After 13 days on the go around France, I had a day of rest last Friday. I suppose rest is a relative term, I was back in Paris and had a lie in before I went out to do lots of little jobs that needed to be done. I was back on the move on Saturday though on a day trip to Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel is a rock off the coast of Normandy which used to be linked to the mainland before the land in between was eroded away. Now it stands in the English Channel with a road linking it to the rest of Normandy, where you find a small town, a church and at the top there’s a monastery. It lies right at the western border of Normandy with Brittany, and when you climb up you can see a river which acts as a natural delimiter between the two regions.
I’d been told by people at work that it was an impressive sight and if I had the chance I should go and see it. I’d tried once before when I visited Saint Malo, but public transport’s not so good out there in the off season so I didn’t manage it. Second time lucky though as I booked a day long coach trip with a guide (of sorts).
It’s five hours drive from Paris, which meant an early start. I was up at 5:30am and met up with the group at 7:15, and most of us slept until the 10 o’clock pit stop at a service station. The people were pretty varied with absolutely no French people but there were Americans, Spaniards, Portuguese, Japanese and Taiwanese people, and probably more nationalities that I didn’t get to know about.
After the stop at the service station we were all a little more awake, and Sergei the guide started giving us some commentary about Normandy. Seems that the areas we passed were all about cheese, apples and allied landings. He was very enthusiastic about the cheese which he claimed was some of the best in France, and told us that as Normandy wasn’t wine country they grew apples to make cider and calvados instead which doesn’t seem like a bad trade off.
He motioned out into the fields along the motorway pointing out apple trees as we went, but as I couldn’t see any apples on them they could’ve been olive trees for all I knew. At least the dairy cows I could see and recognise as something that might produce milk. He wasn’t a great guide, he was just about OK, but he could speak a lot of languages. The only thing I learned was “pica pica” which is “photo” or photo opportunity in Japanese as far as I could tell.
Anyway, we finally made it to the Mont, and it did look impressive. We got there early and there were only three or four other coaches parked, so I headed straight up to the abbey at the top where there was no queue thankfully. Walking around the abbey was a little dull though, as it was just an old religious building which isn’t unexpected but I was expecting something a little more spectacular. For me the location was much more interesting than what had been built there.
Apparently the archangel Michael appeared to a bishop in the 8th century, telling him to build a church on the island, and so the abbey was created. After visiting the abbey for an hour I still had two hours left until the coach left, so I went to investigate the island along with half of the tourists in Normandy it seemed. In the past it was also fort complete with a nice set of ramparts that you could walk around. There’s a small island a few hundred metres away that we were told was the English base during the Hundred Years War, but despite being so close they never managed to capture the Mont whose tall rocky sides and fortifications kept them out.
These days it’s a huge tourist trap, complete with Japanese tourists buying piles of souvenirs. I’m not so interested in souvenirs as photos are much easier to keep, but I did have my first ice cream of the year which was a nice surprise as I was half expecting it to be pouring with rain. Food (though not ice lollies) are something the island is famous for though, as it has a restaurant which is well known for it’s omelettes. So well known in fact that I heard that they cost between 20 and 30 Euros. I imagine they’re much better than those that I make at home, but I can’t imagine any omelette could be worth so much.
And that’s it. It looks good, but there’s not a whole lot to see there. If I’d stayed at home I probably would’ve wasted my Saturday, so at least I did something.