Doors of Saint-Malo: Part 2

As the title suggests, this week for Thursday Doors I’m back revisiting the old port city of Saint-Malo.

Off the beach of the old city is an archipelago of small rocky outcroppings. One of these islands – the Grand Bé – is home to Fort National built in 1689.

Originally called Fort Royal, it was built to protect the city of Saint-Malo, but has now been long abandoned … except by tourists. It was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during WWII but was subsequently restored according to its original plans.

It sits only a few hundred meters from the city wall and at low tide, one can easily walk to the Fort on the hard-packed sand.

At low tide, when the flag is flying, the Fort is open to visitors.
At high tide, the flag is lowered and the Fort is closed to visitors.

The former barracks, now renovated, are still used occasionally by the Fort staff when the tide comes in and they are unable to leave.

Although there was no access to the barracks, the dungeon was open.

Not a place I’d want to stay in the damp darkness.
This view made me think of The Eyrie from Game of Thrones
From outside the walls of Fort National, young tour guides now welcome tourists.
The door into the Fort grounds.

Inside the outer walls, the Fort is built into the rock of the Grand Bé and the only entrance is surrounded by a moat. While the door may not look impressive on the outside, the inside of the door hides its true strength.

Its heavy metal hardware, combined with multiple locking systems, tell only part of the story. On either side of the door are deep grooves within the wall. These grooves support a heavy metal grate that could be dropped down from above the doorway to secure the entrance in the event of an attack.

View of Saint-Malo from Fort National
Note the long line of wooden poles protecting the front of the city wall.

My biggest anticipation was to witness the high tide and I was über diligent to ensure we would be safely across in time.

… but I was underwhelmed.

Based on the book, All The Light You Cannot See, I expected a huge tide that would rise up the walls of the city. The thick poles lining the wall reenforced my expectation.

Using Gilles as perspective

These poles are used to deflect the force of heavy waves from damaging the walls.

However I didn’t get to see any of that because the high tide came nowhere close to the city walls. Since I’ve never lived anywhere near the sea, I can now only assume that the height of tides widely vary and I was unfortunate to be there at a “low-high” tide.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton from Norm 2.0.


  1. That looks like such an amazing place to visit. I’ve not visited places only accessible based on tides, but there were some in Scotland that I would want to visit if I make it back.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the Mediterranean sea, and especially my Adriatic is especially uneventful regarding the tides. I’d have grand expectations and quite a bit of fear as well. Marvellous location and doors.


  3. They definitely weren’t mucking around with those doors.

    One of our local real estate agents prints tide charts for two months at a time onto postcards and puts them through letterboxes in the neighbourhood. That’s his main form of marketing and it makes sense in our community, especially as so many people have boats.

    The height of each tide at a particular place can vary quite a lot, even within a day. It depends on the position of the sun and the moon, relative to Earth and each other I think. In Auckland, if we get a Spring tide (higher than average high tide that happens when a new or full moon occurs at the same time as the moon is at its perigee) coinciding with a storm, it creates havoc — lots of flooding and road closures..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such beautiful pictures,Joanne. I would definitely want to visit this place and take more shots from various angles. Thank you for sharing it with us. It was a virtual trip for me.


  5. Wow, you must like danger (calling it unfortunate you were there at low tide!) The dungeon does not look like a comfortable place to stay overnight, but at least you won’t be caught in the cold at an overnighter! Also love the white buildings. Assume Gilles is your hubby? Not long ago I read a reply from you to someone saying “my husband” – Whaat??all the time I have been thinking you were single! This is now the first time I see (I may have missed other posts of you where Gilles on your blog). If I’m making the wrong conclusion with this last info, let me know, lol!


    • LOL – poor Gilles relegated to the background 😉

      I am married (36 years this year!) but when you’re married to a triathlete, you get used to spending a lot of time alone while they are training.

      I don’t talk about him very often because (1) in the early days of blogging he would often say ‘you aren’t going to write about that are you?’ so I took that as a sign that he wanted to stay private.
      2) He still works full-time and over the years my interests have swelled, so my everyday ‘adventures’ rarely, if ever, include him. I simply can’t get him interested in hiking or kayaking. His world revolves around swim, bike, run.


      • Have no idea what it is to be married to an athlete. Sports have never been my interest. But 36 years is a long time!! So I guess you are okay together, or are used to this kind of life. With us, when we go to Yosemite Nat. Park, hubs goes hiking and I go with him for 10 min. and stop to paint, and at the end we meet to go to the cabin, or home. Hope though you still have together times somewhere in between!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What a beautiful setting, Joanne. You took some lovely photos of it. The dungeon looks cool but creepy. There can be a huge difference between high and low tide and if there’s been a lot of rain and rivers emptying into the sea a high tide can cause terrible flooding.


    • I guess when you live near the sea, checking tidal times becomes a norm – like checking the weather.

      Someday I hope to go to the Bay of Fundy which is supposed to have the highest tides in the world. There is a hiking trail across the beach at low tide. It would be something to see!

      Liked by 1 person

          • I remember flying in the ’70s between S.Africa and the UK when there was room (and it was allowed) for my small children to lie on the floor in front of our seats so they could sleep; when you could pass the trolley dolly (!) in the aisle and when babies were allowed to crawl around at the back of the plane. All this cramming in of (narrow) seats has not had a good effect on travel in my opinion.


  7. This place reminds me so much of Mont St. Michel. Wow. I visited that one years ago and DID get caught as the tide rose. This Fort is creepily scary to me. Seems so isolated and dark and damp. Your photos are marvelous – to be ‘stuck’ here would be nightmarish!


