MAY 15,2017 - MAY 15,2017 (1 DAYS)
Le Mont Saint-Michel - part 1:
Main Attractions: Dol-de-Bretagne,
Duration: One day is enough for Mont Saint-Michel. If you opt for a nigit visit - consider 1 night in MSM. IT IS A SPECIAL, MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE TO VISIT THE TOTALLY QUAINT, DESOLATED ISLAND WITHOUT THE HERDS OF TOURISTS - UNDER THE PALE LIGHT OF THE MOON AND/OR ROADS' LAMPS.
When: The best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is March to October when the weather is at its best. July and August are high season so crowds are at their thickest. Low season runs November to February when the weather is at its worst.
Introduction: Le Mont Saint Michel (or Saint Michel’s Mount) is the kind of attraction you would see featured on a series entitled “bizarre churches of the world.” For Le Mont Saint Michel, it is not so much the church itself that is bizarre, but its location: engulfing the top of a small mount that can quickly change from being inland to island thanks to a rapidly flowing tide. Should you have some time to take a trip outside of Paris, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see. Most of our trip in May 2017 had been in Bretagne. BUT, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, WHICH is an island, IS, ACTUALLY IN Normandy. The island stands, exactly on the border between Bretagne and Normandy. The island resides 1 km. off France mainland northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River. Very few people live on the island (approx. 50). The Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most breathtaking sights. Mont Saint-Michel is the second most visited site in France (after Paris) visited by more than 3 million people each yea., Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay are an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 60 buildings on the island are protected in France as historic monuments. The abbey and the fortifications on the island stand since the 8th century AD. Until the 7th century, the place was actually called Mont Tombe and belonged to the Diocese of the Avranches. According to legend, it was the archangel Michael himself who directed the building of this magnificent abbey in the 8th century. The local legend adds that the bishop of Avranches, Saint Aubert, had a dream in which the patron of a sailor – Saint Michael, told him to build a church on top of the Mont Tombe. However, since he ignored the dream a few times Saint Michel bore a hole into his skull what made him do it. The real skull, kept in Saint-Gervais Basilica, presents the hole in it... Once the church was built it’s been captured by the Vikings what made the monks move away. But in 966 the Duke of Normandy allowed the Benedict Monks to settle there and add a pre-Romanesque church of the abbey. By the time of the French revolution, the abbey was closed and converted into a prison which led Mont Saint Michel to more deterioration. This prison was finally closed in 1863 and from then on, various efforts of restoration to this architectural wonder were started. These efforts bore fruit when it was regarded as a historical monument in 1874.
In ancient times, and nowadays, the citizens (farmers and fishermen) lived (live) outside the walls - very few on the island and the others, the majority, outside the island. Mont Saint-Michel island was accessible, for hundreds of years, only at low tide - mostly, for the many pilgrims to its abbey. The Mont Saint-Michel remained unconquered during the Hundred Years' War. King Louis XI turned the Mont into a prison. Since 28 April 2012, the huge car park on the mainland has been located 2.5 kilometres from the island. Visitors can walk or use shuttles to cross the causeway.
From 2016 there is a long wooden causeway which connects the island with the mainland. A FREE shuttle bus runs every 10-15 minutes from the mainland to Mont Saint-Michel island and the opposite direction. You can use the public transportation or walk along this causeway (all free). Visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast are exposed to a severe danger of high tide and floods. Occasional flooding have created salt marsh meadows that are found to be ideally suited to grazing sheep. The well-flavoured meat that results from the diet of the sheep in the salt meadows - makes salt meadow lamb, a local specialty that may be found on the menus of restaurants that depend on income from the many visitors and pilgrims to Mont Saint-Michel abbey and the walled complex on the island.
Transportaion to the Mont Saint-Michel island:
In summary - the best two options are: BY TRAIN (note that there are no direct train services between Paris and Le Mont St Michel):
OPTION 1 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Rennes and then the Keolis Emeraude bus which takes passengers directly to Le Mont Saint Michel (click here for more details - no reservation necessary except for groups of 10+ people). Often the Rennes connection is unavailable on off-season Sundays. In this case, take the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Dol-de-Bretagne where the same Keolis Emeraude buses to Le Mont Saint Michel also operate from.
OPTION 2 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Saint-Lazare) to Caen, then a TER regional train to Pontorson, and then the Pontorson–Le Mont shuttle to Le Mont Saint Michel. The shuttle takes about 10 minutes and its timetable is coordinated with when the trains arrive at Pontorson railway station.
