bilange. We, more or less, retarce our steps. Head north toward Rue des Remparts, 180 m. Slight right onto Rue des Remparts, 60 m. Turn left to stay on Rue des Remparts, 110 m. Turn right onto Montée du Fort, 110 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Pierre, 35 m. Place Saint-Pierre turns slightly left and becomes Rue de la Tonnelle, 20 m. Slight left onto Rue du Puits Neuf, 85 m. Continue onto Rue Saint-Jean, 180 m and you face the Cafe du Coin,13 Place de la Bilange. We paid 18.20 euros for filet bourguignon and fish with boiled vegetables (2 persons). A rare find in Saumur since they are flexible with lunch times. Menu is more casual, tending more to sandiwches and salads. Fast service with simple portions. Do not expect hot, sophisticated portions. Prices are relatively inexpensive for the Loire region (in Bretagne we found cheaper restaurants - mainly, based on Gallettes (buckwheat open-faced crepes). There is a Carrfour supermarket 50 m. west to the cafe. Note: in our itinerary - we'll return to this square:

We continue eastward along the river - walking 800 m. to Place Allain-Targé via Quai Mayaud. Head northeast on Place de la Bilange toward Rue Molière 90 m. Turn right onto Rue Molière, 170 m passing the Town hall on our left. Continue straight onto Place de la République, 60 m. Continue onto Quai Mayaud and go through 1 roundabout, 400 m. Slight right to stay on Quai Mayaud, 60 m. arriving to Place Allain-Targé. The area around is not the best - but you may enjoy the proximity to the Liore river on your left. We turn right (south) to Rue du Général Bontemps in purpose to sample the old sections of Saumur (nothing outstanding...). Turn right (west) to Rue Jean Jaurès and walk along this road to see typical "Saumuric" houses. On your right, upstairs, you see the mighty ridge or cliff where the Chateau is built.

Note the caves below. There are hundreds of miles of caves in and around Saumur, some bored into the hillsides, some under the plains. Most are abandoned. Others have been revamped as troglo hotels, restaurants, museums, artist galleries, wineries, farms for mushrooms, silkworms and snails, a rose water distillery and a disco (Troglos):

Continue walking west along Rue Jean Jaurès. Later it changes to Rue Fourrier. After passing Rue Montesquieu, on your right, you turn left  onto Rue des Patenotriers, 170 m. Turn left onto Rue Dacier  to see this splendid house:

Head west on Rue Dacier toward Rue Cendrière, 10 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Porte Neuve, 65 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Petite Douve, 170 m. Slight right onto Place Dupetit Thouars, 15 m. In Place Dupetit Thouars you find the Post Office and the monument to Aristide Dupetit-Thouars - a French naval officer of the eighteenth century. Aristide Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, gave up his noble title and status at the time of the Revolution (hence the official name's spelling that is retained). At the end of a life rich in adventures, he commanded the ship "the Thunderer" at the Battle of Aboukir, August 1, 1798. As long as his strength permitted him, he continued to give orders, and he shouted : "Crew of the Thunderer, never bring your flag! ":

 

The general elections of presidency in France took place, yesterday, in 7 May 2017:

We shall return to the town centre (Place de la Bilange). Head northeast on Place Dupetit Thouars toward Rue du Portail Louis, 35 m. Continue onto Rue du Portail Louis, 170 m. Continue onto Rue Franklin Roosevelt, 110 m. Continue straight onto Place de la Bilange, 55 m. At the Place de la Bilange - you find "The Dome" - Saumur imposing Theatre. The theater, built from 1864 to 1866, is one of the most prestigious monuments of Saumur and one of the masterpieces of the architect Charles Joly-Leterme. The façades are punctuated by Corinthian colonnades inspired by the 18th century French. The interior houses an Italian-style room with a capacity, in the 19th century, of 860 people. The restorations, realized from 2011 to 2014, modernized the monument while respecting its architectural envelope: the stage and the stage cage are modified to propose several configurations with a theater, a circus stage, an orchestra pit, a step for the lyric and the symphonic, an opening at the bottom of the plateau on the Place de la République. This work has made the theater a totally innovative place of national stature:

We continue walking north-east towards the Loire river and Pont Cessart:

The view of the Chateau with the last glowing rays of the sunset, from the stone bridge - is magnificent:

It is 1 km. walk back from the Cessart bridge to our hotel: Ibis Styles, 15 Avenue David d'Angers. Head northeast on Pont Cessart toward Avenue du Général de Gaulle and pass through 3 roundabouts, 650 m. Slight left onto Pont des Cadets de Saumu, 20 m. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Place de la Résistance, 90 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Avenue David d'Angers and the Hotel ibis Styles Saumur is 190 m. further on the right.

Nantes

Silvja Helmanis

France

Nantes:

Main Attractions: Duchesse Anne Château, Château des Ducs de Bretagne,  St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral, Place Maréchal-Foch, Musée d'arts de Nantes, Jardin des Plantes, Basilique Saint-Nicolas, fresco of Jules Verne, Place Royale, Passage Pommeraye, Place Graslin, La Cigale Brewery, Cours Cambronne, Palais Dobrée, Eglise Notre Dame de Bon Port, Les Machines de l'île.

Start and End: Gare de Nantes. Distance: 15 km. Weather: a bright day only.

Flying to the Loire ?  we found a cheap flight from London to the heart of France (Nantes) by British Airways. The flight's times were perfect. The flight is leaving Heathrow during the afternoon hours and landing at Nantes during the early evening hours (still pleasant daylight hour). We booked, first, a flight from London City Airport to Angers in the Loire valley. This flight had been canceled by BA one month before our planned departure and we had been forced to change all our plans, bookings and itinerary. We chose the BA alternative, default offer of flight from Heathrow to Nantes. It was, still, a budget price option. But, using Heathrow, as a departure airport, instead of London City Airport, is, always, an worse option. Heathrow is far more congested airport with lengthy journey, security procedures, waiting times etc'. We still think that arriving to the Loire Valley via Paris is an worse option. The train connections between Paris and the Loire Valley are very good. But, the hotels prices in Paris are, still, daunting. We advice you to find a flight, from your country, to the Loire region, via London, using cheap connection flights from London (better, via smaller airports in the British capital). Formally, Nantes is not included in Brittany, but, you feel Brittany heritage and tradition in every step in the city.

Introduction:  Nantes is the main north-western French metropolis. The city is the sixth-largest in France, with a population of nearly 300,000 in Nantes and an urban area of 600,000 inhabitants. Nantes belongs historically and culturally (but, NOT, formally, nowadays) to Brittany. It was founded by Celts around 70 BC and in AD 937 it joined the duchy of Brittany. It was conquered by the Bretons in 851. The Edict of Nantes, a landmark royal charter guaranteeing civil rights to France's Huguenots (Protestants), was signed in Nantes by Henri IV in 1598. By the 18th century Nantes was France's foremost port, and in the 19th century – following the abolition of slavery – it became an industrial centre; the world's first public transport service, the omnibus, began in Nantes in 1826. Shipbuilding was the corner-stone of the city's economy until the late 20th century and when the shipyards relocated westwards to St-Nazaire, Nantes transformed itself into a thriving hi-tech and cultural hub. When it comes to Nantes the city is so rich in history just walking through the streets you see the modern industrial out skirts and as you go into the centre you see its historic buildings and its medieval streets.

Tip: Following the Green Line around the Nantes city will guide you to all the tourist sights.

Although Nantes was the primary residence of the 15th-century dukes of Brittany, Rennes became the provincial capital after the 1532 union of Brittany and France. During the 17th century Nantes gradually became the largest port in France and was responsible for nearly half of the 18th-century French Atlantic slave trade. The French Revolution resulted in an economic decline, but Nantes developed large-scale industries after 1850 (chiefly in shipbuilding and food processing). De-industrialisation in the second half of the 20th century triggered the city to adopt a service economy.

Nantes Airport: Small, intimate, pleasant, very efficient. Quick transfer procedures. You can get the bus to the city (Navette) every 20 minutes.  Price: 8 euros.

The hotel in Nantes: Our hotel was Novotel Centre Gare,  rue de Valmy, 4, Nantes, 15 minutes walk from the the Bus Station. A pleasant walk along the river and its canals. The hotel is new, modern, quiet, a spacious room, very convenient, Shower separated from the WC, a table, chairs, a sofa, kettle with coffee and tea bags, a small frigid, a coffee machine, a safe, free WIFI . Friendly staff members. Good, well stocked  breakfast. This hotel is within walking distance of the Cathedral, the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne and the Botanical Gardens. The location is pretty, quiet, overlooking a branch of the river. You can (hardly) see the river from the dining room. Price: 90 euros/night for a standard double room:

Our first day in Nantes: From Hotel Novotel Nantes Centre Gare
3 Rue de Valmy, we head southwest on Rue de Valmy toward Avenue Carnot, 70 m. We turn right onto Avenue Carnot and walk along the avenue for 300 m. Continue onto Cours John Kennedy for 40 m. and you see Duchesse Anne Château  (Castle of the Duchess Anne) on your left.

From Gare de Nantes to Duchesse Anne Château (500 m.): From Gare de Nantes, 27 Boulevard de Stalingrad head west on Espl. Pierre Semard, 100 m. Turn right toward Allée Commandant Charcot, 20 m. Turn left onto Allée Commandant Charcot, 220 m. Slight left toward Cours John Kennedy, 55 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Cours John Kennedy, 90 m. and  Duchesse Anne Château is on the right side.

