Friday 7 June 2013
I’m not normally one for big name tourist attractions as they tend to be overcrowded and generally disappointing. But Mount Saint Michel is just an hour’s drive away and I can’t resist.
From the weather report garnered from looking out our window … the tide is out (again), its a clear but hazy day. Lets go!
Weather check …
As we approach our destination we are given some leaflets and directed in to a field to park and then we follow the trail of tourists down the road. Turns out the guides are on strike, the multinational corporation that runs the tourist operation has increased the parking fees from 8.50 euro to 12 euro (thats a 41% increase!) and cancelled the free shuttle for the employees. The good thing for us is that the car park today is free (no staff working to take our money), there are no tour guides (I hate pushy touters).
Mont Saint Michel
Mount Saint Michel is isolated from the land by the sea and a large flat salt marsh. Its about a 2 1/2 km walk from the car park across the salt mash and the causeway to the island. We can see miles of sand exposed by the receding tide. Its hot and windy and we every now and then we hear the faint rumble of thunder coming from the clouds that have started to form.
It sure is impressive
Christine the lovely lady we met a few days ago at the Cancale laundromat has instructed us to get a free map from the tourist office and take the back steps through the gardens up to the top. Its a long hot slog up the steep steps, along ramparts and through alleys. Every time we look up there is further to go. Every time we think we are at the top we find more steps. Poor Howie I’m always making him climb something!
Finally we reach the top large terrace at the front of the Abbey. The views are amazing …
The View from the Upper Levels of Mt St Michel
The romanesque abbey was founded and built in the 11th century and a monastery built next to it. It been slowly growing and improved ever since and has been a great pilgrimage centre over the centuries.
Behind the abbey is a lovely cloister and beyond that the monastery – a labyrinth of rooms over three descending levels – a refectory, crypts, chapels, dormitories, kitchens, halls, passages, stairs. The walls are incredibly thick and there is a deep chill in these rooms. I can only imagine what it would have been like living here in winter hundreds of years ago.
Now that’s what I call a fire place!
Out of the monastery we look up to admire the amazing building above us. We descend via the medieval main street that is teaming with visitors. Souvenir shops, restaurants and ice-cream stores line both sides of the narrow winding lane. Some of the shops provide access to the ramparts where I can see groups of school children walking across the now totally exposed sand. There are miles of white clayey sand in every direction.
Out to sea – view from Mt St Michel
The weather looks quite ominous now, the thick grey clouds look like they are going to burst at any time and the wind is pickling up. We briskly walk down the street soaking up the atmosphere as we go. Luckily the buses are still running back to the car park and we squeeze into the first one that comes along.
We noticed a small village on our way and we head there to hopefully grab a snack to tidy us over. Luckily we find a bakery that is open and selling made to order baguette (sandwiches) which we love so much. We mange to get fed and grab a quick drink at a local bar before the storm strikes.
Not wanting to drive along the main road in the storm we travel the backroads towards Cancale. In one of the seaside villages, La Vivier Sur Mer, we see oyster restaurants by the water and stop at one for our afternoon hit of oysters. The open air roadside pavilion provides some protection when the storm that has been stalking us down the coast catches up. Even though it is only 4 in the afternoon it is very dark and gloomy when we get back to Cancale.
Roadside Oyster Stop
Cancale after the storm
As it is our last night we have decided to celebrate with another meal at our hotel La Mere Champlain. Howard has noticed that there is a lobster special on and he is determined to get all he can get while he can.
Lobster at La Mere Champlain