A day at magical Mont Saint-Michel


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Europe » France » Lower Normandy » Mont Saint-Michel
August 30th 2013
Published: September 6th 2013
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We solved partly the hard bed last night by putting the two deck chair pads under the bottom sheet to provide some softness and also to stop the ‘roll together’ in what was just a standard size double bed.It worked pretty well and our sleep was better than the night before.

Today we had planned to take a scenic road along the coast towards Mont-St-Michel(hereafter called MSM) which is essentially an island a kilometre off the coast but connected to the mainland by a causeway which in 1879 was upgraded so that access could be achieved no matter the level of the tide.

We arrived on the coast at the very French named town of Meloir-des-Ondes and started the 37km run along the coast.

Part way along we took a stop at a small tourist shop after noticing a number of round stone towers dotted along the road.Eventually we came to one that had what had been missing from the rest of them that we had passed,a windmill.It made for a good photo opportunity.

You can see MSM for many kilometres as you make your way along the coast such is the flatness of the coastline and at 92 metres high it is the tallest feature for kilometres around.

The local authority that administers MSM has done a great job in organising the 3 million visitors that come to what is probably France’s most photographed spot after the Eiffel Tower.It is interesting to note that NZ has around 2 ½ million overseas tourists each year and therefore not as many as come to this small island off the coast of Brittany,France.

There was no point in looking for any free parking anywhere near MSM and we were directed to one of about a dozen large car parks controlled by several men in glo vests directing traffic and moving cones to keep the spaces filling up as the visitors rolled in.It was a very impressive operation and we were soon to understand more fully the need for it.

We had three choices in getting to MSM which was a couple of kilometres away from the car park.There was walking which would have taken about 40 minutes and might have been a good option although aside from MSM in the distance there wouldn’t have been a lot to look at while we walked.Then there was the horse and cart at €5 one way,very traditional, or lastly the free bus which ran continuosly from the car park to the entry of MSM.We opted for the latter and joined the throngs all heading for the one of France’s most famous tourist attractions.

As we drove along the causeway to MSM the reason for the car park so far back from the island became clear.The original car park for tourists just before the island would be bo where big enough to cater for the throngs of people that come here.There was also a new boardwalk being built well above the high tide level and that looked like it would also take light vehicles too so perhaps something new was planned for getting tourists to the site.

The island is something quite amazing and in all our travels we can’t say we have ever seen anything else like it.The island has been a fortified site for hundreds of years and since the 11th century the very large abbey that covers the higher points of the island was built.In fact from a distance it appears that the abbey covers the whole of the cone shaped island but in reality there is a lot more to it but you have to get up close and walk through the lanes that lead ever upwards to the abbey to see that there are numerous other buildings which today are shops,restaurants and houses.

The place is a bit of a tourist trap as you might expect although we did notice some prices seemed more reasonable for pictures and other things relating to the island and its history that we had seen in say,Saint-Malo.

The car parks had only been about a quarter full when we arrived so the crowds weren’t too great but we certainly wouldn’t want to be here on a busy day in the height of summer.

We climbed up the steep lanes to the abbey but didn’t go inside thinking that it didn’t offer anything we hadn’t seen elsewhere in cathedrals etc we have visited.

The tide was out but you could see from the deep channels just how fast it must rush in when the tide is on the turn and you wouldn’t want to get caught out if you strayed down onto the flat beach and inlets.

The island is quite special and from any angle is a magical sight and it might have been that Disney got inspiration from here as well as the 'Cinderella' castle in Bavaria for his theme parks.

We left the crowds behind and returned by bus to the car park and headed away with the intention of calling in at Fougeres to take in the half timber houses and other buildings.That route would also give us a different road for heading home on as we like to do.

The countryside was pleasant enough as we drove towards Fougeres and we found a car park easily enough close to the centre of town.What we hadn’t known was that all of the streets in the centre of town were to be closed for a festival which included a fair with sideshows and we were parked in the middle of it.

We did a quick walk around but couldn’t find what we were looking for and with the thought of getting ‘locked’ in by the street closures we decided to give it a miss and head home.It had been a long day anyway and we had completed the original aim of getting to MSM,spending some time there and taking in the scenery.

As with all the ‘shortest routes’we have taken we wandered all over the countryside passing through numerous small villages and enjoying the drive.

We were fair tuckered out when we arrived home and over drinks we decided that tomorrow,our last day in Lehon,would be a drive closer to home with a walk around the old town in Dinan beforehand.


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