Buses arriving near this castle: 1, 4, 23, C3. This is the most east wing of  the Château des Ducs de Bretagn (see below):

With your face to Duchesse Anne Château head north on Cours John Kennedy, 35 m. Turn left to stay on Cours John Kennedy, 10 m. Turn left toward Rue des États, 300 m. Turn right onto Rue des États, 80 m. The sights of the southern walls of the Château des Ducs de Bretagn are magnificent:

The main entrance to Château des Ducs de Bretagne, 4 Place Marc Elder, is on your right. Adult ticket price: 8.00€, concessions (age 18-25) - 5.00€ ; FREE with the Nantes City Card. Free: under 18 years. FREE entrance to courtyard and ramparts to ALL visitors. Guided tours: Adult ticket price: 12.00€, concessions (age 18-25) - 7.50€. 7 - 17 years - 2.50€, free - under 7 years. Free on the first Sunday of the month. The castle guided tour offers around 34 rooms and lots of stairs to climb. Wear your best shoes...  Opening hours: daily: 8.30 - 19.00. 1 July – 31 August: 8.30 - 20.00. MUSEUM AND EXHIBITION: 10.00 - 18.00 except Mondays. 1 July – 31 August: 10.00 - 19.00, 7 days a week. The castle is closed: 1 January, 1 May, 1 November, 25 December. Allow, at least, 2 hours.

It is located on the right bank of the Loire, which formerly fed its ditches:

Near the entrance stands a sculpture of Duchess Anne (1477 - 1514) :

The Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is one of the main historical sights in the heart of the French city of Nantes. It is Listed as a historical monument for over 170 year. The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany’ serves not only as a symbol of the city’s intriguing history and home to the Urban History Museum, but also as a gathering place for the residents of Nantes. Over the course of its history, the Castle of the Dukes has served as a military fortress and royal residence, and was home to Duchess Anne of Brittany (twice crowned Queen of France…before the age of 25). It stands on the site of a previous 13th century fortified palace called La Tour Neuve (The New Tower). The present castle, surrounded by a moat and ramparts, was built in the 15th century for Francois II, last of the dukes of Brittany. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French kings. From the 1990s, the town of Nantes undertook a massive programme of restoration and repairs to return the castle to its former glory. It was reopened on 9 February 2007 and is now a popular tourist attraction which now includes the new Nantes History Museum, installed in 32 of the castle rooms.  Night-time illuminations at the castle further reinforce the revival of the site.

Cross the bridge over the moat and step into the fortress courtyard, where you’ll see the octagonal wellhead with its ornate wrought iron crown. Around you are the various buildings that make up the heart of the castle. The Golden Crown Tower, with the nearby well, stands over 100 feet tall, and connects the Grand Logis (the main building) (see below) and the Grand Gouvernement. The loggias at the top were built for Duchess Anne and provide a view of the Loire River:

Remember: The battlements are free. The castle itself is very picturesque and pretty. The 500-metre round walk on the fortified ramparts provides views not just of the castle buildings and courtyards but also of the town. Made out of giant granite blocks and white stones, the site features 500 meters of curtain walls, seven towers, and a sentry walkway. The residential palace of this historical monument features fine sculpted facades and Renaissance loggias. The walk all around the ramparts and across the courtyard is very well signposted. Absolutely stunning views of the totally rebuilt architecture. The fortifications, consisted of water tunnel and mighty walls, indicate towards the importance of the shelter it provided to residents who resided there. You can slide down from the top of the walls to the bottom but you must be adequately clothed to avoid any friction burns (the slide is not open everyday). The walls are relatively high but nice to walk around to get a different aspect of Nantes. There are spectacular views of Nantes from the heights of the walls. As we said before - descent can be via a slide off the walls downstairs to the ground. The castle also features moat gardens and a rampart walk where visitors can have a picnic or simply enjoy the night lighting of the fortress. Le Grand Logis – this five-story building (six if you count the basement) was built in two stages; the first four levels constructed under the reign of Francois II and the top two under that of his daughter the Duchess Anne:

Le Grand Gouvernement – formerly the Ducal Palace, this ‘Large Government’ building with symmetrical stairs (left side of the photo below), served as of the Home of the Governor. Rebuilt following a fire in the 17th century, the building bears the Coat of Arms of Louis XIV above the doorway. Inside you’ll see the wood framed ‘upside down ship’s hull’ vaulted ceiling, made of chestnut:

Le Petit Gouvernement – a simple building, this ‘Small Government’ building, also referred to as Logis du Roi (King’s Home)  (middle of the photo below) dates to the 16th century. It’s believed to have been the site of the signing of the Edict of Nantes, a ‘Treaty of Tolerance’ signed by the duc de Mercœur, Governor of Brittany, and Henry IV, King of France, putting an end to the French Wars of Religion. Le Harnachement – now used for temporary exhibits this symmetrical building served as a munitions warehouse in the 18th century (middle of photo below):

The museum is very interesting, goes through the history of Nantes in fine detail. Lots of interesting artefacts. The history of the city snakes through the castle (rabbit's warren of rooms) allowing you to see the refurbished structure as you go. The museum is equipped with many multimedia devices. The castle and the museum try to offer a modern vision of the heritage by presenting the past, the present and the future of the city. Particularly interesting is the section on the slave trade and the involvement of the Nantes city. Note: While English audio guides are available the signs with each exhibit are almost exclusively in French. Excellent and impressive museum:

Model of the castle and a tapestry:

Crown of Duchess Anne:

Commercial ships of the Dukes of Bretagne:

Les Mascarons, masques en pierre:

Commerce Chambre:

Le Navire des armoiries:

Iconne Bretonne:

We exit the castle from the main entrance in Place Elder and turn RIGHT (north) . On our right is Rue Premon:

We climb with our face to the north along Rue Mathelin Rodier and within walk of 2 minutes we arrive to the Cathedral of St. Pierre and St. Paul. The cathedral resides on the right side (east side) of Place St. Pierre:

The 1868 alignment modeled a regular square, in the form of a 60-meter square, bordered by the identical facades of five-storey "Haussmanian" buildings, with shops on the ground floor. Balconies on the upper floors are cast iron:

St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral , built between 1434 and 1891, dominates the square. The cathedral's foundation stone was laid on 14 April 1434, by John V, Duke of Brittany and Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes (1417-1443). The first architect in charge was Guillaume de Dammartin who was later replaced by Mathurin Rodier. The building started when Nantes and Brittany were commercially prosperous. The cathedral is in the Gothic architectural tradition. Construction of the church began in 1434, on the site of a Romanesque cathedral, and took 457 years to finish, finally reaching completion in 1891. It has a classification as historical monuments since 1862 14 . Gothic style , 63 meters high , light in color due to the use of tufa. At the entrance to the cathedral, the steps of four steps, created during the leveling of the square of 1867, contributes to the majesty of the building. The steps outside seem to be a popular place to hang out, and they overlook the St. Pierre Square. The edifice was damaged by Allied bombing during World War II, on 15 June 1944. On 28 January 1972, a gigantic fire started on the roof. Firemen managed to bring it under control, but the timber frame was severely damaged and many other damages were inflicted. This event led to what was undoubtedly the most complete interior restoration of a cathedral in France:

The plain façade is largely compensated for by the polish of the interior of the building. The whiteness of the stone, accentuated by recent restoration work, the imposing dimensions of the nave and the aisles and the effect of the immense inner column create a Gothic atmosphere inside the cathedral.

The Nante Cathedral contains the tomb and recumbent Duke Francis II of Brittany and his wife Marguerite de Foix (the parents of Duchess Anne of Brittany):

You can leave the Cathedral from its west front or its eastern facade - continue walking northward along rue de L'ereche. Cross the city walls and Louis VI Square (or Place Maréchal-Foch). One of the most famous squares in Nantes , France , is an architectural ensemble designed in the 18th century. In its center the Louis XVI column , erected in 1790 as "Column of Liberty", 28 meters high , surmounted since the Restoration of a statue of the sovereign . It is one of the rare statues of Louis XVI still present in France in the public space. It was established in 1823:

From Place Maréchal-Foch head north-east onto Rue Gambetta. Turn right to Rue Henry IV, where the mighty Place de L'oratoire on your left. Turn, again, left onto Rue Georges Clemenceau and you'll see, on your left, the Musée d'arts de Nantes (Arts Museum of Nantes) or Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, 10 Rue Georges Clemenceau. The Musée d’arts de Nantes is open daily, from 11.00 to 19.00, except Tuesdays. Late-night opening all year round on Thursdays until 21.00. Closed on 1st January, 1st May, 1st November and 25th December. Prices (to all permanent and temporary exhibitions): adult: €8, concessions: €4. Guided tours: adult: €12, concessions: €8 or €4 or €2.50. The museum offers an overview of all the main French and European art movements, which places its collections among the largest public collections of province alongside some of Museums of Fine Arts of Valenciennes, Grenoble, Lyon, Lille and Montpellier. Artworks in the collection include paintings from the 13th century to modern art. In 2011, the museum was closed for a maximum of 2 years to make major expansion work. Reopening of the museum finally took place in May-June 2017, after 3.5 years of delay. Exhibition space, restored facades, a restaurant and a bookshop all designed by the London's architecture firm Stanton Williams. The more famous painters represented in this museum are: Guido Reni, Peter Paul Rubens, Antoine Watteau (remember Hannah Rothschild's book of  'The Improbability of Love' ?), Camille Corot, Raoul Dufy, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac  and Alfred Sisley. It is a fabulous, neat, polished architectural gem. The collection is huge. You may spend here a day. A real experience for a rainy day. You can buy a pass for 8 euros entitling unlimited visits in this museum combined with the Château des Ducs de Bretagne ! The visit in the museum's halls is an experience in its own !

