My Friend Lili knows the coastal roads of the Baie of Mont St Michel like the back of her hand. 

Born in Saint Malo, and living in the family home since an early age, when she asks me if I’d like to go somewhere with her, I jump. 

Our last foray was to La Crêperie du Télégraphe in the tiny, charming village of St. Marcan. Adjacent to St. Broladre, as you’re driving away from the Mont, toward Cancale, it’s easy to miss except for the telegraph tower sitting on the knoll.

As is normal with Lili, there’s always something to discover I had no idea was there.

St. Marcan is a high point above sea level — that’s not to say it’s very high — it’s not. 

90 meters. But it is the high point. 

Let’s wander back in time for a moment and meet Claud Chappe, born in 1763. Inventor of the ‘semaphore’, he is credited with being the first telecommunications ‘entrepreneur’ in history. 

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These ‘semophore’ towers operated visually. Someone would direct the movement of one of the two arms with wheels and pulleys. Each position was code. The information gathered would be relayed to the next tower, between 5-25 km away. The operators had to watch and wait with a telescope in-hand, to monitor movement of the tower’s arms, gather the coded signals and send them onward to the next tower to ultimately be translated into a text message.

This completely shifted transmission of communications from horseback to telegraph; from days to hours, if not minutes. 

Think about it …

Napoleon depended on the semaphore for wartime information being gathered … 

Impending attacks from foreign powers could be relayed nearly instantaneously …

Though it would be another 50 years before semaphore telegraphs were replaced with electrical telegraphs, in its time (1790’s into the early 1800’s), they were broadly implemented both by the military and nationally — these telegraphs spanned the country; there were over 500 towers in France.

La Telegraphe, St Marcan

It just so happened that Lili took me to the last remaining semaphore telegraph tower on what was the Brittany circuit.  It sits quietly out in the middle of nowhere, on the outskirts of the village of St. Marcan.  

Renovated in 1999, this télégraphe is operating and emitting signals as before. 

These days, it is open on Wednesdays for you to witness its operation.

Let’s fast forward. Take a child-like roll down the knoll from the semaphore, and you’ll be at the edge of the terrace of La Crêperie du Télégraphe.

La Crêperie went through devolution pre-Covid, then was closed for a few years before being bought by a couple who bought ~ 25 acres of farmland with the crêperie sitting in the middle of the fields. Growing their own organic crops from ble noir  to daily fresh produce — I found myself sitting for yet another farm to table meal.

While some crêperies expand their menus to include large salads, meats and fish, others remain devoted to dishing out specialty galettes and crepes. La Crêperie stays focused on the latter, at a level of refinement not commonly found.

We were first in the door. By the time we were served, it was packed — testimony to people finding great food no matter where off the beaten track it is.

Reservations recommended.

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St Marcan, Brittany

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