The island sits on the horizon like an invitation to explore
where the Allies unleashed a veritable hellfire in August 1944, dropping more than 20,000 bombs. The German troops gave up in the end but only because they ran out of water.
It was glassy calm as we headed out and, rather than motor all the way to Ile de Cézembre, we decided to head to Le Fort île Harbour, one-and-a-half miles west of St Malo. Like Ile de Cézembre, the island was fortified by King Louis XIV against the marauding British, although it doesn’t seem to have suffered as badly during the Second World War. After the conflict, it was turned into a private property and in the 1970s, was owned by French film star Alain Délon. We anchored and rafted up the two boats on the southwest side of the island to have our picnic — we had brought a rather expensive bottle of English white wine for the occasion, which was greeted with a certain amount of amusement. By the time we headed back to St Malo, an offshore breeze had sprung up and the bay was dotted with sailboats of all sizes. The sun was shining, and St Malo seemed to hover over the horizon like a mirage. It was a perfect afternoon and rather than head straight back to Port des Sablons, we tacked out to sea again, past the island of Grand Bé and Petit Bé, off the walls of St Malo, and out towards Ile de Cézembre before reluctantly heading back into harbour.
It was only later I discovered the waters we had been sailing across were once fields — the Prairies de Cézembre — where livestock once grazed until an earthquake lowered the ground level in around 1160. Indeed, Le Phare de Grand Jardin — literally, ‘lighthouse of big garden’— which marks the western approach to the channel and now lies two miles offshore, was once the mouth of the River Rance: 900 years earlier, we would have been sailing amongst cattle!
Beautiful scenery, fascinating history and a plentiful supply of croissants – St Malo really has it all.
ABOVE: Anchor off the private island of Fort Harbour, the ideal lunch spot. See more of these boats at www.grandlargue.fr Two beaches at Cézembre make it an ideal spot for escaping the crowds
BELOW: Cézembre has just one restaurant