Pietro Perugino, Sant'Antonio da Padova e San Sebastiano, 1476-78:

 

Georges de La Tour, The Denial of Saint Peter, 1650:

Jean-Antoine Watteau, Harlequin, Emperor on the Moon, 1707:

Nicolas Lancret, Before the Constume Ball, 1743:

The Wheat Sifters, Gustave Courbet, 1854:

First Leaves, near Nantes, Camille Corot, 1855:

Portrait de Mademoiselle Stéphanie Brousset, Jules-Élie Delaunay, 1871:

Léon Comerre, Le Déluge (The Flood):

Vassily Kandinsky, Gegenklänge, 1924:

Wassily Kandinsky, Mild Process, 1928:

Wassily Kandinsky. Downwards, 1929:

We leave the Museum of Fine Arts in nantes and head northeast on Rue Georges Clemenceau toward Rue Élie Delaunay, 210 m. We turn right onto Allée des Magnolias, 50 m and face the main entrance to Jardin des Plantes, Rue Stanislas Baudry. Open daily. FREE. The two exhibition greenhouses: Monday to Friday: 12.30 to 18.00, Saturday and Sunday: 09.30 to 18.00. Guided tours for individuals: FREE. From the front of the reception located next to the restaurant north of the garden: Monday 15.00, Visit of greenhouses: → Wednesday 15.00, Friday 15.00, Saturday 11.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00,  Sunday 10.00, 11.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00. The greenhouses are wheelchair accessible. Palm Island's greenhouse: daily from 12.00 to 18.00. The Nantes botanical garden started in 1688 as a small medicinal plant garden outside the city walls. In 1726 it was transformed as a Royal Garden for exotic plants. By 1795 the garden again reverted to a medicinal garden, and slowly declined until its demise in 1877. The current garden was first established in 1806 under the leadership of Jean Alexandre Hectot, and by 1807 contained a magnificent magnolia which still exits (the Magnolia d'Hectot). It became a municipal garden in 1820 and opened to the public in 1829. Under director Jean Marie Ecorchard, it was restyled as an English park containing some 2500 species. The last section was created in the 1850s, including a remarkable fountain (1859) that operated for 130 years without maintenance or repair. After more than a decade of neglect, active restoration began in the early 1890s under the leadership of Paul Marmy, who built the garden's palm house 1895-1898 and orangery in 1899. By 1900 the garden was substantially complete in its current form. From Wikipedia: "Today the garden contains about 11,000 species planted within a web of ponds, waterways, and paths, with an artificial "mountain" and fine collection of statues, as well as pavilions, fountains, and cascades. It features an excellent collection of camellias (600 cultivars), mature specimens of Magnolia grandiflora (219 years old), Liriodendron tulipifera (150 years), Sequoiadendron giganteum (150 years), and Sequoia sempervirens (150 years), Aesculus hippocastanum (140 years), Platanus acerifolia (140 years), as well as fine specimens of Arbutus unedo, Carpinus betulus, Ginkgo biloba, Liquidambar styraciflua, Pterocarya caucasica, and Quercus mirbeckii.". The gardens complex have many entrances. On their southern side resides the Gare SNCF (railway station). The gardens ARE MAGNIFICENT. There many points of interest including topiary, lakes or ponds, waterfalls, sculptures, hot houses and planted structures. Trees and plants from ALL around the world are clearly labeled. Bring your camera as the vistas and the flowers are spectacular. Take your time and walk the entire park. There are tables where you can sit and eat your own picnic if you have brought one with you EXCEPT the grass which is NOT for sitting on. It is a lovely spot and definitely worth visiting:

We took our lunch in the restaurant of the Jardin des Plantes - Cafe De L'Orangerie. 13.50 euros/person for Poulette+Pommes de Terre. Delicious, pleasant and efficient with young friendly staff. The chalk board Menu de Jour is quite limited but good quality. Expect the cafe to be crowded during the weekends. In a bright day it is a good idea to sit in the outside terrace.

We change direction and head, now, to the south-west districts of Nantes. First, we walk 1.7 km. from the Jardin des Plantes to Basilique Saint-Nicolas. From the Jardin des Plantes, Rue Stanislas Baudry, we head southwest and slight left at Volière, 158 m. Turn right toward Rue Ecorchard, 20 m. Turn left onto Rue Ecorchard, 15 m. Turn right onto Boulevard de Stalingrad, 100 m. Continue onto Allée Commandant Charcot, 300 m. We passthrough several hotels (the railway station is nearby) like: Ibis and Kyriad. Turn left onto Cours John Kennedy, 5 m. Turn right toward Rue de Strasbourg, 300 m. Turn left onto Rue de Strasbourg, 20 m. Turn right onto Cours Franklin Roosevelt, 400 m. Turn right onto Allée Cassard, 150 m. Continue onto Allée d'Orléans, 130 m. Turn left onto Rue de Feltre, 50 m. You see the Basilica on your left. Turn left onto Rue Affre and Basilique Saint-Nicolas, 5 Rue Affre is on the right after 70 m. Under the leadership of Felix Fournier , pastor of the parish and future bishop of Nantes, the construction of the current church ranges from 1844 to 1869. The tomb of Félix Fournier (died in 1877), had been installed in 1883 in the basilica. The church is badly damaged during the bombing of September 16 , 1943. The rebuilding project began in 1953 and lasts until 1974 . The damaged great organ, dating from 1901, was later rebuilt, in two sections of work, in 1963 and 1985. Saint-Nicolas is  a church that the father of Jules Verne (see below) helped rebuild in the 1840. His father belonged to the parish council that commissioned the building, and was one of the first subscribers. The old church, which leaned against the ramparts and had threatened collapse for over a century, served as the backdrop to Verne’s first novel, which he never finished and was published by the City of Nantes in 1992 (Un prêtre en 1839, le cherche midi éditeur):

Next, we walk 250 m. to the new fresco of Jules Verne. From Basilique Saint-Nicolas head north on Rue Affre toward Rue du Pré Nian, 60 m. Turn left onto Rue de Feltre, 110 m. Turn left onto Place du Bon Pasteur and take the stairs, 70 m. Over the stairs in Rue de L'echelle - you see the fresco of Jules Verne depicting Jules Verne and his Voyages Extraordinaires. This large mural to the glory of the most famous child of Nantes, on the wall of a building along the stairs of the rue de l'Echellet is part of the route "in the footsteps of Jules Verne" already existing.  Directed by the muralist painter Jean-Yves Jodeau, this fresco is fourteen meters wide and twelve above. It depicts the port of Nantes as known by the little Jules, but also the Albatross, the Scarecrow, and a Jules Verne with a white beard (although Nantes is rather related to his childhood). The work of preparation of the wall began in November 2007 and the fresco is completed at the beginning of the year 2008:

With our face to the mural, we take the road on our right, Rue Contrescarpe and turn left to Rue Crebillon and we arrive to Place Royale, where we see the high tower of Basilique Saint Nicholas. The square was designed in 1786 by the Nantes architect Mathurin Crucy . Built in 1790 after the destruction of the medieval ramparts. It has a monumental fountain inaugurated in 1865. The monumental fountain, was designed by the city architect Henri Théodore Driollet and symbolizes the fluvial and maritime vocation of Nantes. Its pyramidal structure is composed of three granite basins superimposed. It shows allegorical figures of Nantes (top), of the Loire river (front) and of its tributaries: the Erdre (front left), the Sèvre nantaise (front right), the Cher (right, hidden) and the Loiret (left, hidden). Architect of the place: Mathurin Crucy (1788). Fountain by Daniel Ducommun de Locle, Guillaume Grootaërs and Simon Voruz (1865). Despite its name, the square had never hosted a monarch statue, like the other Royal squares in France. It is an iconic site in Nantes, and is a popular point of artistic, festive or political gatherings. The site, very damaged during the Second World War , is restored almost identically between 1945 and 1961. The square, entirely paved with granite blocks, is served by nine streets:  Crebillon , the Pit , Gorges , La Perouse , Orleans , Commandant-Boulay , L'Arche-Sèche , Saint-Julien and the Vieilles-Douves. It is located at one of the lowest points of the city:

Basilique saint Nicholas from Place Royale. Behind the Basilica stands Tour Bretagne with 26 floors:

We leave the Place Royale from its most southern end and walk DOWN (southward) along Rue de la Fosse. On our right (west) is the pretty Passage Pommeraye. A very special shopping center with very old and luxury architecture and fantastic photo opportunities. A classy, multi-level mall with marvelous, colorful shops. Lovely roof, statues and  staircases. A vintage atmosphere at its best. Named after its property developer, Louis Pommeraye. Construction started at the end of 1840 and was completed on 4 July 1843. Two architects, Jean-Baptiste Buron and Hippolyte Durand Gasselin, contributed to its design:

