St-Malo (pop. 52,000) manages to merge the best of northern France. Combining miles of warm, sandy beaches and crystal blue waters with a charming, walled vielle ville that holds numerous creperies, boutiques, and cafes, St-Malo makes for the ultimate oceanside getaway. To the east of the city is the Grand Plage, the most popular beach. The slightly more secluded Plage de Bon Secours lies to the west and features the curious Piscine de Bon-Secours, three cement walls that hold in a pool’s worth of warm salt water even when the tide recedes. The best view of St-Malo is from its ramparts, which once kept out invaders but now attract tourists in droves. All entrances to the city have stairs leading up to the old walls; the view from the north side reveals a series of small islands leading out into the sea.
Trains run from pi. de l’Hermine to: Dinan (lhr. 5 per day, ‚8); Paris (5hr. 3 per day, ‚50); and Rennes (lhr. 8-12 per day, ‚11). As you exit the station, cross bd. de la Republique and follow esplanade St-Vincent to the tourist office, near the entrance to the vielle ville. (02 99 56 64 48; www.saint-malo-tourisme.com. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-7:30pm, Su 10am-6pm; Sept.-June reduced hours.) The 247-bed Auberge de Jeunesse (HI) , 37 av. du Reverend Pere Umbricht, is near the beach. From the train station, take bus #5 (dir.: Parame or Davier) or bus #1 (dir.: Rotheneuf) to Auberge de Jeunesse. ( 02 99 40 29 80; fax 02 99 40 29 02. Reception 24hr. Dorms ‚13.) Overlooking Plage de Bon Secours, Les Chiens de Guet G, 4 pi. de Guet, has bright, elegant rooms and a great location within the city walls. ( 02 99 40 87 29; fax 02 99 56 08 75. Breakfast ‚5. Doubles ‚31; quads ‚66. Closed mid-Nov. to Jan. AmExMCV.) The most interesting eateries lie closer to the center of the vielle ville; those near the entrances are often generic and overpriced. Champion supermarket, on av. Pasteur, is near the hostel. (Open M-F 8:30am-lpm and 3-7:30pm, Sa 8:30am-7:30pm, Su 9:30am-noon.) Postal Code: 35400.