Wednesday, April 8, 2009

St. Malo, Part 2

On day two of our weekend trip to St. Malo, we woke up hungry and in need of a morning caffeine fix. Both Bob and I grew up in households that firmly believe in huge weekend breakfasts. We're talking eggs, pancakes, bacon, fruit salad, potatoes... all the good stuff. As far as we can tell, this belief had not made it to this side of the Atlantic. During the week, our breakfast consists of the previous day's left-over baguette, toasted, and a pot of our favorite morning tea, Barry's Irish Tea. Such a small breakfasts gives us an excuse to gorge during lunch. Finding a place to eat breakfast in St. Malo was a bit difficult. We walked around the walled town, looking for places that were open. We finally stepped into one and ordered the petit complet petite dejeuner, or the little breakfast menu. The waitress gave us our glasses of juice, two decent sized cafe cremes, and then ran out the restaurant to the neighboring boulangerie to pick up the accompanying bread! It was a good start to a great day.

After our breakfast, we headed to the bus stop to catch a 30 minute ride to the Grand Aquarium. I love aquariums and force Bob to accompany me if there is one in a city we are vacationing in. We have been to aquariums in Monterrey, Boston, Hawai'i, Long Beach, and even Thailand (admittedly, it was a pretty dodgy aquarium). The Grand Aquarium in St. Malo did not disappoint. We saw some fish we've never seen before: lumpsuckers, great barracudas, red damselfish. Two things especially interested us: the giant crabs and the sharks. Some of the sharks looked like they had been gnawed on by their buddies!

After the aquarium we headed back to the walled town. We found a cozy little crêperie and enjoyed another wonderful meal of crêpes with salmon, eggs, tomatoes, ham, and caramel (but not all together). We then decided to check out the beach and tide pools sounding the outside of the town's walls. We walked around the entire length of the Atlantic-facing walls, climbing over the rocks, collecting shells, and peering into the tide pools for signs of life. By the time we reached the other side of the town, the tide was quickly coming in, trapping some of the tourists checking out the fortress. The fortress is located 300 yards or so from the walls. When the tide is low, it's accessible by a stretch of exposed beach. When the tide is high, however, the stretch of beach completely disappears. Bob and I watched as the tourists realized the tide was rising and made mad dashes across the now covered beach. The last people to leave waded through water knee deep!

Having learned from the night before, we set out for dinner around 8 pm. We decided to take a risk and try a restaurant with glossy menus, located right next to the main entrance of the town. "Risky? What do you mean?", you say. Going to a restaurant located right next to the entrance of the town is like going to the first coffee shop you see by the train station, or parking at the lot closest to the airport: you're bound to get ripped off. Luckily for us, the risk paid off. After reviewing the menus (which were glossy but not translated into English... a good sign), Bob went with the 23 euro menu and I went with the 19 euro menu. I asked for the mussels as my main course, and the waiter told me they weren't in season! "What? They aren't in season? But I had them last night?!", went through my head. "This place must be bad." The waiter pointed to another option and said, "This is very good. It's very fresh. You will like." "Ok", I said, having no idea what I would be eating. Bob then asked, "What is choucroute?" In broken English, the waiter replied, "It is like, you know, garbage, but made with fish. You know garbage?" Bob and I looked at each other in astonished disbelief. "Garbage? You mean like trash?" "No, not, no, not trash, garbage. It is very good," replied the waiter. Well, as risky of eaters as we are (eel head and fried whole baby chicken in Cambodia, street food in Thailand, weird vegan food in Singaore, fresh fruit in Turkey, goat meat in Isla Vista), we decided to pass on the garbage.* Instead, Bob ordered the steak. As our
entrée (French for appetizer; the main course is the plat), we both ordered fresh seafood. We had no idea what to expect, but hoped it wouldn't be oysters. The waiter came back to our table and added several utensils to our utensil arsenol, then brought out gorgeous plates of crawdads, shrimp, and seasnails. It took us almost 45 minutes just to eat through them! Our main courses arrived and they were good, but the highlight was the appetizers. Finishing off the meal with a crème brûlée for Bob and a chocolate mousse for me, we headed back to the hotel, full and and quite satisfied with our first weekend vacation.

*The waiter meant to say cabage, not garbage. Choucroute is the French perparation for pickled cabbage. We still aren't sure how seafood choucroute is made.

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