Stage 10: Saint Gildas to Saint Malo
SAINT-GILDAS-DES-BOIS TODAY- A FARM SCHOOL
The farm school in St Gildas was created in 1849 as an institution for the sons of local peasants to teach them the trades of farming and breeding.A chapel was also built on the spot to spare the pupils a long walk to go to church. In 1876 the farm was sold to a religious institution from Ploermel who took great care of the chapel. In 1905 the farm was turned into a dairy while the chapel became a barn for straw. The site was abandoned in 1973. The town bought the farm in 1990 and turned it into a school for construction workers hosting some 50 pupils each year. Through the years, students and teachers restored the farm and preserved the chapel which was equipped with a belfry in 2008 and by a slate-roofed spire a year later.
SAINT-GILDAS-DES-BOIS AND CYCLING
Saint-Gildas-des-Bois never hosted a Tour de France stage but still has some expertise in the field of sprinters. In 2001, the town saw the peloton head towards nearby Redon for a bunch sprint won by Tyler Farrar. A year before, the St Gildas stage of the Tour of Brittany was won by a then little known German sprinter named John Degenkolb. St Gildas also host every year the Under-23 Loire-Atlantique race won in 2010 by another fast man, 2012 French champion Nacer Bouhanni.
PLACES TO SEE:
The abbey of Saint-Gildas-des-Bois was built in the early 11th century when the abbot of St Gildas de Rhuys decides to evangelise the southern part of Brittany. Relics of St Gildas were brought to the new monastery at the time and remained in the church until the Revolution when they were lost. Thought to cure mental diseases, the relics attracted many pilgrims, forcing the monks to build a larger church. In the mid-12t century, the new church was built and remains remarkable for its unity of style. It is for instance made of “roussard”, a local sandstone rusting in humidity. Its stained glass windows conceived by Pascal Convert and installed in 2007 contributed to the renown of the church. The buildings of the old abbey are still occupied by Religious Sisters of Christian Education, an order also known as the St Gildas sisters.
Etonnants Voyageurs Book Festival
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Etonnants Voyageurs Book Festival of St Malo has invited readers to travel through books in a port which has always been a base for deep sea travels and adventure. Founded in 1990 by travel writers Michel Le Bris, Brigitte Morin, Christian Rolland, Maëtte Chantrel and Jean-Claude Izzo, all of them keen travellers, the Festival is now visited by 60,000 persons each year. Exhibitions and awards are some of the events taking place in the world largest event dedicated to travel literature, set for the most part in the Duguay-Trouin Hall, bearing the name of one of St Malo's most celebrated sailors. Chef Olivier Roellinger and writer Chantal Pelletier also invite the visitors to a culinary journey. A festival about travelling could not remain forever confined within the walls of St Malo. Etonnants Voyageurs has now migrated over several continents. After Bamako in 2000, Haiti, Haifa and Brazzaville have hosted their own editions.
SAINT-MALO AND CYCLING:
St-Malo was the finish of seven tour stages, most of the time won by sprinters, but the last visit of the Tour took place in 2008 for a stage going backwards to Nantes. Samuel Dumoulin had then taken the better off his breakaway companions, including Romain Feillu, who took the yellow jersey. While the first winner in St-Malo, Ferdi Kubler, was a buccaneer of sorts, the Breton city usually favoured bunch sprints with wins by Andre Darrigade (1960), Walter Godefroot (1967) or Patrick Sercu (1974). The day after Darrigade’s victory in 1960, a breakaway between St Malo and Lorient decided of the outcome of the edition. The stage was won by Roger Riviere, who would later crash and lose the Tour while Italy’s Gastone Nencini was part of the winning breakaway and came too close to the yellow jersey to miss it.In a much more remote past, a single edition of Paris – St-Malo took place in 1894 but was never repeated. Among the riders originating from the town feature Andre Chalmel, a former teammate of Bernard Hinault.Lastly, it is in St-Malo that Louison Bobet launched his first thalasso therapy centre in 1963.
PLACES TO SEE
It is a fortified keep composed of three towers located at the mouth of the river Rance. It was built between 1369 and 1382 by Duke John IV of Brittany to control Rance at a time when the town resisted his authority. The tower was built on a more ancient fortified site, possibly dating from the Gallo-Roman period. It was later turned into a prison and is now a museum paying tribute to Cape Horn sailors.
Fort National Island
The Fort National Island is an island at high tide and a peninsula at low tide. The Fort National was built in 1689 by engineer Simeon Garrangeau from plans by Vauban on orders by King Louis XIV in the same time as the ramparts were consolidated.
International House of Poets and Writers
One of the rare houses to have survived to the great fire of 1661 and to the destruction of the city in 1944, it was built in the early 17th century by navy architects from timber taken from ships. It has been turned into a home for poets and writers, for meetings and debates, translation and writing workshops. The house also hosts the International Poetry Encounters in October and literary walks in the streets of St Malo.
On his death, the remains of Chateaubriand were taken back to St-Malo and buried, upon his wish, on the Grand Bé rock, a small island in the middle of the St Malo bay. It can be accessed by foot when the tide is low.
One of the greatest tourist attractions in Brittany.
Built in oak from around 300 trees and six metres high, the breakwaters are scattered on the beach to protect the city in high tides and are famous fixtures of the city.