“Le Mont Saint-Michel”
Mont Saint-Michel. France. May 2019. (11 photos)
As you may know, I’ve been away for a while, having spent a month visiting France and Portugal, with a short visit to Singapore for good measure. I think I’m still feeling the effects of jet lag, but I thought I may as well get back into posting. Are you familiar with Mont Saint-Michel?
Le Mont-Saint-Michel is an island and associated mainland commune in Normandy, France. It is approximately 1 km off the coast, connected to the french mainland by a bridge, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. It is one of France’s most recognisable landmarks, visited by more than 3 million people each year. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
“Baaa Baaa Baaa”
To get there from Paris I took the high speed train from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes. Then I caught the bus from Rennes to the Mont Saint-Michel stop, near the Tourist Information Centre about 1.5km from the island. From there you can catch the frequent free shuttle bus to the island, or take the paid horse and carriage. I chose to take my time and walked to fully appreciate the view as I approached.
“Iconic Mont Saint-Michel”
The design of Mont Saint-Michel exemplifies the feudal society that existed at the time: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.
“View from the 4th floor”
I spent almost 48 hours in this area, staying for 2 nights in accomodation on the island itself. Be warned, accomodation on the island is (as expected) relatively pricey and there are no lifts on the island or in hotels. Any bags you take there, you will have to carry up numerous steep steps. I was fortunate that my bnb in Paris stored my main luggage for me whilst I was visiting here.
“9pm Mont Saint-Michel”
A lot of people visit as a day trip from elsewhere, including Paris. But when the sun sets this late, you miss out on these fabulous colours. That’s why I chose to stay for 2 nights here.
“10pm Mont Saint-Michel”
“6am Mont Saint-Michel”
“6:15am Mont Saint-Michel”
Perhaps you can appreciate that the ground I’m standing on is not solid earth but actually dried mud, which I can attest is not stable. A bit later, whilst jumping across a wide water filled crack in the mud, the bank collapsed under me and I got mud all over my trousers and camera bag. I sneaked back into the hotel and washed my trousers. Because I was travelling light I had no change of trousers, so I did my usual trick of putting them back on wet and using body heat and rubbing to dry them out so I could go to breakfast.
At Mont Saint-Michel the difference between high tide and low tide can be up to 15 metres. A few times a year the island will be completely surrounded by water. At low tide, trained guides will lead groups on walks ranging from 3 hours to 8 hours across the mudflats of the bay. I took one of these walks during which we encountered and deliberately sank into a large patch of quicksand. The tour ended just in time to see the tide come in. The tide comes in extremely quickly and I watched a kayaker ride it in.
“Like a dream”
According to the Revelatio Ecclesiae Sancti Michaelis, the oldest text recording the origins of Mont Saint-Michel, the first foundations of the Abbey were laid in the year 708 AD.
According to legend, the archangel St Michael appeared twice to Aubert, the Bishop of Avranches and commanded him to build a sanctuary on the island of Mont Tombe in his name. Aubert thought it was a dream and ignored it both times. The archangel then visited Aubert a third time to reiterate his command and this time, struck Aubert on the head, burning a hole in his skull. The relic of Aubert’s skull, complete with a hole in it, is on display at the Saint-Gervais Basilica in Avranches.
The moral of the story: Never mess with an archangel.
“Goodnight from Mont Saint-Michel”
If you’re wondering, the palace in the Disney film Tangled where Rapunzel was stolen from her parents was inspired by Mont Saint-Michel.