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The first full day of our family holiday in St Malo. So we’ve done the tunnel, we’ve done a night over in Rouen (including a worrying incident involving Izzy and a glass), and we’ve done a load of motorways. We’ve found our accommodation and we’ve done our first extremely expensive French shopping trip. We’ve allocated our sleeping quarters and had our first night’s sleep there.

And so to the first opportunity to go for a swim before most people are even up for breakfast. OK, so Ami has an obsession, but I guess that’s why we chose this place rather than the many others. There’s no way she would survive somewhere with no pool. So Ami got out of bed and put her swimming costume on straight away. It wasn’t that early, but she was itching for it.  And because Grandad hadn’t come round early on then we had to get up early too and go with her.

It was quite a cloudy morning and whilst not cold, it wasn’t really warm either. We managed to hold her back long enough to get some pain au chocolat down her before swimming. Izzy joined the party too (somewhat slower) and the main problem was that Ami ignored instructions and dived in without waiting for either of us. Her swimming isn’t too bad now but it is imposing a little bit much to expect that the owner will keep an eye on our kids as well as his own grandkids. Hmmm! We need to watch her more closely.

Anyway, a good old swim was had by all until the shivering finally got the better of Izzy and we started to pack up.

By lunchtime the weather was getting progressively better so we got cleaned up and headed off for our nominal host city of  St Malo for the afternoon. We didn’t have a particular plan but we had a list of geocaches loaded up on the GPS for central St Malo, most of which are around the outer side of the city ramparts.

The “old town” of St Malo was almost completely rebuilt after the war in the style of the original (but presumably with better plumbing). The effect is good. It looks great and whilst the streets are quite narrow there isn’t a lot of traffic and the bodies move along fairly quickly. Obviously, we totally ignored our host’s advice and tried to park near the old town. We had to queue to get into a park and even then we had to play “stalk a punter” because we were let in when no spaces were actually available, but we found a spot eventually. Eventually….. Flamin’ tourists….

We began our walk around the ramparts from the Chateau end and proceeded in a generally westerly direction. At one point it was obvious Izzy and Granny were struggling a bit so we split into 2 groups, with Grandad, Granny and Izzy mooching about and getting ice creams while Kev, Kas and Ami crossed the causeway onto the Île du Grand Bé, home to the tomb of François-René de Chateaubriand. Apparently, he was a writer as well as his time inventing a steak (or was it a red wine?). Anyway, he’s buried on this little island off St Malo. Also buried on the island is a geocache. Whilst hunting for this particular one we had our first experience of a cacher-jam. A nice Dutch gentleman standing above us said “I think the thing you’re looking for is just here”. And then his Mrs sitting on a rock below said “It’s within 2 metres of here” Points to us though, as we (Kev) actually spotted the suspicious-looking pile of rocks and checked beneath to reveal the goodies. We dropped off a geocoin transported from Milton Keynes and then, behold, another group of cachers. French, this time, we think. Anyway, we had to ask them politely to look away while we hid it again, but even then it’s pretty obvious when you’re there.

Said Dutch couple also gave us a less than subtle pointer at the other two nearby ones, so we set off back across the causeway filled with confidence. Halfway over we saw Grandad waving at us and met to confirm they would be waiting at a nearby waterside cafe and having an ice cream. Works for us. So we found those two quickly and the family reunited at a beachside cafe for a much-earned beer/ice cream/whatever.

The afternoon was moving on so we decided to mooch into the old town for some dinner. One final cache on the way which turned out to be the sneakiest plant ever. So sneaky, in fact, that it took Kas a while to notice when she had it in her hand. See below for further information, but it was a cunning little thing.

We entered the old town and pretty much immediately came upon a small square, in which we found a bloke doing hair braids. Ami immediately decided she wanted one, and so did Izzy. Kas was havering a bit. We dragged the girls off for dinner on a promise of returning later.

Dinner was at a small bistro on the Rue de Chartres. We had a selection of pizzas, pasta and chicken nuggets, as ever. It was OK but fairly uninspiring, but I guess that’s what you get in a tourist trap like this. After dinner we scooted off back up the hill to the hair braiding guy only to discover he was just packing up. I’m sure that wouldn’t happen in La Rochelle. So we trudged back down the hill to the car with two slightly grumpy and distinctly tired little girls, and then back home.

Our first full day finished, with a general absence of grief. Both old and young shot off to bed as soon as we got home and Kev and Kas were left supping wine and struggling to get a response out of the on-site wi-fi. It’s not very quick.

The caching diary went roughly as follows :

  • First up was supposedly Saint Malo Porte Saint Thomas, and our first encounter with the works of St Malo’s busiest cacher, gdugardon. This is supposed to be on the mechanism of a doorway into the old town, but our way in was somewhat obstructed by bikes and many onlookers. We had a couple of shifty looks but eventually gave up and moved on around the ramparts.
  • Next up was supposed to be Remparts de Saint Malo #1. This is shown on one of the rampart towers on the north side. It is fair to say that we had a few location issues, both in terms of altitude and position. We searched at length on the top of the tower, around all the doors and even inside the little art gallery. All to no avail. This caching overseas game is a bit tricky, so it seems. We have yet to get close. After 20 minutes and some obviously bored children and parents we moved on. It was quite a warm day and lots of standing around in these crowds was making stuff worse.
  • After a bit longer Izzy decided it was time for a drink, so we left her with Granny and Grandad and the other three of us headed over the beach and causeway onto the little island which is home to Saint Malo extra muros by homerchris. This one can only be reached at low tide so it was quite possibly now or never. The tidal range here is a scary 14 metres, so when it comes in, it really comes in. The cache itself proved easy enough to find but also was our first experience of a queue at a cache site. Whilst we were doing the lido-shuffle, bearing-boogie and terrain-tango we heard a voice above us saying “the thing you are looking for is very close to here” It turned out to be a Dutch couple and a very large dog who were also out for a spot of holiday caching. Cool. Never met any others before. So we agreed to search together, at which point Ami and Kev immediately spotted a previously unseen heap of stones and hey presto, Bob’s your teapot, and all that. While we were signing and generally discussing caching with our new found friends a group of French people stated hanging around an looking a bit shifty too. Hold on, they have a GPS too. Not more cachers. So we told them they would have to wait until we finished signing it and then hiding it again. Look away please…….
  • However, we did take a PAF from them over the previous failure at Remparts de Saint Malo #1. They sorted out our altitude problems and after that it was a nice quick one. Just as well because Izzy was running across the sand to meet us, having finished her drink and wee stop. Apparently though, she was now ready for an ice cream, and so was Ami, so we all stopped at a beachside bar.
  • On the way uphill from here we had a pop at Saint Malo – Porte des Bes. We mooched about for a bit and bumped into the French group from over on the island. I think they used the phrase “you will have to wait until we put it back” I think the Dutch couple may have given us a PAF for this one as I remember we walked pretty much straight to it. It was a cunning little micro.
  • From there we mooched about the inner walls for a while and then eventually popped out at Saint Malo – Porte Saint Pierre. This one had a cunning description and was shown a long way from the gate which gives its name. It was a good 50 yards away down a ramp onto the beach. I won’t give away the absolute details but it was one of those where Kas picked up something whilst saying “I wonder if it is inside this thing” and I remember replying something like “no, because it is in your hand…..” It was a cunning hide. One of our favourites so far. Actually, Mr gdugardon has done a few cunning ones.

All in all, a nice walk around in the sunshine with a few cache finds and some good architecture, so a good start to the holiday.