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Oceania Marina - Europe Cruise Blog #6

By:
Ben Hall
 

We're in the base of the once-feared Privateers, or Pirates, and St Malo is one of the top tourist draw cards in Brittany. This walled city is steeped in maritime history and in the Middle Ages it was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance River commanding total control of the estuary and the open sea all around it.

It's hard to believe it but St Malo was all but destroyed during the Second World War as a German fleet was based here. The ramparts that ring the city surprisingly survived the bombings but the town itself was mostly destroyed, although today you'd hardly believe it. Locals insisted the town be rebuilt in the traditional manner and that's exactly what they did brick by brick. Looking at it now, and you can see that the buildings are sort of new, even though they resemble 18th and 19th century architecture but somehow it still feels real.

St Malo was founded in the 6th century and has always asserted an independent streak and it eventually became the home of the corsairs or French privateers who were in effect pirates who survived by plundering ships coming up the English channel and they paid their own tax to the French monarchy, who were naturally very happy with the whole deal. Unlike "normal" pirates though, they didn't kill or harm their captors. They simply took whatever was on board, and the ship, and quite often crews knew this and quickly surrendered as they knew their lives were safe.

Anyway, we tendered ashore from Oceania Marina and first went up to a medieval town called Dinan on a ship's tour. It's about a 45 minute drive from St Malo and well worth the effort. This is a place where you simply wander the streets and lanes which have original medieval architecture and is also surrounded by a rampart.

Dinan was founded in the 9th century by monks and is perhaps the most beautiful of villages in Brittany with its narrow cobbled lanes and original wooden houses. We had about an hour and a half here to wander - which is about right - and then we walked the ramparts of St Malo when we returned.

Off to Paris tomorrow, from the port of Honfleur.

Oceania Cruises: +61 (2) 9959 1370, www.oceaniacruises.com.au.

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