MONT-ST. MICHEL


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Europe » France » Lower Normandy » Mont Saint-Michel
May 11th 2012
Published: May 12th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Because of my cracked rib or ribs as the case may be, I did not sleep all that well, but it did allow me to get this great picture of Chateaux Chambord at 6 am. I am not sure the picture does it justice; it was a pretty amazing site with the low fog surrounding the Chateaux.

We skipped breakfast and opted for food on the go, which was a great plan as there was a small patisserie in a village on our way back to the main road. We got croissants and café filled éclairs. It was the best éclair I have ever had. On the drive back to the main road we passed another chateau that is vacant, perhaps the Vaughn’s good buy it as a retreat. Might open up the European market for your product AJ.

We took the auto route as Mont-St. Michel was about 4 hours away on the fast road, so we didn’t want to be on any slow roads getting there. The last 45 minutes is very scenic slow roads.

Mont-St. Michel (built as a monastery by the Benedictine monks in honor of St. Michel) was founded in 709 ad. Over the years it has been added especially in the 11and 12 century. Fire destroyed some of the original Romanesque structure so it was rebuilt in the Gothic style. It is literally built on the rocks on a small island off the coast of Normandy.

No matter what direction your approach, west, south or East, you can’t approach from the north unless you are doing so by sea. You can see the top of the structure from miles away. Then when it all comes in to full view, it is pretty jaw dropping. Originally it was on an Island and only available by land when the tide was out otherwise by boat. IN the 19th century a causeway was built to connect it to the main land. Initially a train took people across, then parking lots were built, and now they are breaking it up because it has caused environmental damage by not allowing the water to run freely around the island.

At the moment the cause way is still there and all the parking is on the outside. Up until April 28, 2012 you could drive to the edge of the actual island and park, now you must
Finoa FiratFinoa FiratFinoa Firat

Our ride in France
park and either walk, or take a shuttle. If you are staying in a hotel on the Island there is a special shuttle that takes you directly to the main gate. We of course did not know any of this, because the hotel website had not been updated and said we could park directly outside the main entrance. Nothing could have been further from the truth. When we got there, we faced nothing but confusion regarding the parking. No one seemed to know what to do or where to park. Finally I called the hotel, and that was useless because they didn’t give us all the information. I was still under the impression that we could drive right up and they failed to tell me that no you couldn’t. Finally, we found the correct location to park and got on the shuttle.

The first shuttle broke down in the middle of what is a totally 100% tourist built down, full of nothing but hotels, gift shops etc. It is right on the entrance to the causeway. Evidently since the parking change the businesses here are all hurting, because no one can drive by them and you don’t see them
Vacant ChateauxVacant ChateauxVacant Chateaux

Onced owned by the Pompidu family
until after you have parked and are on the shuttle. You can walk, but that is a mile, and there are hundreds of stairs to climb once you get inside the city walls.

Finally, after the parking debacle, the shuttle breaking down, and the shuttle not dropping us off where we were suppose to be so we had to walk about ¼ mile to the entrance. Even with the hassle it is all worth it once you get inside the city walls. If you ignore the gift shops (and there are about 20 of them) and the bustling people and close your eyes, you can imagine what it must have been like back in the day. To get the best experience you must stay in the city over night. At about 8 pm all of the crowds are gone and the only ones left are those of staying on the island. It is quite, darker and much less crowded. Then you can take a sunset walk along the wall or through the narrow streets and truly feel a bit of what it must have been like to live back then, of course then you go to your hotel room with soft bed, hot and cold water and a toilet, and realize you have no idea what it was like to live back then. Fodor’s says to not stay on the island because you won’t get a view of the Mont at night. But, for us it was more about the experience of staying behind the city walls in century old buildings, a view is fleeting but the experience of the medieval abbey is remarkable.

We stayed at the Auberge St. Pierre Hotel a very nice 3 star hotel. The room was beautiful, but don’t stay in 103 the city wall walkway is directly outside your window so you see them they see you. Dinner and breakfast were both included in the price of the room. By the time we checked in it was 4 pm, so we opted to not visit the Abbey until the next day since it closed at 6. Instead we got a croquet monsieur and walked up as high as we could in the city. It was a bit cold and cloudy but it was very beautiful none the less.

