When travelling by ferry, it’s fair to say your holiday starts the moment you step on board.
That was the feeling I got as soon as I set foot on Brittany Ferries’ Bretagne at Portsmouth ferry port.
As we headed across the Channel to St Malo in Brittany, it wasn’t long before I realised how special travelling by ship can be.
From the deck I returned a friendly wave to a couple stood on the Round Tower and enjoyed watching the city disappear before heading inside to check out the rest of the ship.
The cabins were surprisingly spacious and came with a bathroom and a television.
One of the channels was linked to a camera on the top of the ferry and another channel plotted our journey on a digital map.
There was a good selection of restaurants and entertainment. I opted for a film in the ferry’s cinema before settling down to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep.
As we arrived in St Malo, the view was breathtaking. There is probably no better way to appreciate the beauty of the medieval walled city than from the sea and the sunny weather made the sea sparkle and the sandy beaches surrounding the city shine.
Mesmerised by the city, I stopped for my first croque monsieur in one of the cafes inside St Malo’s walls before heading for the nearby town of Dinan – another walled city.
Here, the jutting medieval buildings produce a stunning landscape and the city has an interesting centre filled with boutiques, chocolatiers and creperies.
I wandered through the narrow cobbled lanes and beamed houses before taking a stroll along the walls, passing the castle and gated entrance into Dinan.
Further round the city’s edge emerged the huge viaduct stretching over the river La Rance and Dinan’s small port.
Here I enjoyed some fresh seafood in one of the many riverfront restaurants and indulged in a cup of traditional Breton cider, which is made further down the Rance.
On returning to St Malo, it was again the beauty of the beaches that struck me.
Despite a little rain, I walked along the city’s sandy edges, occasionally venturing out to explore some smaller buildings just off the shore, before going into the city.
St Malo’s old town is built almost entirely from grey granite and during the Middle Ages it was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance, controlling the estuary and the sea beyond.
Its importance made it a prime target during the Second World War and the city was heavily bombed.
Today most of the buildings are part of a huge reconstruction project which was only officially completed in 1971.
Having rebuilt all the original features, the city is also packed with attractions.
Not to be missed is a trip to Chateau de St Malo. Located next to the main entrance gate into the city, the castle now houses a history museum which exhibits collections from the Municipal Museum.
Impressive views of the whole city and its port can be seen from the top of the castle.
Other attractions, such as Cathedrale St Vincent and the main entrance gate Porte St Vincent, are also worth checking out.
Meanwhile the bustling restaurants, creperies and bakeries are sure to satisfy your appetite and an array of shops offer something for everyone.