Majestic Jewel of the Baie
Well, we arrived for our much anticipated 3rd visit to Le Mont-St-Michel in late May this year, as well as a return stay at La Chevallerie - a B&B owned by its fantastic hosts, Steve and Karen (see separate blogpost) in nearby Isigny-le-Buat.
I don't know what it is about this medieval place, but it is like a magnet for my wife and I. If we happen to be in France, it pulls us to find a way to pay a visit. Even with 2 prior visits though, we still managed to experience new things.
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The stage is set however, for the next visit because we didn't plan well enough - it was the 3rd time we were there during low tides. Actually, we never did have much of a plan, just a route. Next time though, the plan starts with knowing when there is high tide.
Up until 2006, you could actually drive to the island via a causeway and car park, but after the reconstruction project to build a hydraulic dam, a permanent car park has been created on the main land (cost is reasonable).
It is still quite convenient to get there however, as there is a tram which runs regularly every few minutes as well as horse & carriage, and of course by foot (15 minutes).
The closer you get to your approach of the town gates, you really get the feel of just how big it is as well as how impressive it is - being built on a rocky mount...
Actually,the island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and in the 8th century AD, has been the seat of a monastery from which Le Mont-Saint-Michel draws its name.
Low Tide Mud Flats Tours
During low tide, one of the popular activities you can take advantage of is a walk on the mud flats, which you actually can navigate (carefully). Officials do highly recommend that you take the guided tours and to not venture out on your own.
When you climb to the higher parts of town and look out over the bay, you truly get an appreciation for how far out low tide goes. Looking into the distance, you can see what looks like columns of ants, as the tours work their way along the flats to the small rocky island you see in this inset...
A Photographer's Dream
The town and Abbey are a photographer's dream. Even though you are in realtively speaking 'cramped quarters' in the narrow cobble stone road that winds its way to the top, their are sights and photo opportunities at every corner.
The walk uphill is fairly manageable, and besides there are ample shops, restaurants and snack shops along the way to take your time.
The real climb though, is through the Abbey, which is fairly steep. There is a cost to go through the Abbey (I think €5-€10), but well worth it to see all of the impressive parts of the Abbey and vantage points for looking over the bay.
The building of the Abbey started in the 11th Century. There is a nice Monk's courtyard garden near the top, and if you are lucky - you could time your visit to attend a Mass.
On our way back down through town we did notice (for the first time) that some of the restaurants actually are hotels. I was thinking that this would be a great option which I would like to check out for my next visit. I think it would be awesome to wake up and stroll the town when no one is around to get the real feel of what it used to be like (without tourists) just like the attached video gives you a feel for.
Local Culinary Delicacies...
There are some very nice restaurants and upon our late afternoon arrival on the first day, we decided to try the local specialty of salted lamb or Agneau de pré-salé at Le Mouton Blanc Restaurant. It was our first night of our trip and I unfortunately forgot to take a photo of the restaurant and the delicious lamb meal.
The next day, after spending most of the morning in the Abbey and upper parts, we started to head back down visiting some of the shops. I think we were all timing our walk to end up at the reknowned Madame Poulard Restaurant to try their famous Monk's Omelette (again, check out the attached video). We were all pretty keen on this part of the adventure.
First off, the entrance to the restaurant actually has you standing pretty much in front of the fireplace where the omelletes are cooked. The restaurant is almost always busy and in our case we took the option of coming back in an hour and managed to get a table for guests that did not show...
Well, we were a bit stunned by the prices, but at Madame Poulard you are paying for the experience and it is a highly rated restaurant. Anyway the food in general was delicious and as advertised... the Monk's Omelette was a thing of beauty - being cooked in a traditional way, as it has been over the centuries.
Pretty good and all in all another great experience added to the list for Le Mont-St-Michel.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Another thing to note is that Le Mont-St-Michel is a UNESCO site and probably next to the Eiffel tower, is one of the most recognized sites and tourist attractions within France.
On the second day we visited nearby Saint-Malo and on the return, we passed by Mont-St-Michel as dusk was setting in. Again, a very unique site and a very calm and peaceful lasting impression.
Le Mont, I bid you Adieu, until the next time...
Stay tuned for my ‘back roads’ blogposts on nearby Saint Malo, Brittany > RVDH…