My son and I both woke up in our hotel room feeling tired thanks to a combination of travel and jet lag. But there was no time to waste ... we were in Namur, Belgium and we had a boat to catch later that day in St. Malo, France!
We enjoyed a nice sunrise from our hotel window (see below), followed by an outstanding breakfast at the restaurant in our hotel, Château de Namur. Amazing croissants along with fruit, hot chocolate, salmon, fresh bread/rolls, local strawberry jam, cured meats, and some fresh squeezed orange juice that tasted awesome. With all of those great options, Erik chose to have cereal (chocos and corn flakes) and a few sausages, along with some hot chocolate and a glass of orange juice.
After breakfast, Erik and I packed and took some photos of the hotel before making our way into the city of Namur.
We found a place to park near a medical school and walked to our target destination - La Maison des Desserts … well known for its pastries and chocolates. Erik had a blue macaron, which looked tiny compared the monstrosity that I ordered (see photo below) - a mille feuille (Napolean) that was large, messy, and tasty. It hit the spot.
We enjoyed hanging out at La Maison des Desserts and made friends with a long-haired dachshund that immediately rolled on his back to let us pet him. The owners were a older couple who just smiled as we pet their dog. We're both suckers for dogs and Erik is a big fan of long-haired dachshunds.
The two photos below are from the website of La Maison des Desserts.
After our "second breakfast", which was really dessert for us, we walked the city streets of Namur, the capital of French-speaking Wallonia, with a population of about 110,000 people. It's a picturesque city with a laid back vibe and we both enjoyed our short stay. I was a slacker in taking photos while in Namur, so here are three photos (with credits) that capture the scene:
Photo from www.creationearth.com/photography/namur
Photo from Wikipedia (how's that for unoriginal!)
Photo from https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namur_(city)
Eventually we made our way to our car. We had a 6.5 hour journey ahead of us to St. Malo, France where we planned to catch a 6:30pm boat bound for Jersey and Guernsey. St. Malo is a port town with about 50,000 people in Brittany - the northwest region of France. The city of St. Malo was pummeled by the U.S. and Britain during World War II when Germany occupied the city. The rebuilt city of St. Malo is now a popular tourist destination and serves as a ferry terminal for boats headed to the U.K., including Jersey and Guernsey. The city was also featured in a popular book called "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. Unfortunately, I didn't read the book until after my visit!
It was a long, easy drive, with the notable exception of me being clueless at our first gas station of the trip. First, I couldn't figure out where to pay, and second I couldn't figure out how to get my car key back out of the gas cap. I finally figured out that I needed to place the cap back into the gas tank before I could pull the key out. I'll let you use your imagination when it comes to all of the different strategies (and accompanying commentary) that I used in my attempt to free the key from the gas cap while the cap was in my hand. Let's just say that it was an education ... and a 25-minute stop.
We finally made it to St. Malo, France at 5:50pm … just in time for our 6:30pm boat departure with the Condor Ferry. But as I checked in at the Condor Ferry reservation desk, I received some bad news. Tomorrow's boat from Guernsey to St. Malo was canceled. That left us with two options: I could stay in Guernsey for 2 nights or 0 nights. I already had a room booked at the Farmhouse Hotel (pre-paid and non-refundable) in Guernsey. In the end, I decided to cancel, which was a bummer since I was really looking forward to that part of the trip.
Next was the matter of our boat reservations. I checked online for available lodgings in Jersey but everything seemed to be booked. So we decided to simply take the boat to Jersey, go through customs, catch a glimpse of Jersey, get a shameless checkoff (as a fallback plan in case other parts of the trip fall apart too), and then get back on the same boat for the return trip to St. Malo.
We boarded the hydrofoil for the 1 hour 5 minute journey from St. Malo to Jersey. As advertised, we got off the boat in Jersey, went through customers, got our passport stamped, and then hopped back on the boat. Not my proudest moment, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The closest thing that we did to honor our "visit" to Jersey / UK was order fish and chips on the boat ride back to St. Malo. Erik doesn't like fish so he opted for breaded chicken and fries. Here's a photo of Erik and I on the hydrofoil as proof of our insanity.
We made it back to St. Malo and now we needed to find a place to stay. We drove to the Kyriad Prestige Saint-Malo hotel that I had already booked for the following night. The person working at the front desk, Claire, was friendly and spoke some English so we each traded off in French in English to better understand the situation. To make a long story short, the hotel was fully booked for the night so she called another Kyriad property nearby, and we stayed there instead. Unfortunately, there was no refund for the date change and the payment was non-transferable ... so I had to lose that payment as well. The joys of pre-paid, non-refundable reservations.
After a 15-minute drive, we arrived at the Hotel Kyriad Saint-Malo Ouest - Dinard, and checked into our room on the 2nd floor, which seemed like an attic with funky wall angles and two bedrooms. It was a pretty cool room and the hotel had nice views overlooking the Rance Estuary. We were happy to arrive in our room and were asleep soon after our arrival.
Tomorrow morning we're off to Royan, France.
Mark Aspelin is a travel writer and author of two books who has enjoyed a wide variety of adventures in his travels to over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. States. Mark lives in the mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which serves as a great home base for his blog, New Mexico & Beyond (www.nmbeyond.com or www.markstravelblog.com).