Le Mont St. Michel

I finally saw it.  After years of coming to France and having this monument on my list, I finally got to see The Mont St. Michel rock on the edge of Normandy, right next to Brittany.  I took another bus tour through the school’s travel agency and it was worth every euro.  We departed at 7:30am and as I was going to one of the famous pilgrimage sites of the world, I was listening to “Blasphemous Rumors” and “Master and Servant” by Depeche Mode.  I chuckled when I realized that.   Let me start off by saying that, as in a lot of very touristy places, the locals market the hell out of the place and it’s tacky on the surface, but, wandering some of the back streets and realizing that back when they built this place, they had to chug everything over being slaves to the tide, they really did pull off an amazing feat.  I have so many photos, that I will just put a link here to share them.
When you are a couple of miles away from the rock, you can see it in the distance.  It’s in a bay that is quite marshy and nowadays, the tides are controlled by a hydraulic dam system that is released twice a day.  You no longer can drive up to the Mont, you have to go to the new tourist parking site the country’s monuments department has created.  It allows more people to come by car and bus to the site without endangering the bay and it’s wildlife.  It is about 1 mile from the Mont and has quite a nice view.  The parking lot has a tourist information center, clean bathrooms and is just beyond a supermarket, hotels and a few restaurants before you get on the causeway that leads to the Mont.  Everyone is obliged to either walk it or take the shuttle bus.  We took the shuttle bus and good thing we did, the wind was howling and as we were just inside the citadel, a quick shower doused us and those rain pellets were hitting us like pebbles.  Luckily, that was the only rain we had all day.  I quickly went up the main drag all the way to the cathedral at the top and took the audio guided tour.  It takes you through the different levels of the cathedral and abby, through dining halls of knights and monks and you get peaks of the bay and the town below through the windows.  I spent about an hour or so on the visit and then defended to the main drag again for some lunch.  Lunch was expensive, as I had expected it to be in such a heavily touristed site, but very pleasant.  I went to the white sheep, Le Mouton Blanc, and had some mouton with fries and a glass of very nice Rhone wine.  One of the best glasses I’ve had.  Like an idiot, I didn’t ask about the name because I thought I’d catch the menu online and come to find out, they don’t have their menu posted online.  Darn! After lunch I wandered down the street checking out the shops and then I wandered some of the back alleys.  The Mont feels like you wandered into a life size castle to play in.  You feel a bit childlike as you see some of the back corners, halls, doorways, small churches and a very small cemetery.  You climb one the wall that partially encircles the rock.  The town is strategically placed on the opposite side of the blowing winds.  I suspect the winds howl here daily.  I wish I could clock the wind as we left.  It was pushing me off the island.  I rarely have felt such a strong wind which was non existant in the citadel.   It is a wonderful day trip. Or, I think if you wanted to avoid the bulk of tourists, come like I did, off-season or, get here late afternoon, stay either on the rock or in the town nearby and takeoff again the next morning to the D-Day beaches or Brittany which are nearby.  If you come from Paris, it’s a good 4 hour drive each way, without traffic.  We left Paris at 7:30a, got there just before noon and that’s with a stop midway.  We were cut loose for 5 hours and our bus departed at 5:30p and we arrived back to our Paris stop just before 10p.  Long day but doable and I really think those 5 hours were plenty of time.  I guess if it was more crowded, you might be pressed for time because it might take you longer to get lunch and to get through the cathedral and check out the shops. All in all, I would recommend a visit here.

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