We cross and walk through the mall from east to west. We exit the shopping centre at Rue Crébillon and turn left to continue climbing south-west along Rue Crébillon. Walking 300 m. along Rue Crébillon will bring us to the impressive square of Place Graslin. It is served by eight roads:  Crebillon , Moliere , Corneille , Racine , Voltaire , Piron , Regnard and Jean-Jacques-Rousseau. The square is mostly pedestrianized , except the west side serving the streets Racine and Piron (the beginning of the street Voltaire is also pedestrianized) which are open to traffic. On its north side is the Graslin Theater ; south of the square is La Cigale restaurant and brewery. Jean-Joseph-Louis Graslin was the promoter of this square from 1777. In 1960, the place served as an outdoor setting during the filming of Lola (1961) by Jacques Demy. The theatre, in the north side, was built in 1788 , on the plans of Mathurin Crucy . Twelve steps lead to the vestibule , while eight Corinthian columns support the pediment. Ravaged by a fire in 1796 , it was only after the visit of the Emperor Napoleon I , in 1808 , that the theater was rebuilt. This operation was conducted from 1811 , still under the leadership of Crucy. A little later, during the period of the Second Restoration , the sculptor Dominique Molknecht creates the eight antique-style muses overlooking each column, as well as statues of Molière and Corneille overlooking the main staircase, visible from the square.

tThe theater (middle) and the café le Molière (left):

La Cigale , which is one of the most beautiful breweries of France in the style " Art Nouveau", faces the theater from the south side of the square, was inaugurated on April 1 ,1895. It is a place very frequented by comedians at the exit of the theater. Thus, the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (Claude Lelouch classic movie "A Man and a Woman", which at the time was the most successful French film ever screened in the foreign market) said of this brewery that it was "probably the most beautiful brewery in the world":

We leave Place Graslin from its southern edge. Behind La Cigale resides Cours Cambronne. Head south on Place Graslin and continue onto Rue Piron, 30 m. Turn right onto Cours Cambronne, 100 m. This avenue is approximately 180 meters long and 50 meters wide. You enter this manicured avenue (from both of its sides) via wrought iron gates located at both ends: rue Piron to the east and rue des Cadeniers in the west. The west gate is further framed by two stone sentry posts . The course is bordered by a row of identical buildings on the north side (overlooking rue Gresset ) and south (overlooking rue de l'Héronnière ). The avenue is planted with silver lime trees , magnolias with large flowers , adorned with boulingrins and flower beds

 

In the center of the avenue is a statue of Pierre Cambronne , created by Paris sculptor Jean Debay . According to a very popular legend, Pierre Cambronne, commanding the last square of the Old Guard at Waterloo, summoned to surrender by the British General Colville , Cambronne would have replied: "The guard dies but does not surrender! ".  During the Waterloo battle, Cambrone was seriously wounded. He was indeed taken prisoner after the massacre of the last squares. Led to England, he wrote to Louis XVIII to obtain permission to return to France. He returns without having received an answer, is arrested, taken to Paris , brought before the council of war. He is released to attend his trial for treason ( attack of France at gunpoint ). Defended by the royalist Berryer, he was set free on April 26, 1816. Cambronne then returned to live in Nantes at No. 3, rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau. He died in the night of January 28 to 29, 1842, at his home in Nantes Street Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, and was buried in the cemetery Misericordia . By an order of December 5, 1842, King Louis-Philippe I authorized his hometown to raise a statue in his honor. The monument is inaugurated on July 28, 1848, and placed in the center of the avenue which since 1936 bears his name . In Paris , a street , a square and a metro station located in the 15th arrondissement bear his name:

We walked the whole Cours Cambronne from north-east to south-west. We turn right (north) to Rue des Cadeniers and, immediately, LEFT (west) to Rue Voltaire. After passing Rue Mascara, on your left, the street changes its name to Rue Dobrée. In 18, rue Voltaire stands Palais Dobrée hosting the Departmental Museum Thomas-Dobrée. Public transport: Tram line 1 (stop Media Library) or Bus 11 (stop: Jean V). Coming from an old Huguenot family from Normandy , established in Guernsey in the 16th century, Thomas Dobrée abandoned business at twenty-eight years of age. Then he devoted himself to collecting works of art. From 1862, he devoted himself to the construction of his "palace. The palace was intended to accommodate the ten thousand objects of art that he spent his life collecting them. His collections were particularly rich in precious books and old Breton prints and in manuscripts for paintings, autographs, coins and medals, in graphic arts (in particular the German and Dutch engravers). But they also included a large collection of sculptures, paintings and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the late nineteenth century. Dobrée then built in the immediate area of ​​the medieval manor of the Duke of Brittany Jean V (dating from the fifteenth century ), a palace that meets his expectations, and was the joint work of architects Simon , Boismen , Chenant and Le Diberder. The palace was not completed until 1899, four years after the death of Thomas Dobrée. Dobrée museum will reside, in the future,  into TWO remarkable buildings: the Dobrée Palace, neo-medieval style, with its tower 30 meters high and the Manoir de la Touche, former episcopal residence. The Dobrée Museum is under renovation and will open on 2021. At the moment visitors can access ONLY temporary exhibitions and the garden around. The gardens are open every day from 08.00 to 18.30 (19.30 in July and August). Closed: January 1st , November 1st and 11th, December 24th, 25th and 31st:

 

We continue walking south-west along Rue Voltaire and after 150 m. we arrive to the Eglise Notre Dame de Bon Port. The church was constructed in 1846 by the architects Seheult and Joseph-Fleury Chenantais:

From here we have to walk 750 m. to our final destination in Nantes: Les Machines de l'île. From Notre-Dame de Bon-Port, 1 Rue Dobree we head northeast on Rue Dobree toward Rue Massillon, 35 m. Turn right (south) onto Rue de la Verrerie, 270 m. Continue southward onto Boulevard Léon Bureau and cross the Loire over Pont Anne de Bretagne, 350 m. Turn right toward Mail des Chantiers, 20 m. Turn left toward Mail des Chantiers, 100 m. Turn left onto Mail des Chantiers, 10 m. and the huge site of Machines of the Isle of Nantes, Parc des Chantiers, Boulevard Léon Bureau is on your right. Les Machines de l'île is one of a kind in the world. This park or museum is a very exceptional experience for adults and children. The main player here, a company called "La Machine" is creating giant machines with the form of surreal animals for entertainment - automated animal-machines. You may call them "Outdoor Robots". The Machines of the Isle of Nantes (Les Machines de l'île) is an artistic, touristic and cultural project based in Nantes and aims to promote the city's image and tries to build an identity as a creative metropolis of dream and of fantasy. The site was opened to the public on 1 July 2007 in the old covered buildings of the former shipyards in Nantes that were once used for ship construction (les nefs), and later used as business sites. The Machines of the Isle were, actually, created by two artists: François Delarozière (of La Machine production company) and Pierre Orefice (of Manaus association). 

You can see the workshop where  the giant machines / animals are made and where new projects are starting. The animals are created out of machinery and wood. The only giant animal in motion is the elephant. it is magical and unforgettable to see the elephant walking and carrying people, either from on high (from the magical tree) or by walking alongside it. You have to pay extra if you want to go on it. The other machines are interesting, especially the dragon, a spider, a heron, a worm and an ant. People can go on them and "pilot" them under instruction from staff. The Gallery is a living place with the staging of a real bestiary of machines. It is a laboratory where the machines built in La Machine's workshop are tested. Sale of tickets on the spot, the same day, during the ticketing hours, within the limits of available places. Each ticket gives access to the terraces of the workshop, the film and the Prototype Branch of the Heron Tree. This ticket is different of the Trip in Grand Elephant. In case you want to see the galleries and ride the Giant Elephant - you are obliged to buy to two distinct tickets ! The following prices hold for the TWO tracks of visit. Adult price:8,50 €, concessions - people with disability. Free of charge: Children under 4 years old and the accompanying person of a disabled person. There are MANY other options and types of tickets. The gallery or workshop option is intended only for the persons who can understand French. If you don't, we advice you to skip this attraction. Inside, the employees introduce all the machines one by one in French. They show how they work and, if you are lucky, you might be chosen to ride the machine. During the presentation, the place gets very crowded and you can barely see anything. The machines are FANTASTIC. Unfortunately, they don't work on their own, but rather with a help of a lifting system and under the guidance of the staff members. Very  small number of people can go on the machines and you have to watch them downstairs with herds of other people. Not very well organised and sadly not in English. More or less holds for the Elephant. If we consider adults only -  just standing watching it go for a walk is amazing and well worth a FREE visit. You get better photographs of the mighty elephant from ground level. In the summer months the queues can be long. Beware of the water while the elephant is marching on. Its funny to see the elephant using its trunk to spray water on people. Our advice: just go and see the elephant and carousel from the outside for free. Free entrance if you use your Nantes City Pass. Highly recommended. Allow 2-3 hours.

