Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mont Saint-Michel

As promised, this post is all about the one tourist attraction we wanted to see while in France: Mont Saint-Michel. But first, it's my turn again at Vision and Verb, where you will get a different slant on the whole experience.

This isn't France's second biggest attraction next to Paris for nothing!

We arrived at 6:30 p.m. and left by 11:15 p.m., so in this collage you see the beginning pictures to the end, with the largest image being the last one taken at just after 11 p.m. As we were leaving in the car, the sky was almost totally dark...but we knew it would take us till midnight before we'd get back to our B&B as it was, which is why we didn't stay longer. [In case you're wondering why all the pictures don't have a blue sky, it's because I converted some of them to B&W/sepia.]

If you look carefully at the bigger Mont, you can see there is a whole fortress-like section crowned with a spire (the Abbey) at the top. Under that is an actual village of homes and stores, keeping the village alive as a tourist attraction. Technically, it's an island with a population of 41. However, a natural land causeway connects the island to the mainland and has been built up over time to keep high tides from covering it. There are posted signs telling you what time high tide will cover the lower parking lots, in case your car is parkerd there. We were safe because high tide was at 1 p.m. that day. (See the middle image of the above collage.)

Entrance into the village is free. We would have gladly paid to get inside this exclusive community, but they spared us the change, welcoming us with their open arms. It is, after all, a tourist attraction, so every narrow street is filled with shops and restaurants...and even hotels for spending the night. From top left to bottom right, you see the street scenes from early to late evening, before and after we climbed all the way to the top of the Abbey.

As you've correctly guessed, it was the Abbey we wanted to see. While the streets wound this way and that, we kept looking at it towering above us. It was magical, whispering its sweet-nothings to us, like sirens drawing us in. And all the while it was getting darker and darker.

At the entrance to the Abbey was when we had to pay something, and the only time: €8.50 per person. We had no expectation of what we would see inside but after the never-ending maze of ups and downs and backwards and forwards, we would have gladly paid more (shhhhh--don't tell them). What surprised us was its austere emptiness. It clearly no longer functions as an Abbey but is a showcase for the skeletal structure, the bones of which are enhanced by natural and accented lighting throughout.

Lighting and...MUSIC. For our entertainment, musicians were stationed in special places on different levels of the Abbey...far enough apart that you couldn't hear them clashing against each other.

BTW, can you see how empty most of these rooms are? The next morning at our B&B we were told that during the day these spaces are filled with elbow-to-elbow tourists, going with the flow from beginning to end. We were astonished on hearing this because at closing time, when we were ready to leave, we saw no exit signs and had to wing it for how to get back to the entrance. We almost panicked because it really was getting dark and we had visions of spending the night in a place we did not know. Who would have thought it would be sparcer at night than during the day, right?! But no one worries during the day about where to go because the flow of the crowd dictates it...or so said the ticket man who told us we were leaving from the wrong exit. Really? Where were we supposed to leave? There were no signs. Oh, we were supposed to follow the crowd. HA!

There were reminders here and there throughout the village and Abbey that France is a Roman Catholic country.

All in all, it was an experience that exceeded our highest expectations. We both highly recommend a visit, if you ever have the chance. But please visit my turn at Vision and Verb today to find out why we do not need to go back. It was the "once in a lifetime" visit and we'll never forget it.


  1. Seeing your beautiful collages and pictures again it is like re-living the time we spend there.
    It was a long time wish for me to once see this fabulous Abbey.
    I am glad we were not there at noon, big crowds....NO THANK now you know I have that clausto feeling and I want to get out.
    This place was even better than I could have imagined, our tour in the Abbey was wondeful and I am glad we did not spend the night there..........
    A wonderful post again, I can tell you had fun creating it.

  2. The streets remind me of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter! A beautiful, magical place. I have to say I've never heard of it before.

