As we were not having a long holiday in 2015 we decided to have 2 long weekends in France. One back in June when we stayed in Roscoff and another where we have just returned from a stay in St Malo. Having Plymouth just 12 miles down the road to cross the Channel to Roscoff with Brittany Ferries is just too good an opportunity to take advantage of
We boarded the Brittany Ferries flagship the Pont Aven on Thursday evening which leaves Plymouth at 8.45 p.m. for the overnight crossing. As soon as we get onboard we make a bee line to their lovely and very elegant Le Flora Restaurant waiter service French restaurant. The food in here is extremely good, particularly the buffet help yourself starter where you can have as much as you like – bliss!! I can thoroughly recommend it and you would not think that you were actually on a cross channel ferry and it is a relaxing and very enjoyable start to the holiday.
Apart from a little sideways sway at times it was a smooth crossing. As we choose to have a Commodore Cabin which includes a continental breakfast in the cabin we were woken up shortly before we arrived in Roscoff at 8.00 a.m. The sunset as we approached the Port was stunning so hopefully good weather was on the cards. We disembarked and started our journey to St Malo which took about 2 hours.
We found our hotel, the Grand Hotel de Courtoisville, parked the car in their very small car park, and I mean small, so if you have a big car be warned. As it was only around 11.30 a.m our room was not yet ready, so as we knew that it was a 30 minute walk into St Malo, we decided we would take a stroll into the walled City and have a look around. Although the hotel is not overlooking the sea you just had to walk up a side street before you came to the long seafront promenade next to the sandy beach so it was a good way to get some much needed fresh air after the ferry crossing and the 2 hour drive.
We walked through the cobbled streets where there were lots of nice shops, restaurants, creperies, cafes and bars lining the very busy streets. We then walked around the ramparts surrounded the City where you got spectacular views out to sea. As it was now around lunchtime and a French crepe beckoned so we sat and people watched as we enjoyed the French snack and did some people watching walking along the very busy street. Steve choosing the chocolate and banana filling, but I went for a much more conservative filling of maple syrup, washed down with a cold drink as it was quite warm. We continued our walk around the town, and then passed a couple of wooden tall sailing ships moored alongside the quay as we decided to make our way back to the hotel.
As we were walking back I couldn’t resist taking the photo of the little girl trundling along with her suitcase. Her mother was just in front of her so I can confirm that she wasn’t travelling the World by herself!!
Back at the hotel we were met by very friendly and efficient staff and the receptionist took us to our room. It was on the ground floor and was a large room which had all mod cons including an electric bed and window blinds, and a coffee machine although it was quite dark. There was a small patio door that led out on to a small back garden which housed a hot tub, but again this was quite a dark area and although there were some loungers it wouldn’t have been a place that I would want to sit, as it didn’t get any sun at all.
The wine box was opened, really to revive our aching feet after all that walking. It obviously did the trick as Steve laid on the bed took a couple of sips and the snoring started. This is just typical as I then had to unpack the case while sleeping beauty got his beauty sleep!!!! Just to prove women do all the work!!
Then he woke up when all the unpacking had been done and felt revived and decided to go for a swim in the hotel’s large indoor pool. I love swimming but am not keen on indoor pools, and as I had not had a nap I sat in the sunny front garden to read (well flick through) the obligatory woman’s mags that I only ever buy when I go on holiday. I have to admit that I am not a book reader, so I flick through them and realise why I don’t bother with them the rest of the time as there is really nothing in them apart from celebrity photos and trash, and they can be perused in 2 minutes and then thrown away. I must try harder to get to read a proper book, but I never seem to have the time – too busy, whilst hubby sleeps!!!
We decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, but have to say this was a real disappointment. There was only one choice of a set menu which there were 2 dishes to choose from for each course. We both started with vegetable soup as the alternative was fishy and I do not each anything that swims!! It just consisted of a thin liquidised pulp, which was not very hot and even with the addition of pepper it was very bland. Not a good start and to make it worse the bread rolls were so hard it was a good job we did not have false teeth – but after trying to eat these it might not have been long.
Both of us had to plump for duck as the main as the alternative again was fishy. The meal arrived looking very brown with no other colour or any sort of presentation just a duck leg on top of some sliced potato and something else but not quite sure what it was but the sauce was very tasty, and it definitely tasted better than it looked. We could then choose some cheese, which did not come with any biscuits but as we had some rock bread left we had to make do with that. However we were offered a salad which was quite strange and only consisted of some lettuce leaves drizzled with some dressing which actually did help to soften the bread a little. Then dessert which again was just a choice of 2 so we went for the fondant which was just a blob of some sort of congealed mousse with what I think was ribbons of apple on the top with some sort of sauce but neither of us liked the texture and we did not eat it all.
Our main gripe with the meal, was very rushed unlike the usual French laid back approach and slow pace when it comes to eating. It was not relaxed at all and there was absolutely no rest at all between courses. It was a matter of as soon as we took our last mouthful of one course the next course was put in front of you and you didn’t have time to draw breath. So after looking forward to a nice relaxing meal it certainly turned out to be a very rushed affair, but I am glad to say that the teeth were still intact. I have to say that the meal in the Le Flora restaurant on the Brittany Ferries was far superior and served at a much more leisurely pace.
