Hello from St. Malo! This place is super cool. If I haven’t gotten around to posting a picture of the city, I highly recommend a quick google. It's a super sweet walled city on the northern coast of Bretagne, very medieval feeling, with the one of the largest tidal swings in Europe. It's also home to some kick ass history, having been a Roman fort and then later a den of pirates earning the name La Cite Corsair. The corsairs were commissioned to harass any English ships in the channel and it seems like they did a bang-up job for a few hundred years.
St. Malo is also pretty fake now. It’s still beautiful but the whole city had to be reconstructed after WW2, when the Americans dropped 72,000 pounds of bombs on it. Haha, whoops! But it sounds like we got the Germans pretty good, so it's cool I guess.
I keep reading that the people hear call themselves Maloins rather than French, having had a history of claiming to be their own republic separate from France. Given their piratical predilection, one can see how France would have been all: Go ahead. You do that.
I also read that one of the cities heroes is Jacques Cartier, a corsair best known for discovering Canada and founding Quebec, a similarly uppity provence. But I’m like, wait, discovering Canada? That thing that is attached to and part of AMERICA? Little late, dude. And also, it’s not entirely clear this guy was a pirate. Like I start researching and History seems unsure. Like, well, he wasn’t not a pirate? Depends on your definition of the term: "He was a pirate."
I’ve had pirates on the brain a lot. I recently read On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers and it is my new favorite pirate book. Well, then there’s Steinbecks Cup of Gold. Whatever. On Stranger Tides is also then inspiration for the 4th Pirates of The Caribbean movie. I have long been a firm supporter of that franchise based on the clever mythologies it invents, dumb jokes, huge Rube Goldberg set pieces and genuinely frightening CGI, so my interest was piqued. That said, I can now tell you that Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a complete piece of shit.
Yay, book and film reviews! That’s why your here, right? Sorry. It seems relevant though, we are at that point in travel where we’re not doing much except walk around looking for new places to read. When we were in Bordeaux one of the highlights was us walking a mile to a patio on the river, ordering a bottle of Rosé and then reading books under the umbrellas. And that’s the only thing we did that day. Well, we probably also finished off 2 or 3 episodes of the Fargo TV Show. But that’s it, I swear.
There’s this thing about travel, or taking time off in general that I think is best expressed a Calvin & Hobbes quote: “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” But I think my little pirate fixation is a good indicator that, in terms of doing nothing, we are fucking killing it right now.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re also doing sightseeing, taking advantage of being on the other side of the world and all that. Like yesterday we went to this place:
Mont St. Michel! That is some Disney looking shit right there. Game of Thrones-y even. Place was amazing. I’m thinking it’s the best castle I will ever see in my life. Granted it’s more of a cathedral, but it’s also been home to an order of knights and later a prison. So cool. The place is inaccessible at high tide and seems to have done a pretty good job of fending off all invaders ever. Good choice, Unesco!
But now you gotta imagine the place filled, wall to wall with Italian tour groups and Norwegian High Schoolers, all armed with selfie sticks, making the battlements look like they’re hosting a reenactment of one of the many kick ass medieval sword fights that must have taken place here. You go through the gates on the island then it feels like you’re in a long line for 5 hours, until you have to leave before the tide comes in and traps you.
Once you’re on the island, you spend most of your time standing on the battlements, looking back at the shore at the tidal sands and the sea beyond, it’s either that or look at the uncomfortable crowds jostling for elbow room to take photos. And I can’t help but have pirate-y thoughts when I look at the sea. Thinking how I would sail my ship into the harbor at high tides, grapple over the castle walls in the dead of night, let my crew rampage through the gift shops and restaurants on the single narrow lane. We’d control the abbey by dawn, break out the rum and set up some couches and a PS4 in the Knights hall. We could hold off the tourists for months!
I think the thesis here is that being a pirate is the ultimate vacation. Or maybe piracy is just career that’s a good example of work/life balance. And that’s been on my mind.
With less than 3 weeks left in France, I spend a lot of time thinking about what it will be like to return to work. I’m looking forward to it, but I also enjoy the thought of a client meeting going south and then my boss places a loaded flintlock pistol on the conference table and suggests the client accept the work or be boarded. It’ll be good though, as much as I’ll miss France and all the free time I have here, my workplace runs a lot like pirate ship as it is. I’ll be fine.
In lieu of a pirate vacation, Thalia and I walk around the city in the fog, climbing over the rocks at low tide, talking about what we would do if we were the rulers of walled city of St. Malo. We’d make laws about selfie sticks, demand tribute in the form of local cider and cheeses, maybe a little gold. And then we’d probably hang out, go for occasional walks, sit on a couch, listen to the rain, read and drink tea.
Which is what we’re doing now.