  8. So many gorgeous doors! I don’t know enough about tides but they are very slow in rising and receding, from what I saw in Barbados. And some tides did seem higher than others…I really should look deeper into this, and read that book again now that I have some photos to bring it to further life. Thanks Joanne!



  9. Well you didn’t get an impressive high tide but at least you didn’t get stuck and have to spend the night in the barracks or even worse, the dungeon. The place look pretty darn close to impenetrable. You found some beautiful solid doors, gates, and hardware.
    Thanks for reminding me again that I HAVE to get to France one of these days 🙂


    • When it comes to France, I’m admittedly biased. My love is blind 😍

      Experiencing a real high tide remains on my to-do list … but preferably from the comfort of a safe shoreline 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. You sure said that right about “low high” Tides and it always amazes me how different the sea waters can be – sorry you were underwhelmed but at least you were nkt there during a storm

    The doors are strong and look durable – and I can imagine the heavy gate dropping down behind the one you mentioned –
    Oh and I like G’s yellow down jacket


    • I would have been one of those crazies out in the storm just to see the sea churned up by the winds 😏

      Gilles LOVES that yellow jacket … and I do too. He’s very easy to find in a crowd 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bonus that he stands out among the browns/black coats and grays even…
        My husband has one in kelly green – was a sale and at first I hated it – but came to love it! Both of mine are black – and son2 just got rid of a light light gray one that I snagged to see if it felt right – it doesn’t and so will find someone who wants it –


  11. Between you and Tippy, I get great history lessons! Would love to explore this castle. Thanks for the pictures. Sorry the tide wasn’t really high, you are right, it can really vary.


  12. Beautiful pictures, Joanne. I can’t imagine being at the fort and then having high tide take place (though I guess they must close it off well beforehand). Yes, that is one damp and cold-looking dungeon. Brrr. – Marty


  13. Great history, and a wonderful red door. I’ve been on the beach when the High Tide was coming in so fast I was knee deep before I knew it! Once when we were kids camping at the beach when my Dad didn’t realize the tide would rise so high as to get all the way back to the cliffs it did and our camp got soaked! Fortunately that time there was higher ground to retreat to and pitch our tent.

    I hope you get to see a dramatic high tide come in once, but from a distance that is just right so no swimming back is required!


  14. Perhaps you & Gilles would have been put up in the barracks if you had hung around until the tide came in! I find the science of high & low tide fascinating. Like you, I have never lived by the sea but I suspect if you do, it is something you want to become quite familiar with!


  15. ‘using Gilles as perspective’….for some reason, that just cracked me up. Waiting for you to use Gilles to measure the high tide… 😀 This is one cool place, though, Joanne.


  16. Hi Joanne, I am enjoying my morning history lesson🙂I gather that the flag flying or not flying is predominantly a safety issue re the tides. We are greatly affected by tides around our island and we usually check ahead online before we head out on certain hikes or boat trips. The thought of being stranded on a rock or worse on the West Coast is scary. I also immediately saw the “Eyrie.” Great photos! 🙂


    • Since I’ve never lived near the sea, I have a fascination with it … along with a healthy dose of fear. While I can see checking tides before a boat trip, it would never occur to me to check them before a hike!! Thanks for the heads up. Eventually I will make my way back to the West Coast. It’s been a very long time!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Extra like on visiting the West Coast! We definitely check tides, especially hikes in the Port Renfrew area, Botanical beach. This area is about a 2 hour drive from Victoria (1 way). When we first moved here, it was the first place “locals” told us to visit. When it is low tide, you can access the tidal pools easily and they are filled with ocean life. You likely have heard about the West Coast trail. The hikers definitely know the tide time tables as to which route they take and where they camp. I am not at all familiar with the East coast trail you and Deb will be on. Should be a ton of fun for the both of you!


  17. I suppose the drama of a high tide would vary, too, based on the geography. If the tide comes through a narrow passage, maybe it would be more dramatic than if it has a lot of room to spread out and make itself comfortable. Wonderful photographs, anyway! I love the view of Saint-Malo from the fort. ❤


  18. High tides are an experience and when they coincide with the full moon they are ultra! The photos are lovely Joanne but in some way, for me, rather foreboding.


    • I think I know what you mean about that dark foreboding feeling. There is a ‘menacing’ look about the Fort and the great walls surrounding the old city.

      Someday I hope to go to the Bay of Fundy on the east coast of Canada where the highest tides in the world are said to occur.
      Saint-Malo was a non-event in the tide category so I feel like I haven’t really experienced them yet.
      Thanks for the tip that if I do make it to the Bay of Fundy, I will time it to coincide with the full moon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I would have really enjoyed this. The sea, the doors, the stonework. The barracks is a charming stone building. Beautiful picture of the Fort at high tide. My favorite door this post, the one leading to the Fort grounds.


    • Although I’ve lived my entire life near water, it’s always been fresh water. I have a fascination with how different it would be to live near the sea and its tides. This was a big part of the draw to Saint-Malo for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. What a wonderful day trip, but keep a spring in your step so you can get the return trip in before the high tide. Love it! The only time I did something like that was years and years ago, we walked out to a place to look for sand dollars, and we had to book it out and back because there was no lodging available just the opportunity to swim back. 🙂


    • It never occurred to me until now that we should have stuck around to see if there was some kind of bell or alarm to let people know they should start the return.

      I had never seen a tide come in or go out before and I was looking forward to some dramatic event. Yeaaaah … not so much. No swimming would have been required 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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