As the meal was over in a flash and it was still quite early it was a lovely warm evening so we decided to go for a short stroll with the emphasis on short, as our feet were still recovering from earlier. We sat on one of the many of the wooden seats lining the promenade listening and watching the waves crashing over the sandy beach as the tide was now in. Some more people watching ensued as they too were out walking along the moonlit promenade. Then back to the hotel which was now looking quite pretty lit up.
After a good night’s sleep we went in to breakfast, which I have to say was very good with a good choice (unlike dinner). We decided that we were going to take a short boat trip to the picturesque seaside town of Dinard but had to do the 30 minute walk (and then some) into St Malo . It was quite windy walking along the promenade so we decided to walk along the main road with a view to finding a suitable restaurant for dinner later on because as you can probably guess we had no intention of eating in the hotel restaurant again. We did find a nice restaurant, only a short walk from the hotel which had an English translation of the menu and also a little notice on the window stating “English welcome”. That was enough so decided we would come back to this one later in the evening.
We eventually found the area to catch the ferry boat, and boarded the boat for the 15 minute trip across the water to Dinard. We walked along the promenade and up into the lovely town and found the local Saturday outdoor street market which was full of stalls selling all sorts of things from fruit and vegs, clothes, shoes, linens and lots of things foodie. As you can see from the photo Steve was really pleased to be there!
It was then time for a bite to eat and we decided to go back towards the sea front where we came across a bar and restaurant which had tables outside on the promenade overlooking the sandy beach. As we were going to be eating later on, our intention was to just have a snack. We ordered an omelette and a galette which unbeknown to us came with french fries, would we be able to eat all this with a big meal later on – yes of course we could!!! We had much more walking to do after this, so we did not feel guilty at all. By the side of the bar was a statue of Alfred Hitchcock with a real seagull resting on the top of the seagull on the statue so the photo just had to be taken.
Whilst we were walking around the town earlier we went into the Tourist Office for a street map and were also given a leaflet advertising a garden fete in the grounds of a local Chateau. After lunch put feet in gear again and made our way along the promenade and entered the Chateau grounds by a gate into the gardens. There was a large pond and stream with a pretty little Japanese style bridge over it. In addition to the large number of tents in the garden there was an area in front of the chateau where artists were demonstrating their wares including woodwork, metalwork and jewellery and naturally being offered for sale. My favourite however was an artist who painted using aerosol cans, graffiti this was not. At the time we were there he was spraying a picture of a robin which was quite brilliant. He could deface my wall or fence at any time!!!
Back down in the main gardens there were agricultural tents, loads of garden flowers and plants and unusual garden furniture and ornaments. You could walk around the gardens of the chateau where there were fields with goats, llamas and donkeys and large pens with various breeds of chickens and other birds .It was all very interesting and glad we made the effort to find it, and the big bonus was it was all free (unless you wanted to buy something of course!!). It was then the long but flat picturesque walk back to the ferry boat.
Got back to St Malo and before we started our walk along the promenade back to the hotel we walked through the walled city and happened to stumble across an Irish pub. The lure of a pint of Guinness was just too much of a temptation for Steve so in the middle of a major French City Steve downed a pint of Guinness. As the sun was still out I decided I just had to have a paddle in the sea so we walked along the sandy beach instead of the promenade. St Malo has a unique sea defence wall which consists of large tree trunks hammered into the sand and I challenge anyone not to take a photo of them. We have never seen anything like this before but a very interesting way to utilise dead tree trunks.
After a short rest at the hotel we calculated we must have walked around 8 – 10 miles during the day so was looking forward to the imminent evening meal. We made our way back to the restaurant Le Bouche a Oreille thinking we would probably be the only ones in there. How wrong we were, we were lucky to get a table as most of them were reserved and it wasn’t long before it was nearly full. The staff were very polite and it did make it a little easier as they spoke English and there was an extensive menu so plenty to choose from.
There was table right next to us and naturally wonder who would be sitting next to us. Would they be French which would make any sort of communication a little difficult, but it wasn’t long before we found out. We were really pleased that they did speak the same lingo as us, and realised that they were Australian. We put on our polite sociable heads and said good evening and it wasn’t long before the talking started and didn’t stop. They were very friendly and along with the very pleasant food and non stop conversation we had a very relaxing and enjoyable long evening, unlike the rushed affair we had at the hotel the previous night.
The staff were very friendly and if you are in this area I would highly recommend this very friendly restaurant. At the end of the evening we actually exchanged emails with our now Australian friends ( perhaps a trip to Melbourne beckons in the future!!!) and bade farewell. We managed to get back to our hotel just before the doors were locked.
We were up early on Sunday morning for the 2 hour trip back to Roscoff, going back a more scenic route and not on the motorway and once at Roscoff stopping at The Red Bus Wine Supermarket for our stock of wine and armed with an additional shopping list for our friends – good job the car has a big boot.
We arrived in Roscoff in plenty of time for the departure of the ferry at 3.00 p.m and decided to go back to the little restaurant we used when we actually stayed there back in June and had a leisurely lunch which included a glass of wine. So much better than sitting in the queue for the ferry. As the return journey is on the Armorique and it only has a self service restaurant where we have found the food in the past not to be that good, lunch in Roscoff was a better option.
Arrived back in Plymouth at 8.10 pm after another smooth crossing and then the short trip of 12 miles up the A38 arriving home at about 9.00 p.m.
Weekend in St Malo France September 2015