Hôtel de la Bertaudière, maison natale de Robert Surcouf - façade sur la rue du Chat qui Danse
Hôtel de la Bertaudière, maison natale de Robert Surcouf - façade sur la rue du Chat qui Danse © Pymouss via WikiCommons

A big bang in Brittany

Remember a few years ago in this column we visited a fishing cat in Paris, at rue du Chat qui Pêche? Well, today we are looking at a dancing feline. The name of a narrow little street in the enchanting coastal town of Saint-Malo, that offers a beautiful glimpse of the sea as it leads down to the ramparts, has birthed a few folk tales about its meaning. The true origin of the name, however, hails back to a rather explosive event in 1693, according to the history books cited by Ouest-France.

The best English military designers had locked themselves up in the Tower of London planning a raid of Saint-Malo for the past two years, to hit back at the infamous Malouin privateers that were seriously denting maritime trade. The master stroke was a 300-tonne ship with black sails and three decks, loaded with gunpowder and grapeshot.

This ‘infernal machine’ was to be launched against the ramparts to gain access to the fortified city. The floating bomb, however, went off too far away from the impenetrable walls, and the only victim was a poor scorched cat that appeared to be ‘dancing’ from the shock. The name of the street pokes fun at this rather spectacular fail.

From France Today Magazine

Read other instalments in our “Read the Signs” series:

Read the Signs: Rue des Dames in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Vaugirard in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue du Croissant in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Cler in Paris
Read the Signs: Allée Sonia Rykiel in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Crémieux in Paris
Read the Signs: Place de l’Europe- Simone Veil in Paris
Read the Signs: Boulevard Haussmann in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue du Chat qui Pêche in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue des Mauvais Garçons in Paris
Read the Signs: Avenue de Champagne
Read the Signs: Rue du Temple in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Guy-Môquet in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in Paris
Read the Signs: Boulevard Diderot in Paris

2 COMMENTS

  1. We have stayed at the Hotel Colbert (on rue de l’Hotel Colbert) prior to all the renovations which priced it out of reach. The name of the street was, at one time, rue des RATS. The street name is carved into the side of the building opposite the hotel (now owned by the Melia Group). It might be fun to do some research and report on the etiology of the name, rue des RATS!

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