The Great Elephant is a mechanical elephant (2007) with 12 meters high and 8 meters wide, made from 45 tons of wood and steel. It can take up to 49 passengers for a 45-minute walk. It is a non-exact replica of The Sultan's Elephant from the French group Royal de Luxe (from Aix-en-Provence), which toured the world from 2005 to 2007:

The Marine Worlds Carrousel (Carrousel des Mondes) (2012) is a huge carousel, rising nearly 25 m. high and measuring 20 m. in diameter. Visitors move about amidst a ballet of aquatic animals and sea carriages, as well as climb aboard and guide the movements of the Machines. Three carousels are stacked in a genuine concrete lacework topp­ed by a marquee adorned with pediments, and guarded by 16 fishermen from all the oceans of the world. You witness the sea every way, from the depths of the bottom, through the abysses, right up to the surface of the sea:

The Arbre aux Hérons (The Herons Tree) is still a model at this moment, though. This future project will consist of a 35 meter tall steel tree with herons nests in it, of which you can already see a prototype branch outside, above the café and gift shop:

The Workshop:

In case you decided to complete your busy 1-day tour in Nantes - it is a 2.7 km. walk to the railway station. From the Carrousel of the Marine Worlds you head northwest, 25 m. Turn right toward Quai Fernand Crouan, 15 m. Turn left toward Quai Fernand Crouan, 65 m, Turn right onto Quai Fernand Crouan, 80 m. Turn left to stay on Quai Fernand Crouan, 160 m. Take the pedestrian tunnel, and, the stairs - approx. 250 m. Continue straight onto Quai François Mitterrand, 90 m. Turn left onto Passerelle Victor Schoelcher, 450 m. Turn left toward Cours Franklin Roosevelt and walk along it for 700 m.  Turn left onto Rue de Strasbourg, 20 m. Turn right at Allée du Port Maillard, 300 m. Turn left onto Cours John Kennedy, 5 m. Turn right onto Allée Commandant Charcot, 300 m. Turn right at Rue Stanislas Baudry, 20 m. Turn left onto Espl. Pierre Semard, 100 m. You are in Gare de Nantes, 27 Boulevard de Stalingrad.

Paris, around the right bank of the Seine

Ariel Shafir

France

Paris - along the right bank of the river Seine: from Place de la Bastille to Pont de Bir-Hakeim.

Tip 1Main Attractions: Place de la Bastille, Bassin de l'Arsenal, Pont Morland, Pont de Sully, Pont Marie, Hôtel de Sens (detour), Pont Louis Philippe, Église Saint-Gervais (detour), Hôtel de Ville, Pont au Change, Place du Châtelet, Tour Saint-Jacques (detour), Pont d'Arcole, Pont Notre-Dame, Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, Pont du Carrousel, Pont Royal, Pont de la Concorde, Pont Aleexandre III, Pont des Invalides, Pont de l'Alma, 

Distance: approx. 14 km. Weather: Bright day ONLY. Duration: 6-8 hours. Our suggestion for lunch: quite late in this route - near Alma Bridge. Option for extension: continue southward from Bir-Hakeim bridge, along the Seine to Pont de Grenelle or Pont Mirabeau (additional 900 m. / 1.4 km..). Not included in this itinerary: all the iconic attraction near the Seine: the Louvre museum, Musée d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower etc'. They are all included in other Tipter blogs.

Start: Bastille Metro station. End: Bir-Hakeim metro station (or Javel metro station with the extension option).

General orientation: a brilliant idea for your last, concluding day in this wonderful city. It contains most of the famous, iconic sights and attractions in central Paris. Our suggestions: do this itinerary from east to west. The sun will be on your back. The photo ops are better - if you start at the morning and complete the route during the late afternoon hours. The major part is along the Seine river - but, we included several short detours - deviating from the water front. Many part are even shaded with linden and plane trees along the river banks. It is a flat, convenient roue for pedestrians. ONLY the last section, along New York avenue - just before approaching the Bir-Hekeim bridge (near Tour Eiffel) is under reconstructions. This section is unfriendly for walkers. Be careful when you cross one or two bustling roads leading (from the south) to Avenue New York. Anyway, your last spot would be, in this itinerary, the Eiffel Tower. The closest metro station, to the tower, is Bir-Hekeim (approx. 500 m. from the entrance (under strict security measures) to the famous tower. Most of the restaurants, along and close to tis route - are expensive and tourists traps. The only solution is to get off from the river promenades, into the city alleys, and find a cheaper one - probably near Alma bridge or, better, near Place du Châtelet, on the right bank of the river Seine, on the borderline between the 1st and 4th arrondissements, at the north end of the Pont au Change, a bridge that connects the Île de la Cité, near the Palais de Justice and the Conciergerie, to the right bank (the closest métro station is Châtelet).

Remember: there are many bridges over the Seine. One very good way to see them is to undertake a river cruise. This allows you to see the ornate stone work as well as ornamental work. Spring is the best time of the year. Late afternoon is the best time during the day.

We start at the Place de la Bastille. It is called the Bastille square - but, no vestige of the prison remains. It was destroyed during the French Revolution, between 14 July 1789 and 14 July 1790. The capture of the Bastille, on July 14, 1789, marks the start of the French Revolution. It is celebrated each year as the Bastille Day, which was also declared the French national holiday in 1860. Two days after the crowds had captured the Bastille - the fort or prison was demolished. As a consequence of its historical significance, the square is often the site or point of departure of political demonstrations.

The square borders 3 arrondissements of Paris, namely the 4th, 11th and 12th. Not so much to see around. The original outline of the fort is also marked on the pavement of streets and pathways that pass over its former location, in the form of special paving stones. Some stones of the former foundation are visible in the Bastille metro station, at line no. 5. 

The July Column (Colonne de Juillet) stands at the center of the square and commemorates the 1830 revolution, during which king Charles X was replaced by king Louis-Philippe.  The bottom half of the column is plastered in advertising billboards...:

Another notable attraction in the Bastille square is the imposing Bastille Opera. The Bastille Opera building was opened on July 14, 1989 during the bicentennial celebrations of the French revolution. It was part of the 'grand projects' initiated by the former French president François Mitterrand. The massive building was meant to be a modern and democratic opera building, as opposed to the aristocratic Palais Garnier. A metro exit as well as shops are integrated in the building, reinforcing the idea of a 'people's opera'. The Bastille Opera is by far the largest opera building of the two. Its auditorium seats 2700 people. The design by Carlos Ott, chosen from 750 entries in an international competition, contrasts starkly with its environment. The square is home to concerts and similar events. The north-eastern area of Bastille is busy at night with its many cafés, bars, night clubs, and concert halls.

Not much to see in this congested and polluted square. It is NOT one of Paris' most beautiful spots.In case you prefer to skip the Place de la Bastille and start our route with the Bassin de l'Arsenal - you can arrive to one of the following metro stations: Quai de la Rapée (50 m. walk to the southern end of the basin) or Sully – Morland (500 m. walk to the basin).

The large area behind the past fort has been transformed into a marina for pleasure boats, the Bassin de l'Arsenal or Port Arsenal, to the south, which is bordered by the Boulevard de la Bastille. Port Arsenal is the main reason for starting our route in the Bastille. It is a pleasant walk along its banks - until we arrive to the river Seine itself. To the north, a covered canal (and further north, an open one), the Canal Saint-Martin, extends north from the marina beneath the vehicular roundabout that borders the location of the fort, and then continues for about 4.4 kilometers to the Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad. Your best bets are Thursdays and Sundays (08:00-14:00): a large, open-air market occupies part of the park to the north of the Place de la Bastille, along the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Locals and tourists find fresh fruit, fish, meat, cheese and breads and, mainly, typical flea market items. Note the "crayons" (home-made saucisson/sausages' snacks) with different flavors.  Many cafés and some other businesses largely occupy the close-by Rue de la Roquette and the Rue Saint-Antoine passes directly over it as it opens onto the roundabout of the Bastille.

From the Place de la Bastille - we head southward along Boulevard Bourdon (it deviates from Avenue Henri IV) along the Bassin de l'Arsenal.  We walk 650 m. along the pleasant east bank of the Arsenal port until we meet Boulevard Morland. From here we get a nice view of the whole arsenal port/canal with the (remote) Colonne de Juillet in the Place de la Bastille:

No tourists around. Very calm and pretty place to relax from the hassle of Paris. The canal tour company Canauxrama (their centre is in the Bassin de la Villette - and they have a small stall also in the Arsenal port) runs a daily 2.5hr cruise (with possibility of lunch and dinner à la carte) along the Canal Saint-Martin which departs 09.45 and 14.30 from the charming Arsenal Marina to the Parc de la Villette or inversely. It costs €18. Bar on board:

The Bassin de l'Arsenal (Port de l'Arsenal) links the Seine river with the Canal Saint-Martin. It is bordered by the Boulevard Bourdon (4th arrondissement) on the westerly side (Where we walk) and the Boulevard de la Bastille (the 12th arrondissement) on the easterly side. The arsenal basin derives its name from the name of the neighborhood, Arsenal, bordering the westerly (4th arrondissement) side of the basin. The destruction of the Bastille created the fossé (ditch) in the foreground. This fossé was later converted into the Bassin de l'Arsenal. During the French Revolution, the Bassin de l'Arsenal was excavated to replace the ditch that had been in place to draw water from the Seine to fill the moat at the fortress. During the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth, the Bassin de l'Arsenal was a commercial port where goods were loaded and unloaded. The port was converted into a leisure port in 1983 by a decision of the Paris City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and it is now run by the Association for the Leisure Port of Paris-Arsenal. Since that time, it has been a marina (port de plaisance), for approximately 250 pleasure boats.

