Sailing through the still water and fog as we arrived into Saint Malo, France was surreal. The city was all around us but all we could see were vague figures appearing out of the white mist. This region has some of the most steep tidal variations in the world so we had to go through a lock before pulling into the marina and mooring right next to the Old Town wall. It was the perfect location for us to walk right off the ship and into the Old Town where we strolled through the charming streets, perused the small shops and ate crepes and other french dishes on the sunny terraces while on shore leave. During low tide, the landscape changed drastically exposing the beach all along the coast and giving access to Fort National, Le Grand Be, and Le Petit Be.
On field studies, Watches Two and Three visited Fort National and Watches Four and Six visited the Memorial 39/45. Through these significant landmarks, we investigated France’s, specifically Saint Malo’s, involvement in war throughout history. Fort National was built in 1689 to protect the port and has since been heavily bombed, particularly in WWII by the Allies when Germany occupied Saint Malo. At Memorial 39/45, the students investigated weaponry, and land and machinery disturbances while deducing the battle that took place in this area which allowed them to get a closer perspective of the historical events of WWII.
Meanwhile, Watches One and Five went to Le Grand Aquarium to explore a vast diversity of marine life from around the world. One of our students even conquered her fear of fish!
We also did Rampart’s Walk along the city wall where we came across landmarks sparking engaging conversation about important historical figures such as Jacques Cartier, who was born in St Malo and sailed across the Atlantic ocean to explore Canada in the 1500s.
During our second day of field studies, we took the bus out to Mont Saint Michel, a spectacular walled city from the medieval age resembling the Disney castle emerging out of the flats of the estuary in Mont St Michel Bay. Walking through the narrow streets surrounded by old houses and shops with vintage shop signs leading up to the gothic abbey and cathedral on the summit was enough to make us feel like we stepped back in time to the medieval age. It was truly a unique place that made it not hard to understand why it held such significance for the area since the first Christian oratory was established there in 708 AD.
At the end of our port visit, a bagpiper played us farewell as we sailed back to the lock and out to sea again!
by Kelsey Hamel