Less than 15km from St-Malo across the peninsula, CANCALE is France's most renowned spot for oysters. In the old church of St-Méen at the top of the hill, the town's obsession is documented with meticulous precision by the small Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires (June & Sept Mon & Fri– Sun 2.30–6.30pm; July & Aug Mon 2.30–6.30pm, Tues– Sun 10am– noon & 2.30–6.30pm; 4). Cancale oysters were found in the camps of Julius Caesar, taken daily to Versailles for Louis XIV and even accompanied Napoleon on the march to Moscow.
From the rue des Parcs next to the jetty of the port, you can see at low tide the parcs where the oysters are grown. The rocks of the cliff behind are streaked and shiny like mother-of-pearl; underfoot the beach is littered with countless generations of empty shells. The port area is pretty and very smart, with a long line of upmarket glass-fronted hotels and restaurants. Cancale's hotels mostly insist that you eat in if you want to stay; among the best value are ALa Houle, with its highly desirable balconies overlooking the middle of the port at 18 quai Gambetta (Tel:02.99.89.62.38; Price: Up to 40), and large, light and well-decorated rooms of Le Querrien, above its own restaurant at 7 quai Duguey-Trouin (Tel:02.99.89.64.56, Web: www.le-querrien.com ; Price: 66–120 with sea view). Budget travellers can head instead for the hostel 2km north of town at Port Picain (Tel:02.99.89.62.62, firstname.lastname@example.org; closed Jan), where a dorm bed costs just 12.50 and camping is available for even less. AAu Pied de Cheval, 10 quai Gambetta (Tel:02.99.89.76.95), is a ramshackle, gloriously atmospheric little place to sample a few oysters, with great baskets of them spread across its wooden quayside tables. A dozen raw oysters on a bed of seaweed can cost just 5. More upmarket is the Côté Mer on route de la Corniche (Tel:02.99.89.66.08) with well-prepared seafood.