As we said before, we end our walk in the Arsenal Basin with facing the Pont Morland. We cross the Avenue Morland and Blvd. Henri IV and turn north-west along the Seine river. It is 550 m. walk, along Quai Henri IV, to the next bridge - Pont de Sully. The view of Notre-Dame Cathedral from Quai Henri IV:

When we approach Pont de Sully - we see the southern edge of Île Saint-Louis:  one of two natural islands in the Seine river (the other natural island is Île de la Cité):


We see the Pont de Sully from the east. Actually, there are two separate bridges meeting on the south-eastern tip of the Île Saint-Louis. They link the 4th and 5th arrondissements of Paris along Boulevard Henri IV, and they connect, also, to the eastern end of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. it connects the Pavillon de l’Arsenal on the Right Bank to the Institut du Monde Arabe (Left Bank). Sully-Morland is, again, the nearest Metro station. The current bridge was constructed in 1876, as part of Haussmann's renovation of Paris, and opened on 25 August 1877. It is named in honour of Maximilien de Béthune, duke of Sully (1560-1641) and minister to Henry IV. The two bridges were built with an angle of about 45 degrees to the river banks. The view from the south (where we appreoach the bridge) is more beautiful since the southern section is comprised of  three cast-iron arches. From the south-east - Pont de Sully offers one of the loveliest views of Ile Saint-Louis and Notre Dame Cathedral:


It is 500 m. walk to the next bridge - Pont Marie. We walk, now, along the Quai de Celestins. Leaving the Pont de Sully, we pass near Square Henri-Galli on our right. It is triangular in shape and is framed by boulevard Henri-IV , quai Henri-IV and Quai des Célestins. In the corner formed by Boulevard Henri IV and Quai Henri IV there are vestiges of one of the eight towers of the Bastille prison. Arriving to Pont Marie - we start walking along Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville. The bridge links the Île Saint-Louis to the Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville and is one of three bridges designed to allow traffic flow between the Île Saint-Louis and the Left and Right banks of Paris. The bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Paris. The Pont Marie links the Right Bank and is the counterpart of the Pont de la Tournelle which is hardly seen from the distance, on our left, and built along the same line but serves to connect the Île Saint-Louis with the Left Bank. The Pont Marie derives its name from the engineer Christophe Marie, who proposed its construction beginning in 1605. Actually, the bridge was approved for building by the king only on 1614, at which point Louis XIII laid the first stone as part of a formal bridge building ceremony. The Pont Marie's construction was spread out over 20 years, from 1614 to 1635. Around 50 houses lined the bridge in the 17th century, but were later demolished. Since the 18th century, the structure has seen little change. The Pont Marie connects the Marais with the Ile Saint-Louis. Closest Métro station: Pont Marie. Arriving to the Marie bridge is a good excuse to stop here and take lots of pictures of Île Saint-Louis and the river. It's just the right place for taking pictures for TV teams and romantic couples. You won't regret coming here during the sunset and night hours:

Allow time to make a short detour at the Gardens of Hôtel de Sens, 7 Rue des Nonnains d'Hyères, a superb 15th-century building, on the right (east) side of Pont Marie. Hotel de Sens is one of only three medieval residences remaining in all of Paris. It is a a stately medieval castle, complete with turrets, spires and grand stone arches. The castle was built between 1475 and 1507. The Hotel de Sens is most famous for having served for several months as the residence of Queen Margot who moved into the building in 1605 after her marriage to King Henri IV. The Hotel de Sens was confiscated during the French Revolution and began a long chapter of misuse and neglect. The City of Paris bought the building in 1911. In 1929 it was turned into the Bibliotheque Forney, a textile and graphic art library and museum, with an extensive collection including 230,000 prints and 48,000 museum catalogues. From 2011, the castle was once again cleaned and renovated. Nowadays, the hotel still houses the Forney art library:

The gardens are BEAUTIFUL with magnificent floral creations and very relaxing:

Our next bridge is Pont Louis Philippe - 330 m. walk from Pont Marie, along Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville. Pont Louis Philippe links the Quai de Bourbon on the Île Saint-Louis with the Saint-Gervais neighborhood on the right bank. King Louis-Philippe laid the first stone of a wooden suspension bridge on July 29, 1833 - marking his accession to the throne after the Revolution of 1830. This unnamed bridge was opened to traffic on July 26, 1834. It was burned during the Revolution of 1848, but was fully restored. It was eventually named Pont de la Réforme, a name it kept until 1852. The bridge was opened to traffic in August 1862. The bridge leads into the Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe. Closest Métro station: Pont Marie. One of the most sought-out spots in Paris, by the Seine river, to enjoy the sunset:

View to the Notre-Dame Cathedral from Pont Louis-Philippe:

Again, we make a break and spare 1 hour for visiting an overwhelming museum - The Shoah Memorial. Turn right to Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, turn left to Rue de l'Hôtel de ville and climb, immediately, to Rue des Barres - a charming small alley. On our left is the Église Saint-Gervais.  Saint Gervais church, 13 rue Barres is the oldest church in the north of Paris. It is named for brothers and Roman officers who were martyred by Nero. The Saint-Gervais Church sheltered one of the most famous families of French musicians during more than two centuries since 1653: the Couperin family. On the side of the church still remains the house of these famous organists and composers as well as a plate commemorating their address. The prestigious organ of Louis and François Couperin exists still today inside the Church. It was rebuilt in 1212, in 1420 and in 1581. Its very high Gothic vaults are as bold as they are elegant. The church of Saint-Gervais possessed stained glass windows by Jean Cousin and Pinaigrier which still exist in part, paintings by Albrecht Dürer, Champaigne and Lesueur:

Inside, the building is richly decorated. A stone crown adorns the keystone of the chapel of the Virgin. The stained glass windows of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste chapel date back to 531 and illustrate the Wisdom of Solomon:

Leaving Église Saint-Gervais - we continue walking northward along Rue des Barres and turn, immediately, right to the Alee des Justifis (or: rue Grenier sur L'eau) to meet the secured yard and building of the Mémorial de la Shoah: a whole complex (multimedia center, library, reading room, memorial monuments, exhibitions and documents of the slaughtered French Jews during the Holocaust. For those who are remembered forever. The museum is mesmerizing, evocative and moving and totally in contrary to romantic and joyful Paris - particularly the crypt with the eternal flame. This location had been chosen since Le Marais had a large Jewish population before WW2.  Be prepared for VERY tight security procedures and for unforgettable experience inside. A must. Amazing restraint and dignity in this sobering memorial. As you enter, you go through walls with the names and birth dates of the victims. Inside, the most bottom floor is dedicated to the permanent exhibition: the events that lead up to the holocaust. There is special room with photographs of the murdered children. On the middle floor -  a temporary exhibit of the years after-war. On May 2017 - the trial against Klaus Barbie - the "Butcher of Lyon". We found the museum, during our unplanned visit - FULL with French young students and researchers. Please pay tribute to the murdered ! Free admission. NO photos inside:

We rturn via Rue Geoffroy l'Asnier to the Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville and continue walking along the Seine and Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville westward. We, quickly face, on our right, the Paris Hôtel de Ville. It has been the headquarters of the municipality of Paris since 1357. It serves multiple functions, housing the local administration, the Mayor of Paris (since 1977), and also serves as a venue for large receptions. The northern (left) side of the building is located on the Rue de Rivoli. The nearby Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville (BHV) is a department store named after the Hôtel de Ville. one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris. There are numerous statues on and around the building. The architecture is grand and the interior is splendid. Note: in front of the Town Hall big courtyrad are TWO "Paris Water Springs" to refill bottles: the water is free, fresh and perfectly drinkable. What a treat !   Closest Metro station: Hôtel de Ville:

Continue walking north along Quai de l'Hôtel de ville. Cross Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. On our left is the Pont au Change. It connects the Île de la Cité from the Palais de Justice and the Conciergerie, to the Right Bank, at the Place du Châtelet. The current bridge was constructed from 1858 to 1860, during the reign of Napoleon III. The bridge bears the letter N which is the imperial insignia of Napoleon III. It owes its name to the goldsmiths and money changers who had installed their shops on the bridge in the 12th century. It provides a pretty view of the Seine on either side. This bridge was also featured in Les Miserables...

Our next attraction is the Place du Châtelet. The public square stands on the land that was once the site of the medieval fortress of Grand Châtelet. The fortress was built around 1130 by King Louis VI at the Pont au Change (a bridge) to defend the Île de la Cité, Paris's historic center. The area around the fortress was one of the city's most dangerous and criminal. During the rule of Napoleon, in the year 1808, the whole neighborhood including the Grand Châtelet was destroyed in an attempt to eradicate the criminality. After the area was cleared, the idea for a public square was carried out. The first thing we will notice,  approaching Place du Châtelet, is the large fountain that stands in the center. Known as the Palmier Fountain, it was built in 1808 and erected to pay homage to Napoleon's victory in Egypt. A golden winged figure sits atop the column in the center of the fountain and a number of sphinxes surround it, each commemorating a famous battle, including the Siege of Danzig (1807, Prussia), the Battle of Ulm (1805, Austria), the Battle of Marengo (1800, Italy), the Battle of the Pyramids (1798, Egypt), and the Battle of Lodi (1796, Italy):

On either side of the Place du Châtelet stands a theatre. West to the square is  Théâtre du Châtelet, is reserved for music and, more recently, hosted a number of popular Broadway-style musicals. The Théâtre de la Ville, which is situated on the east side of the square, is dedicated to theatrical performances, both classic and contemporary. This theatre was once owned by actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was born and died in Paris and lived much of her life there. The two theatres were designed by the French architect Jean- Antoine-Gabriel Davioud, and built around 1862 in an effort to attract more upper-class people to the area. The two buildings are almost mirror images of each other. Underneath this busy square lies one of the largest Metro stations in Paris, with five metro lines and three RER lines all converging under the square.

