Notes from trois Villages Francais


Bonjour mes amis. See, I’m speaking the lingo like a native already. In order to try and not bore you too much, I’m doing a quick review of the 3 magical places we’ve been to in the last 3 days.

1: St Malo. Although a large town, the heart is a walled city right on the waterfront. Narrow cobbled streets, an excellent church and wonderful, small, French style shops everywhere. It is more of a labyrinth than anything – it is easy to find yourself lost without a moment’s notice.

Walking these streets and gawking at the marvelous architecture you’d never know it was almost totally destroyed in WW2. The occupants wisely decided to use all the rubble from the destroyed buildings to rebuild the town. The Church spire wasn’t completed until the early ’70’s!

Did you know that St Malo is known as the City of Pirates? Arrr. Felt right at home! Not sure the shopkeepers understood me though.

2: Mont-Saint-Michel. Yes, it is a huge Abbey, but it’s also a village. The photo above was taken from a very full car park and shows clearly the cluster of houses that formed the village at the base of the Monastery.

It is worth a trip to France just to walk the streets here and wonder at the ability of the early builders. No computers, no engineers – just ingenuity. We reached the top of the Abbey just as a Mass was taking place. A priest singing, a choir of nuns, other male voices providing depth. Awe inspiring.

Some of the ‘rooms’ inside the Abbey were as big or even bigger than many churches I have been in – that might give you some idea of the size. And it’s ‘floor’ after floor after floor. We spent about 5 hours there and would have spent much longer but were locked in by bus timetables.

3: Dinan. Another magnificent walled town, up river from St Malo (thanks Ange & Brian). We ended up spending 9 hours in the town (more on that later!) and it was really only the last hour where we felt we’d had enough.

A huge clock tower (which I climbed), 2 huge churches with breathtaking stained glass windows, narrow, cobbled streets with 14th Century houses lurching overhead and some excellent artisans at work in the town with their work on display.

Now, just a few other points:

A) Finding food for C in France has been a challenge. Her main diet has consisted of fruit g/f biscuits and chocolate! Also some tins of tuna and tomatoes. Imagine her delight in finding a lettuce, fromage et tomat salad at Mont-Saint-Michel! It came perfectly prepared, only trouble was they had creatively wrapped it in a baguette! Well, that was my dinner!

B) I sense another post retirement job coming on for me. Their co-ordination when it comes to tourism n’est pas bon. Par exemple:

* No direct bus from St Malo to Mont-Saint-Michelle. Only one bus per day, a local one, which takes you to a small town, where you change for another bus to MSM!

* No regular transport to Dinan just up the river from St Malo. Only one bus a day that leaves at 7.40am!! Ferry leaves at 2.15pm reaches Dinan at 5.15 then returns at 5.30! So the poor suckers in the boat would never know there’s a magnificent town up the hill from the row of riverside buildings where the boat arrives

We left Dinan on the ferry at 6.00 (it was late!) for a beautiful trip, but it was freezing, the boat was fully air conditioned (naturally) and the trip took nearly 3 hours! So we left our hotel at 7.20am and got back in at 9.00pm!!!


The French have a tradition that when you enter a shop you greet the shopkeeper, ‘Bonjour.’ The reply, ‘Bonjour M’sieur/Madame.’ It may be just habit, but it seems to me that it makes you focus first on a person, not on things.

We drove to Brionne today. JP was mostly good, but spat it in the middle of the Motorway and I had to pull over and turn him off then back on to make him co-operate.

We also came across our 1st toll booths, no warning – had no idea what to do, just held up the traffic until a helpful Frenchman or two assisted us.

We can heartily recommend a trip to La Belle Francais – but take a bus!

I’m trying something new and hoping to attach a photo of St Malo below. Fingers crossed:



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14 Responses to Notes from trois Villages Francais

  1. BILL PERRY says:

    Great to hear from you again Jim. I was beginning to worry about you both. Your command of the language impresses me greatly, but I can imagine that you startled a few shop keepers when you spoke French with a pirate’s inflection. They probably thought you were from Quebec. I’m thoroughly enjoying the journey. Where are you taking us next?

    • Jim Wilson says:

      4 days here at Brionne Bill, then 3 in Tours followed by 7 in Paris. Off to Italy, Prague and the Greek Islands after that. Hopefully I’ll have some form of web access to keep you updated.

  2. I’m sure President Sarkozy is creating a new tourism position for your right now!

  3. Anna says:

    Why won’t this work??

  4. Jennifer says:

    Great to hear how your marvellous adventures are unfolding
    All sounds so nice. Hope you’ve had a word to the French re their lack of GF foods for Cheryl.
    Love the photos and look forward to many more .
    Take care and keep safe xox

  5. Pete says:

    Good to hear from you again James, was beginning to think you were ignoring / had forgotten us back home, hanging in eager anticipation on every word….. :-))
    It all sounds fantastic, and C & I can’t wait for the slide show evening when you return home!

  6. Tim O'Loughlin says:

    Wow, really impressed with all the places you are visiting ! They look so interesting.
    Oh to win tattslotto so I can visit them too!
    Sorry to hear about Cheryl’s difficulty finding suitable food to eat. After a while even chocolate can become boring!
    Look forward to your next blog!
    love Helen

    • Jim Wilson says:

      Thanks Helen, at a lovely B&B at the moment where they do evening meals and know about gluten free – and they are English! (well Scottish, but that’s close)

      Also had our 1st ‘picnic’ yesterday using the gas stove. Heated up some lovely carrot & coriander soup for a late lunch – plus some vin rouge of course!

      Eating at the B&B again tonight so a other good, hot meal coming up.

  7. Sue says:

    Hi J/C
    I know you are having a great time, bringing all my memories back.
    word of warning, there are many many more toll booths to come.
    I was getting a bit worried about not hearing anything for so long…thought you may have eaten some snails at La Cave.
    Look forward to the next blog..hope JP keeps up the good work.Take care.

    • Jim Wilson says:

      G’day Sue, was thinking of you as we traipsed all over MSM. Heaps of people and this is only early in the season! Looked everywhere for a Bayeux tapestry like yours but couldn’t find one. You must have got the last!

      Do you know if Bronny got my postcard from Bath? Tolls tomorrow as we head to Tours.

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