The Drive from St. Malo to Caen
When I wrote about my September trip to Normandy & Brittany a few weeks back, I didn’t really talk much about where we went once we got there! In case you too are interested in a quick weekend trip, here’s a summary of everything we accomplished in 36 hours on our drive from St. Malo to Caen. (We took the car on the ferry from Portsmoth, which helped.) It’s a beautiful part of the world that I highly recommend visiting. Enjoy!
St. Malo: The photo above is of St. Malo, a gorgeous little medieval town. I wish was had had more time here because it was early when we arrived and most shops and restaurants were closed. Lovely just to walk around. I would gladly go back here. Definitely walk along the ramparts in St. Malo.
Dinard: This is a great stop on your drive from St. Malo to Caen or Caen to St. Malo. It’s a great beach town and a market town too. Excellent people watching. While we didn’t find much at the market that struck our fancy — we were really hoping for an oyster bar or something — I can see how this town might be an appealing destination in summer. It seemed very Edith Wharton-y. The beach is worth a return visit.
Cancale: This was definitely a highlight of our trip. Sure, it’s a little touristy — oyster restaurants are chock-a-block up and down the main drag — but as someone who loves oysters, this was nirvana. We somehow decided to park up above town and walk down a little woodland path, putting us on the opposite end of town from all the oyster restaurants. Not to fear though, we had a lovely lunch at Cote Mer and walked it off on our way down the beach to see the rest of town. Would gladly go back to Cancale and Cote Mer next time we make the drive from St. Malo to Caen or Caen to St. Malo.
Mont Ste Michel: Definitely beautiful, but rammed with people and we got there too late in the day. The monastery closes at 5 pm! I suppose it’s a must see but there were just too many people for me. A lot of people ask about the steps and it honestly wasn’t too bad but if you like me are still recovering from a bad ankle sprain, it’s a little troublesome. (Note: I’ve since returned to Mont Ste Michel…in the rain. You can’t win!) If I return at 3rd time, I would try to stay overnight to see the tides come in and out and explore Mont Ste Michel before (or after) the tourists descend.
Honfleur: We loved this little ocean-faring town. Lots of boats, lots of medieval architecture. A little touristy but enjoyable just the same.
- Where we slept: Motel Les Bleuets. Clean, quiet, free bikes and a good breakfast. If you need a place to stay on the drive from St. Malo to Caen or Caen to St. Malo, definitely consider this place.
- Where we ate: Au Relais Des Cyclistes. Very very popular with the tourist crowd. A little too heaving for me but many people will like its liveliness.
Pont-l’Évêque: The next morning, it was time to continue our drive from St. Malo to Caen. Sunday was rainy and dreary so we headed for the Pere Magloire Calvados Distillery. The tour was all in French, but we somehow managed to understand most of it and our tour guide was good at translating for us here and there. Definitely call in advance to ask about English tours. Very generous and inexpensive tasting at the end of the tour. Note that it looks like Pere Magloire is now closed so try Calvados Christian Drouin instead. In short, when you are in this part of France, drink all the Calvados!
Caen: This is a port city so it’s not a destination really but we pulled into town and headed straight for the Normandie Wine Warehouse and loaded up the car with cases upon cases of wine. We then stopped for a surprisingly tasty lunch at the relatively non-descript Brasserie la Phare before queuing up for the ferry. Damn, I want to be able to cook like a French person. One thing we learned about France on a Sunday…it is VERY hard to get a table for lunch. Most places are totally booked up. Definitely plan in advance. We had pretty much given up before the woman at Normandie Wine Warehouse recommended Brasserie la Phare and although it didn’t look like much from the outside, it was great.
I honestly cannot wait to go back to this part of the world. I highly recommend it for a weekend jaunt! Driving from St. Malo to Caen or Caen to St. Malo is a wonderful way to spend a few days.