Dinard is across the Rance estuary from St. Malo, along the same coastline. It is a city we did not know at all until recently – a fashionable resort town, with a film festival, casino and high end shops. Originally a sleepy fishing port, it was discovered by the British aristocracy in the 19th century and the newcomers built extravagant Belle Époque mansions on the hills overlooking the sea, which remain today, giving the town its distinctive personality. It was perhaps the most popular and prestigious seaside destination in France before the Côtes d’Azur was discovered by the rich and famous in the 1930s. Dinard is now sometimes called The Cannes of the North, although it might be more fitting to call Cannes the Dinard of the South. Famous visitors and part-time residents included Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock, Picasso, Debussy and Oscar Wilde. Because of its reputation we had not paid much attention to Dinard. It didn’t seem like our kind of place.
While searching for an apartment to rent in St. Malo, our first choice of locations for our retirement, I came across an ad for a seasonal rental in the western, quieter part of Dinard. I immediately fell in love with the house and location pictured on the site. I wrote to the owner asking if he would consider renting his apartment, the upper two floors of the house pictured below, for the off-season. To my surprise and delight, he answered in the affirmative and quoted us a very reasonable price. We are welcome to stay until his first returning summer clients arrive in mid-June.
Besides the charm of the house itself, it has direct access to a wonderful intimate beach and magnificent views out the windows. We are able to watch the ships and boats coming and going, and look across the water to St. Malo and various islands.
The house was built in 1906 by the great grandmother of our landlord. During his mother’s generation, the house was divided into three apartments, one on each floor and one given to each of three daughters. The bottom two floors were eventually sold to people outside the family, so that now just the apartment where we are staying is still in the original family. They don’t seem to use the house at all anymore, as they are scattered far and wide, so the apartment has for some years been a vacation rental. They have a set of summer clients who return year after year, and the house had just been shut up during the off season, as is much of Dinard, so it seems that the owners are as happy to have us as we are to be here. Dinard has a permanent population of 10,000, but during the summer it swells to 50,000, so many of the houses along the shore are shuttered much of the year. In truth, for us it seems wise to leave Dinard during the summer high season, even though our original thought was to rent something permanently. We have seen photos of the beach below the apartment in July. It is jammed with bathers and sun worshipers. We prefer the more or less empty expanse of sand they leave behind at the end of summer.
We are just beginning to get to know our neighborhood and discover the market, local restaurants and the routines of daily life in this corner of the world. So far we are still preoccupied with the view out our windows, the tides rising and receding, the colors of the sky and water changing, all the activity that takes place below us.
I am learning about natural phenomena that I have thought little about before. For instance, there is a lot more to know about tides than that you have low and high ones twice every day. We have our chart that lets us know which way the water is flowing, but we begin to observe that not all tides are equal. On the tidal chart is a number which we didn’t at first understand. It is called the coefficient. The tidal range varies considerably according to the relative positions of the earth, moon and sun.
Yesterday was one of the lowest and conversely highest tides of this year according to our chart. The beach became enormous when the tide reached it’s lowest ebb revealing tiny islands and sandbars everywhere.
We walked on the wavy sea floor to the water’s edge just as the tide was turning back. Our house was far in the distance.
Six hours later, the sea came right to the wall below the house. This dramatic displacement of water in a relatively short period of time makes me marvel at the movement of the ocean around our planet. If I stop to ponder this natural phenomenon it seems miraculous, as does most any encounter with the power of nature.
We have learned that not only do the tides have a monthly cycle influenced by the phases of the moon but also a yearly cycle related to the earth’s orbit around the sun. So, living by the ocean gives us plenty of opportunity to observe and question phenomena we were hardly aware of a week ago. It provides a nice break from watching the nightly news.
The world will never starve from want of wonders; but only want of wonder.
— C. K. Chesterton