We skip the Pont d'Arcole and Pont Notre-Dame. The Arcole bridge connects the Hotel de Ville on the right bank to the Hôtel Dieu on the Île de la Cité. The name comes from the battle of Pont d'Arcole won by Napoleon Bonaparte on the Austrians in 1796. It was by the Pont d'Arcole that the first tanks of the 2nd Armored Division of General Leclerc arrived at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville during the Liberation of Paris in August 1944:

Pont Notre-Dame links Quai de Gesvres on the right bank (Rive Droite) with Quai de la Corse on the Île de la Cité - one of the two natural islands on the Seine. The bridge is noted for being the "most ancient" in Paris - BUT, NOT keeping its original state. Each of the bridge's arches carries a head of Dionysus carved in stone. Its piles are decorated on each side with a ram's head. In the niches along the arches there are statues of Saint Louis, Henri IV, Louis XIII, and Louis XIV:

Our next detour and destination is the Tour Saint-Jacques. We turn right(north) to the Blvd. de Sebastopol. On our left we see the Chat Noir bar, 5, Blvd. de Sebastopol:

We cross Avenue Victoria and turn right (east) to the Tour Saint-Jacques. On summer 2017 the tower complex and the park around were surrounded by fences and ware under reconstruction. Wanting to have green spaces as in London, a park was made around the tower and a facing street was named in honor of Queen Victoria coinciding with her Paris visit. The tower is 52-metre high, Gothic tower, built between 1509 and 1523, and all that remains of the former 16th-century Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie ("Saint James of the butchery"), which was demolished in 1797, during the French Revolution, leaving only the tower. This sanctuary was the meeting point on the Via Toronensis (or Tours route) of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle). The closest métro station is Châtelet. In the mid-seventeenth century, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal chose to use Tour St-Jacques as his laboratory, where he conducted a variety of experiments on atmospheric pressure. In tribute to Pascal, a statue of the scientist stands at the base of the tower and a number of meteorological instruments were placed on the roof. Nice view from the top of the tower - when it is open. Three hundred steps lead to the summit of the former bell tower. Open: JUN-SEP only, WED-SUN, 10.00 - 17.00. Price: 10 € adult, youngsters under 18 - 8 €. It is possible to climb the tower in summer, but only with a guided tour. The stunning building is well preserved and a great site for taking some photos:

A stunning view of the tower from Rue Nicholas Flamel (the main entrance):

The statue of Blaise Pascal:

The Hotel de Ville from the Tour Saint Jacques:

View from the tower to the west towards Eiffel Tower:

View from the tower towards North East – From Beaubourg to Belleville:

View from the tower towards the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre:

We leave the Tour Saint Jacques and its gasrden\park from its north-east corner to connect with Rue Saint-Martin street  and walking northward along this road. This is, mainly, pedestrianized road packed with restaurants and boutique shops.  It is an old way and It takes its name from the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs , today assigned to the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CNAM), to which it leads.  We liked this atmospheric, typical-Parisien road. Rue Saint-Martin crosses Rue Rivoli and Rue Pernelle in its way from south to north and makes very long way to the north - until it ends in Blvd. Saint-Denis. It diverges (beyond rue Pernelle) to two interesting roads: rue de la Verrerie to the right (east) and rue des Lombards to the left (west). By the way - from the beginning of Saint-Martin road - you get another wonderful view of Tour Saint-Jacques. Turning right to rue de la Verrerie will bring you to an interesting road which is unique, mainly, after raising your head upward for catching its hidden gems. It dates from the 12th century and takes its name from the glass makers who were established there, according to the habits of the Middle Ages. The Rue de la Verrerie was, at the beginning of the 20th century, the street of merchants in grocery stores, or, as it was then called, in colonial goods:

The rue des Lombards is famous, above all, for hosting three of the main French jazz clubs : Le Baiser Salé, Le Duc des Lombards and the Sunset/Sunside. The Sunset/Sunside regularly welcomes world-class artists. Today, la rue des Lombards hosts a motley nightlife, mixing british pubs and gay bars, French restaurants and chicha bars, far from the financial turmoil of medieval times, except for the abusive prices of the drinks. It was originally a banking center in medieval Paris, a trade dominated by Lombard merchants from the 13th century and until the 18th century (as in the City of London).

We return to the Seine rive, but, now, we are in the Quai de Gesvres. We head to the Pont Neuf. It is 500 m. walk from Pont au Change to Pont Neuf along the Quai de la Mégisserie. The Pont Neuf ("New Bridge")  is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris, Along with the Pont Alexandre III, it is one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris. The Pont Neuf actually consists of two different bridge spans, one on each side of the Île de la Cité, where the Place du Pont Neuf connects the two spans. The bridge has a total of twelve arches, with one span of seven arches joining the right bank and another span of five arches connecting Île de la Cité with the left bank. The other, near our route, is another of seven joining the island to the right bank.  The Pont Neuf meets Île de la Cité near the most northern tip of the island south to the Square du Vert-Galant -, a small public park named in honour of Henry IV, nicknamed the "Green Gallant". In the middle of the bridge stands the bronze statue of Henry IV on his horse. The statue, installed in 1818, faces the left bank. The bridge is full with couples' love PADLOCKS (padlocks on Pont Des Arts have been removed !). Breathtaking views all around. Be aware of pickpocketers. From the Vedettes du Pont Neuf,
1 Square du Vert Galant - departs, every half an hour, a 1-hour cruise along the Seine. The cruise passes through various spots along the Seine - EXACTLY in par with our Tipter route ! Internet prices (http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/): Adult : 10,00 € "open" ticket (12 € for fixed-time departure), Child : 5,00 €:

 

350 m. further walking to the north-west along the Quai de Conti brings us to the Pont des Arts.This section is packed with books' stalls along the Seine:

Some of them with iconic vinyl records:

The Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts links the Institut de France on the left bank and the central square (cour carrée) of the Palais du Louvre on the right bank.  This bridge was built etween 1802 and 1804, under the reign of Napoleon I, as the first metal bridge in Paris.  The bridge is,  today, an open-air studio for painters, artists and photographers who are drawn to its unique point of view. From 2015 all padlocks had been avoided and torn-off from the bridge panels. Thousands of padlocks (with total weight of 50 tons) had been removed from the bridge. Metal panels of this bridge had been replaced with special glass panels, where locks cannot be attached to. The Arts bridge is not anymore serving as a repository for love padlocks. There is permanent presence of street artists or performers. We felt romantic without the mighty weight of the locks and their glittering from the metal locks. Closest Métro station: Pont Neuf:

Most of the next 450 m. from Pont des Arts to Pont du Carrousel is along Quai Malaquais. king Louis-Philippe named it Pont du Carrousel in 1834, because it opened on the Right Bank river frontage of the Palais du Louvre near the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in front of the Tuileries Gardens. The bridge is situated so as to make it in line with The Louvre Museum. The one you can see today was constructed between 1935 and 1939. Its unique feature are the four stone statues, which were designed by Louis Petitot as allegorical statues depicting Industry, Abundance, The City of Paris and The River Seine, which originate from the original bridge back in 1847, although the bases they sit on are more recent. Pont du Carrousel linking the Quai des Tuileries on the Right Bank to the Quai Voltaire on the Left Bank. The nearest Métro station is Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre. The bridge carries a huge volume of traffic back and forth across the river from the archway entrance to the Louvre, to the Quai Voltaire. The views, from the Carrousel bridge, are breathtaking with the tremendous Louvre on one side of the river (and the Musee d’ Orsay on the other side, on the left bank):

The next bridge downstream is the Pont Royal. Beyond Pont du Carrousel starts Quai François Mitterrand. We walk 300 m. to Pont Royal. The third oldest bridge in Paris, after the Pont Neuf and the Pont Marie. The Pont Royal meets the left bank of the Seine in Avenue du Général Lemonnier. The bridge is constructed with five elliptical arches. The construction of a new bridge was ordered by Louis XIV. Jules Hardouin was instructed to build a bridge in stone. The five-arch bridge was built between 1685 and 1689 using the best materials and finest stone. Since its construction, it has only been slightly modified. It is a listed historical monument.

