Published: March 13th 2012March 3rd 2012
When we awoke this morning, we were in France! We had time for a quick breakfast in the restaurant, getting to see daylight onboard the ship for the first time. Once we said goodbye to he lovely ferry, the reality of the fact that we're on our own for the next 9 days set in. Fortunately, to Elysia's delight, people can understand her French, and she could understand them. We took a taxi to the Dinard airport to pick up the car. Elysia was pleased that she could hold a conversation with the driver. It's fun to be able to speak at least some of the language!
When we got to the airport it was dark and looked closed, but it was past opening time. We were able to get inside and find the rental office. It was indeed closed even though we had reserved the car and it was past opening hours. (Side Note: We start to see a trend forming...) We managed to track down the one employee manning the deserted airport and he didn't know when the office would open, but he was so nice that he called the company for us. The rental guy had been
running late, but would arrive in a half hour. It's funny that even though there were posted opening times, they didn't feel the need to open unless meeting someone with a reservation (although in fairness, it's a small airport and there probably weren't any scheduled flights yet).
Once we got the car ready to go, we took out our maps (yes old fashioned maps, not GPS) and Mike pointed out the airport on the map and we decided on a route that we'd take to get to Mont St Michel. So with Mike getting used to driving in France and Elysia tying to figure out where we were on the map, we spent the first hour or so lost in the countryside around the airport. Eventually we figured out why we were lost... Mike had pointed out the wrong airport! After realizing the mistake, we were able to quickly get on track, and were soon on our way to Mont St Michel, a UNESCO world heritage site.
We were worried about it raining, but it turned into a beautiful day! Mont St Michel is a very unique place. It is a small citadel situated on a little rocky
island connected to the mainland by a land bridge. Originally, the island could only be accessed at low tide, when a small land bridge allowed people to walk to the island. Eventually though, it was decided to put in a permanent road and causeway on the land bridge and permanent access became available. The road caused some problems though - it disrupted the tidal flows and sand quickly began building up around the island, making it less and less like an island. Recently, the French government has elected to start a multi-million euro project to clear the sand away. They are using the nearby river to erode the excess sand, and the causeway will be replaced with a raised roadway.
The impressive monestary on top of the rocky island was first built in 800AD. Legend was that the Archangel Michel appeared to a bishop to tell him to build a church on the rock, which he ignored until Michel burnt a hole in his skull with his finger. Since the initial monestary, more and more fortifications for the city were built over the following centuries. This site is definitely worth a visit! It's not like other medieval towns that
have expanded and it's hard to contrast their new from the old. This is all old.
Sitting atop the rock is the Abbey, and it's huge and made of granite. It's connected to other parts of the monestary, and we took a tour to see all the different rooms. The inside of the Abbey looks like the cathedral in the TV show Pillars of the Earth, but it's not. We checked. We paid to go into the buildings, and wound our way down the mountain passing through its different rooms. Below the monestary is the village, where people would have lived. Today only 41 people live there.
After we finished wandering the old narrow and some steep streets, we headed on our way again. We hoped to make it to the start of the Loire valley and camp for the night. Unfortunately we spent quite a bit of time at Mont st Michel, so we were behind schedule. So we were going to set up camp a few hours away, but we saw heavy rain on the horizon, so we thought we'd just continue driving through the darkness until we got to Chartres, as planned, but stay in
a cheap hotel on the outskirts. And thats what we did. It wasn't terribly hard to find our way in the dark, we just had to stop at McDonald's a few times along the way to get Internet when we lost the map we had downloaded from Google Maps.
When we arrived in Chartres, we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the hotel. For 35 Euros, it sure was a great place. Clean and super comfortable beds - a nice change from our rock hard mattress in London!
There are more photos below