After the walk we went back to the room, I blogged a bit and posted the last two days blogs. Jerry smoked and took pictures. Again the architecture is amazing, but for me, if you seen one flying buttress you have seen them all, but for him, he sees all the minute details. At about 8 we went down for dinner. Now for all of you who follow this for the food, this is one to remember. We are in Normandy, the home of camembert, cream, butter, sea food and lamb, so you know the food is going to be good. The restaurant is on the ground floor and though it doesn’t have a fire place it is very quaint. The Kitchen is down stairs, but there is a dumb-waiter so the server doesn’t have to run up and down. Our server (the only server) was very nice she spoke zero English but with our horrible French, we still managed to relay the food allergy issue and ordered a great 4 course meal (the wine was extra) but everything else was included. Dinner was very very good, I even ordered lobster bisque and you all know how picky I am about that, since it is one of my signature dishes. This bisque wasn’t really bisque, but it was very good. It was made with out the rice puree, without tomatoes and clearly with out the shells. But it had a nice lobster flavor and their twist was St. Jacques added (scallops) it was good, but honestly (and Jerry agrees) mine is much better.

After dinner, we took a nice walk around the city wall, and experience bar none, the best sunset that Jerry and I have ever seen while on vacation. Not the best sunset I have ever experienced, but the best we have ever experienced together. The colors were deep and vast, and again I am not sure the pictures truly reflect that.

There are times when the tide is so high, the causeway is underwater, most of the time we were there the tide was way out, so there was nothing but sand and the rivers. However, many people of drowned because a lot of the sand is in fact quicksand, and unless you know where you are going, you can get stuck and then sink to your death.

I was hoping for ghosts during the night, but they must all be on holiday, as there were no
The viewThe viewThe view

We are only half way up the mont.
haunting while we were there.

TODAY’S EATS

Breakfast: Croissants and café éclairs

Late snack: Croquet Monsieur

Dinner (hold on to your hats):

We started with a class of Champagne, the rest is as follows:

Jerry: Entrée; Duck Foie Gras with 3 fruit preserves, Plat; Filet of Salmon with béarnaise sauce, rice and vegetable coulee, Cheese; 3 fromages al Normandy (all different camembert’s and salad, Dessert; Doullion Normandy (sort of an apple fritter with caramel sauce, but much better than that)

Chris: Entrée, St. Jacques Lobster Bisque; Plat, Perfectly cooked medium rare rack of lamb, roasted garlic head, potatoes gratin, roasted tomatoes and zucchini, Cheese; Fondue of Camembert, in a puff pastry and salad, Dessert; Tart Normandy (apple tart)

We had a bottle of Chateau Hauts Moureaux from St. Emilion 2010 and ended the meal with a glass of Calvados (apple cider brandy) the regional drink.

REVIEWS:

Hotel Auberge St. Pierre: Friendly English speaking staff, beautiful rooms (again avoid 103) but don’t expect views that isn’t the point. The restaurant is good, but there are better on the island, but if you get the all inclusive it is a great deal. The breakfast is the best we have had on the trip (see tomorrow for details). The beds are very comfortable, the bathroom has the best lighting and heated towel racks which can double to dry your clothes. Highly recommended and worth the extra Euros for the experience of the city after the tourist leave.

DAILY TIPS. Don’t buy Fodor’s travel guides. In the past we have used them extensively, but more and more, and on this trip particularly, there information is wrong and outdated. They in fact give you absolutely incorrect information. Example, they said you should take a guided tour of the Abbey, because you would go more places than if you did a self guided. This is 100% not true. You see all of the same things whether you take the guided or self guided tour. Further the French version is no different than the English version and Fodor’s states that you go to different and better places on the French tour, again completely false. Some of the information was in fact 10 years outdated and we had a 2012 guide. Fodor’s if you’re reading, either do your home work or hire me to write for you.


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