Note the impressive building on the right bank - just before arriving to the bridge:

From the Pont Royal - you see, very clearly, from the right bank the impressive complex of Musée d'Orsay:

From Pont Royal starts Quai des Tuileries and extends until the Pont de la Concorde. Our next bridge is far less known and it is the passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor or pont de Solférino. The former cast iron bridge inaugurated by Napoleon III in 1861, which allowed vehicles to cross between quai Anatole-France and quai des Tuileries. The new passerelle de Solférino linking the Musée d'Orsay and the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens) was built between 1997 and 1999. Crossing the Seine with a single span and no piers, this metallic bridge is architecturally unique and covered in exotic woods. Its materials give the bridge a light and warm appearance. Its innovative designe brought Marc Mimram, its designer, the award "Prix de l'Équerre d'Argent" for the year 1999. It is a "passerelle" and not a "pont" because there is only pedestrian traffic. The bridge was renamed after Léopold Sédar Senghor, past president of Senegal (1960-1980) (and also former French minister), on 9 October 2006 on the centenary of his birth. This is a PRETTY bridge and ROMANTIC. Don't rush over this bridge and allow time to walk on this masterpiece of engineering and design. Closest Metro station: Assemblée Nationale:

Before approaching our next bridge, Pont de la Concorde- we (hardly) see and pass (on our right, in the most western edge of Jardin des Tuileries) the Musee de l'Orangerie:

Before approaching the Pont de la Concorde - we take another phote of our last stop, in this itinerary, the Eiffel Tower:

Pont de la Concorde links the Quai des Tuileries at the Place de la Concorde (on the Right Bank) and the Quai d'Orsay (on the Left Bank). It has formerly been known as the Pont Louis XVI, Pont de la Révolution, Pont de la Concorde, Pont Louis XVI again during the Bourbon Restoration (1814), and again in 1830, Pont de la Concorde, the name it has retained to this day. It had been planned since 1755, when construction of place Louis XV (now place de la Concorde) began, to replace the ferry that crossed the river at that point. A masterpiece of Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, conceived in 1772, The demolition of the Bastille offered the perfect opportunity to finish the bridge and build one of the first monuments of the new republic. Abolishing its original name of Pont Louis XVI, the Pont de la Révolution was completed in 1791. Traffic across the bridge became very congested and the bridge had to be widened on both sides between 1930 and 1932. Today, the Concorde square is one of the busiest spots in Paris. The bridge itself is nothing special. But, you can get nice views of the Seine from this bridge. Closest Metro stations Assemblée nationale and Concorde:

View of Pont Alexandre III from Pont de la Concorde:

550 m. seperate between Pont de la Concorde and Pont Alexandre III. But, this section is one of the most beautiful parts of the Seine banks - mainly, thanks to the magnificent Pont Alexandre III. First, we pass through the Port de la Concorde (on our left) and, while approaching Pont Alexandre III - we pass north to the Port des Champs-Élysées:

The more we approach the Pont Alexandre III - the more impressive are the sights on our left:

The last 200 m. before arriving to Pont Alexandre III from east to west, along the Port des Champs-Élysées - is not less than spectacular:

The Pont Alexandre III connects the Champs-Élysées quarter in the right bank with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower in the left bank. The bridge is the most ornate, grandiose bridge in the city. It was built between 1896 and 1900. this historical monument was constructed for the 1900 Universal Exposition in the French capital. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892.  The Pont Alexandre III opened just in time for the Universal Exposition of 1900 together with several structures that still stand today like the Gare d'Orsay, the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. The exposition would attract an impressive 50 million visitors. This bridge is very unique in Paris with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses on its both ends. The style of the bridge reflects that of the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais , to which it leads on the right bank. The top design, by the architects Joseph Cassien-Bernard and Gaston Cousin, was constrained by the need to keep the bridge from obstructing the views from Les Invalides to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The closest metro station to here is Champs-Élysées - Clemenseau or Invalides.

Four gilt-bronze statues of Fames watch over the bridge. The gilded statues of the fames (representing the illustrious Arts, Sciences, Commerce and Industry) are eye-catching when looking up at them against the blue sky. This is the north side of the bridge, and, from here we start the Cours la Reine section promenade - along Port des Champs-Élysées:

The Nymph reliefs are at the centres of the arches over the Seine. On each side of the Pont Alexandre III at the centre of the curved arch, there is an angular stone, which on one side shows a hammered copper sculpture of the Nymphs of Neva displaying the arms of Imperial Russia. On the opposite side sits a sculpture of the Nymphs of the Seine, showing the arms of France. Both sculptures were produced by Georges Recipon, who also worked on the construction of the Grand Palais, in preparation for the 1900 World Fair in Paris:

There are also two statues of lions designed by the French sculptors Jules Dalou and Georges Gardet:

Here, we are 150 m. "deep" (west) in Port des Champs-Élysées:

A view back (east) to the Pont Alexandre III on our way to Pont des Invalides:

We walk only 250 m. further west to arrive to the Pont des Invalides. Again, heavy traffic will hamper your enthusiasm of this bridge. But, you get good views of Paris and the Seine from this busy bridge. This is the lowest bridge over Seine. You get amazing views of Eiffel Tower from both sides of the bridge:

You find two moving monuments in the north side of Pont des Invalides, along the right bank. The first, in Place du canada,  is the Monument in Memory of the Russian Expeditionary Force 1916 - 1918 in Paris. The bronze statue shows an ordinary Russian soldier in uniform next to a horse that was designed to look like it was drinking water, and this was the vision of Vladimir Surovtsev who was the main Russian sculptor of this monument, which he gave it a name of The Spring, referring to the Russian Soldiers homeland.  The statue was inaugurated on 21st June 2011. On 27th November 2009, the Russian Prime Minister / President Vladimir Putin and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon approved the idea of establishing a memorial dedicated to the officers and soldiers of the Russian Expeditionary Force and an international competition was launched with the renowned artist Vladimir Surovtev being the overall winner. During World War I the Allies asked for help from Russia, and the Russians responded by sending 750 officers and 45,000 soldiers from the Russian Expeditionary Force, with two of the brigades being sent to fight alongside French soldiers in Champagne, France. Unfortunately over 5,000 Russians were killed in battle, most notably defending Reims and on the Somme River:

The second monument, in Cours Albert 1, is the Armenian Genocide Memorial commemorating the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and honors the French-Armenians who died during the first and second World Wars. The monument is dedicated, especially to Father Komitas (real name:Soghomon Soghomonian), composer, and musicologist who collected the songs of oral tradition of the Armenian people. The closest métro stations are Invalides and Franklin D. Roosevelt:

With this monument starts Jardin d'Erevan - a very nice section with Linden trees, a gorgeous pocket of landscaped greenery. The relatively unknown garden was inaugurated on 12 March 2009 by French foreign affairs minister Edvard Nalbandian in the presence of legendary French singers Charles Aznavour and Helène Ségara, both Armenian in heritage. Erevan is the French name for Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

Our way from Pont des Invalides to Pont de l'Alma is especially splendid. The Jardin d'Erevan on our right and the bateaux Mouches on our left. The Bateaux-Mouches pier is located very close to the Pont de l’Alma on the Port de la Conférence. Another cruise company with boats departing from their extensive basin near the Pont des Invalides. THey own 6 passenger-boats for a romantic commentated trip down the Seine. Boat tours depart daily, running in both the daytime and evening. Most of them serve meals and have interior restaurants. The boats depart from there and travel up the Seine towards Notre Dame de Paris, passing by the Louvre Museum, the Town Hall and the Conciergerie. The boat turns around near to the Arab World Institute. Passing via the Monnaie (Paris Mint), down a small arm of the Seine between the Ile de la Cité and the Left Bank, gives you a close-up view to admire the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The cruise continues alongside the Musée d’Orsay and the National Assembly towards the Eiffel Tower. Most of their clientele are tourists groups. Price: 13 euros. Be advised: young Parisians standing on the bridges and throwing their drinks on the boats passengers' heads as you pass by... Most of the cruises are quite packed. This company runs also late-evening and late-night cruises as well. The boats are huge, flat and long and the views are good regardless of where you sit. Best at the front on the open top if the weather's allows. Magical atmosphere !  A great way to see the highlights of Paris at night without trekking from one location to the next. http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en/cruise/boat_tour

View of Eiffel Tower and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Quai Branley from Jardin d'Erevan. Note the tiger sculpture on Bateaux Muches complex roof:

Coming close to Pont de l'Alma and Place de l'Alma we observe the Mickiewicz monument. Commissioned by a Franco-Polish committee , the monument to Mickiewicz is a sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle . The first model dates from 1909 but Antoine Bourdelle saw the inauguration of this project, in Place de l'Alma, twenty years later on 28 April 1929 a few months before his death. Thereafter, the monument was moved to the Cours Albert- Ier at the Jardin d'Erevan in March 2009. It was a gift from the Poland to France:

Our next stop is the Place de l'Alma. Place de l'Alma is a square at the intersection of New York Avenue , President Wilson , George V , Montaigne and the Albert I promenade. The square is famous for its Flame of Liberty , a replica of the flame of the Statue of Liberty . This flame is overlooking the tunnel where Princess Diana died on 31 August 1997 in a car accident. It has since served as a monument to the memory of many admirers of the princess:

Pont de l'Alma (Alma Bridge) was named to commemorate the Battle of Alma during the Crimean War, in which the Ottoman-Franco-British alliance achieved victory over the Russian army, on 20 September 1854. Construction of an arch bridge took place between 1854 and 1856. It was designed by Paul-Martin Gallocher de Lagalisserie and was inaugurated by Napoleon III on 2 April 1856.