This morning we were up bright and early for our longest day of commuting as we were visiting the furthest edge of Normandy – the Mont Saint-Michel. The Mont itself is considered Normandy and the surrounding area is Brittany, but I don’t know how they came to that conclusion. Anyway.
The 3 hour drive passed pretty quickly as I had downloaded a few podcasts for us to listen to. Finally, we spotted Saint-Michel atop the spire in the distance and the agneau pré-salé (pre-salted lamb. The sheep that graze close to the Mont eat salt marsh meadow and become pre-salted) and closed in. Mont Saint-Michel recently built a boulevard stretching from the islet to solid ground, with lots of parking and a free shuttle (no one else wanted to pay the 6€ to take the horse drawn carriage ride with me), so we hopped on the shuttle for our ride to the Mont.
So the story goes (in very lay terms) that the Bishop of Avranches had a vision or premonition that St. Michael (or Saint Michel en Français) instructed him to build an abbey on the rock in the middle of the bay. So he did. The abbey started pretty modestly and was built up through the centuries to the stunning sight it is today. It also changed hands between the Normans and the Bretagnes several times.
The lower levels of the island was once a village but is now a bustling hub of overpriced restaurants (I paid 4€ for a Coke Zero) and tchotchkes as far as the eye could see. The streets were crowded with people like us, gawking at the architecture and craning our necks and cameras to get that perfect shot.
Once you hit a certain spot the ramp changes to stairs, so for someone like me whose fitness journey can only be described as “Odysseun”, it was like going from 20 minutes on the treadmill on “incline”, to the stair master.
The good part about climbing all those stone steps (besides quads of steel) was that the higher you got, the more the crowds thinned out.
We made our way finally to the very top (there was a portable “heart attack” kit affixed to the wall, with defibrillator and everything) and entered the abbey.
The abbey itself is very plain and very basic – not the high drama that you would expect to see in a Baroque Catholic Church.
My favourite part was definitely the cloister with the outdoor garden – quiet and peaceful.
We spent as much time as we could enjoying the panoramic views of the bay and the mouth of the Seine river, talking about how quickly the tides come in and how soft the sand is (Mont Saint Michel sees about 8 casualties a year from people who try and beat/don’t know about the tides). We even got to watch a helicopter move sand?
After thoroughly exploring the abbey, the village and overpaying for lunch (a bottle of beer cost me 9€), we called it a day and started the 3 hour trek back to Fécamp, indulging in gas station bistro sandwiches and pop (Pa had a mojito flavoured 7-Up) before hitting the hay.