I have more tales to share about Saint-Malo, but thankfully they aren’t as disturbing as marauding dogs during the night.
The city of Saint-Malo first hit my radar when I read the book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
It is a haunting story of a blind girl’s survival during World War II. A large part of the story was set in the old city of Saint-Malo and it immediately captured my imagination.
Then in that strange way that synchronicity sometimes seems to work, this was around the same time that my father-in-law’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. He began to tell stories about his past, which included his great-grandfather’s early life in Quebec.
It was a story that started in Saint-Malo when great-grandfather left France for Quebec.
It was never clear whether Gilles’ family were originally Malouins or if they had simply sailed for the New World from that port. It didn’t matter. I now had two reasons to want to visit this ancient city.
Saint-Malo has an interesting history that can be traced back to the 1st century BC. While the modern city sprawls well beyond the great fortified walls of the old port, it was within the old city that we spent all of our time there.
While it could take me a few posts to capture all of our stories from Saint-Malo, our first few hours there left a deep impression.
Like any old city, it is a rabbit warren of tiny streets that twist and turn. Our rental car was left outside of the city walls while we pulled our luggage through the cobblestone streets searching for our apartment.
Our apartment was a very old, eclectic space that thankfully included modern conveniences like plumbing and electrical. It did however come with several quirky features including a tight circular staircase to the second floor where we were staying.
One thing that deeply disturbed me in every place we stayed was that the doors required a key to lock and unlock – even from the inside. This is in contrast to the safety standard in Canada that requires all doors can be opened easily from the inside – without a key.
Our apartment had three separate doors between our unit and the street outside. Each was kept locked and required a different key. I was horrified at what that meant in the event of a fire, and to my great discomfort, I discovered that Gilles had locked me inside the apartment on our first morning while he went in search of coffee.
The funny part is that we are no strangers to travel in Europe and why this never registered with us before is a mystery.
Vague memories of Grade 5 history began to waft up to the surface as we found references to Jacques Cartier everywhere.
Jacques Cartier, credited with the discovery and exploration of eastern Canada and Quebec, was a Malouin and sailed from Saint-Malo in 1534 on his journey to Canada.
I’ll be back with more doors from this fascinating city next week.
Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton – a fellow Canadian – at Norm 2.0.