  3. These photos just make me smile. Some of mont st Michel reminds me of the tiny village near Evian Les Bains that we visited in 2005. So pretty!!!

    And the abby, it reminds me of the fortress in Montreux, as it is the same architecture and no lighting!

    Now I'm so curious to know why it's once in a lifetime. Curiosity is right though, low tide and your car could vanish, who knew!

    I'm sure I could easily spend a few days here just enjoying and taking it all in from an onlookers perspective. Great post!!!!

  4. I clicked on your link from Vision and Verb and these images have just blown me away. What beautifully imagery of of your lovely vacation.

  5. Your collages are great. I don’t remember the Abbaye but with my mother, who was totally secular, going into churches and the like was not something we would do, but I would go on my own just to look. I do remember the little streets though but with so many tourists now I don’t think I would like to stay there for a week as we did back then.

  6. Astrid: The collages are so much better than my photo albums, so in that regard, they've breathed new life into me. Thank you. We had such a good experience in that beautiful place. It still shocks me that there weren't more people at night...but maybe most travelers go by day and have no choice. We will always have such wonderful memories of that place.

    Susan: You're so right about Diagon Alley...everything is so close and without cars! I wish I had thought of that. :)

    ET: You would definitely love it, Jen, and you'd have your own heap of pictures. Thanks!

    CP: Thank you for clicking to here, Cherie. That means a lot. That place deserved an entire post of its own. Incredible.

    Vagabonde: If you'd stay there for a week now, you'd leave during the day to see the countryside and then come back late afternoon and start having the place to yourself again. That would work. :) I have gone to places years ago and then returned, not remembering much of seeing it for the first time. I wonder how much you'd recognize now?

  7. Oh it's fabulous, Boots! I did not know there was a village there! I have not spent a minute studying this, but have only seen photos of the abbey, and the "island" at a distance.

    I can tell it would be incredible to wander in there, especially at night, as you and Astrid did. I hope we can see it one day, and with you it would be even better.

    Thank you for these amazing photos and collages, just splendid.

  8. I visited Mont St Michel with my sons 5 years ago. We spent most of the day there so did not see it in the evening. But I thought it was very commercialised and a huge tourist trap. And I was told that the causeway and parking lot have changed the way the tides flow. I know it used to be an island at high tide many years go.
    As you were there at night, you probably didn't see the sands that surround the Mont. We went onto the sands and carved a huge Canadian flag in the sand. Many people were writing messages in the sand. Someone had written in huge letters "Marie, n'oubliez pas le pain" which made us laugh.
    Many years ago we visited St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall, the English version. We walked from the mainland to the Mount at low tide, but had to come back on a boat. And nowhere near so commercialised.

  9. Ruth: The village is what gives a lot of the charm, kinda like the one in the Harry Potter movies, as someone said on my other blog. You and Don will definitely love it whenever you can see it. It sounds like going in the evening is a must and not during the day. Let's make it happen!

    Sham: It is definitely commercialized but not at all bad at night. It actually was charming. I think they're planning to work on the causeway/tides to make it all more eco-friendly. We saw much of the sand all around, especially from high up at the Abbey. You could see how low-tide it was after high tide at 1 p.m. One day we would love to see the Cornwall version!

  10. so pretty. your photos are amazing as usual. love them all but especially the village scene. i only dreamed of village scenes. hope you can go back some day.

  11. A wonderful set of pictures Ginnie. It does look such a beautiful place. I can see why You and Astrid enjoyed it

  12. The town is so beautiful and charming! And so French:) Like from a movie! Greetings

  13. PC: Thanks for stopping by here, Maria. The village part of this site is actually very special, with streets on an incline because they're winding up the mount. You'd love it there.

    Bill: One day I want to see the Cornwall version, after hearing so much about it now. Thanks for stopping by here and commenting. That means a lot.

    Ola: Exactly as you have said. Exactly! Thank you.

  14. Everything's so beautiful and impressive. Gotta love it!