Published: June 10th 2008June 10th 2008
Our road trip started saturday morning. We rented a car from Hertz outside the train station. The guy there was really helpful and we ended up being able to get a 7 person van, originally we had two reservations for small cars. (They wanted 35 euros/day for a young driver charge, but luckily Evelina is 25.) We barely made it out of the tiny parking garage without harm, and we were quickly on our way. We went straight to Mount Saint Michele. The "interstates" here are just like at home. However, every five miles the advertisements of fast food restaurants and gas stations aren't thrown in your face. The only signs you see from the road are the ones that promote historical sites or towns.
I first saw the abbey on the horizon, you are just driving all along, somewhat hilly south of the road and a wide reaching, flat plain on the north. So you drive along and all of the sudden you see this huge island tower above the horizon. It rises out of the horizon like a mirage. You immediately understand why so many have made a pilgrimage here, and I'm sure it's a welcome site after
a long trek back in the day. You are a state of awe as you approach; it's hard to take your eyes off the site.
We drove on the causeway and parked. An ocean of sand extends in three directions from the island, neverending. The tide rises at night (19:00) to create a true island. Before the causeway was built, you had to walk to the abbey when the tide was out - very dangerous if you didn't know about it. There are guided walks on the sand - people were way out there - too far for my comfort.
The town below was crowded and lined with touristy trinket shops. We had lunch in a restaurant. I decided to be a true tourist and try the omelet that is famous here. I was worried it was just some made up thing to get tourists to spend a lot of money on something not worthwhile. I was right. It's really poofy, but nothing special - just a big plain omelet, in fact it was too much egg for me. It's like two inches thick, that's the only difference than any other omelet. We also had the pleasure of
sitting next to this British couple out on the patio. A big fat guy, in short shorts and a wife beater. Nice view of him as he hiked his shorts up as far as they could go to work on his tan.
We took a tour of the abbey. It was started in the 8th century and most of the structures are from the 13-14 centuries I believe. Since it's an abbey it's not oppulent. The main cathedral is simple along with the various chapels throughout the complex. (Also, since it's so old and it's location, it's wasn't possible/easy to build something extravangent.) There is a nice garden in the middle that was used for meditation. The main hall was simple as well, it was used for dining and listening to various religious readings (such as the lives of all the saints). But of course, the main attraction is to gaze at how they built such a structure on this island and the views it produces. It's definitely a good place for an abbey: secluded, peaceful and you are that much closer to the heavens. The abbey has had quite a history, changing hands a few times. It was
once a prison; overtaken during the revolution. After the english failed to conquer it in the 100 years war (about the only place that held out), it became a national symbol.
The country side is nice here, little villages dot the roads every few kilometers. We stopped for coffee (expresso is coffee here) and a snack (see pics). Needless to say, the pastry was amazing. It was like chocolate cookie, cake, syrup and banana. I may open a petisserie up in lincoln - or work at that one on 70th and O. There are no fast food places here, at least in the smaller towns. The cafe culture rules, you get some expresso, grab a sandwich for lunch, some pastry in the afternoon. The food, its quality and freshness, is really valued here.
We stayed in a town called Bagnoles. I think it was kinda a small resort town - it had a casino, big chateau, nice lake in the middle of the town, some menus in english. 17.50 per person for a double room, shower down the hall. I ate my first menu here - that's the full 3 course meal. It lasted 2.5 hours: 8:30-11 pm.
French onion soup for appetizer, duck with apples for the main, and pastry/ice cream dessert (could have chosen cheese instead). I also tried two oysters, first ones ever. Not bad, got a chew a little to taste them, but I didn't think they were that special. The food wasn't that great - again I think it was a touristy town.
Mount Saint Michel is worth a stop if you are in the area, especially if you do the DDay beaches (you can come back brother eric). It would be nice to stay in a nearby village and see it at night, with the sunset and it's supposed to be floodlit at night. The nearest land to the island is a huge sheep pasture with the abbey looking over (no pics, sorry), but quite fitting as the abbey watches over its flock.
There are more photos below