The trip between Paris and Mont St Michel via train plus coach will cost from about €35 to €100. To get the best prices for the TGV trip, we recommend you buy your tickets as early as possible (you can buy these up to 3 months in advance of your trip).
Now, more in detail: we did the way, from Saint-Malo, easily using a combination of train and bus. There are several trains, every day leaving Saint-Malo and heading to a small town, Dol-de-Bretagne. From there - we caught a convenient bus to Mont Saint-Michel. Typical time-table for the morning trains Saint-Malo --> Dol-de-Bretagane (25-30 minutes ride): 08.44, 10.19, 12.10, 13.15, 14.15. We did not find information on the current timetables of bus from Dol-de-Bretagne to Mont Saint-Miche. The bus stop was opposite the railway station in Dol-de-Bretagne. Prices: Dol de Bretagne – Mont Saint Michel : 8€, Rennes – Mont Saint Michel : 15€. WE SUSPECT THAT THIS COMBINATION DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE. This option is based on the Rennes–Dol-de-Bretagne regional coach line which takes you directly to Mont Saint-Michel in only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Rennes or 30 minutes from Dol-de-Bretagne. The line operates seven days a week (including bank holidays). You can depart from either Rennes or Dol-de-Bretagne: In Rennes, the coach departs from the bus station (upon exiting the train, follow the sign marked “Sortie Nord” and then “Gare Routière”). In Dol de Bretagne, the coach departs from the SNCF train station (upon exiting the train, cross through the lobby and turn right). WE ARE NOT SURE THAT THE DIRECT BUS LINE OF DOL-DE-BRETAGNE ---> MONT SAINT-MICHEL STILL FUNCTIONS. Your best bet is the SNCF web site. Here, we found a service of everyday bus at 10.50 and another one at 12.25 (not everyday). Please have a look at: https://en.oui.sncf/en/results?clientId=964f3ab1-a43a-48d1-9429-0e9fc1062c38&language=en&country=EN#!/?queryId=jT1m7
Another option is the bus from Pontorson to Mont Saint-Michel. You can catch a train from Paris or from Rennes to Pontorson, the gateway town to the MSM Abbey. Better, take the train to Rennes, then transfer to Pontorson. Then continue with a bus to MSM. All tickets can be purchased at the Pontorson station.
Instead we were surprised to see a direct bus from Saint-Malo to Mont Saint-Michel and vice versa. This is the Keolis bus service. As far as we understand there are two buses everyday (Spring and Summer months), in every direction EXCLUDING SUNDAYS. Departures from Saint-Malo: 09.15, 13.15. Departures from MSM: 15.45, 18.35. The ride is 75 minutes. The mandatory ticket is bi-directional and costs 23 euros/person. We must say that you can (not easily) cope with the tough time-table. 4-5 hours strolling around the island are enough (probably, with giving-up sitting in a local restaurant in MSM). There's plenty to see. All depends if you can look beyond all the souvenir shops, restaurants, and crowds. Please advice the web site: https://storage.gra1.cloud.ovh.net/v1/AUTH_2e10c334b62a4c6f99f893e18b2832f4/armor/upload/pdf/keolis-armor-v160617.pdf?temp_url_sig=556c6f8e8e56b5f93adbf0eea958cf6eb5f4ce93&temp_url_expires=1546297200&inline=1
Note: Valid to July 2018 - the web page of Keolis bus company states shortly that "there are disturbances in the line of Dol-de-Bretagne and Mont Saint Michel". https://keolis-armor.com/index.php?
Arriving to Mont Saint-Michele does not bring you, immediately, to the island. A particularly cheap deal, costing from only €27 is known as the Le Train du Mont-Saint-Michel – start the journey in Paris on a slower Intercités rather than the fast TGV train and change to the Oui bus in Villedieu des Poules with total traveling time around four hours. This deal, while it lasts, is only available for traveling on the following departures: from Paris Montparnasse 3 Vaugirard (from Mont St Michel) on weekdays at 7:38 (18:05) and weekends at 8:50 (18:05). All visitors to Mont St Michel, whether arriving by bus or car, have to either walk (40 minutes) or take the free shuttle buses (10 minutes), or a horse-drawn carriage (25 euros), the last 3 km to Mont St Michel. (Cycling is only allowed at quiet times.).
The views are obviously better walking towards Mont St Michel than back towards the parking lots. Free shuttle buses (Passeur navettes) transport visitors with high frequency from the parking lots to Mont St Michel. The buses stop en route at La Caserne / Grand’rue (the hotel and shopping complex on the mainland) and at Le Barrage (the dam), which offer some of the best views of Mont St Michel. (From here, it is a ten-minute walk back to the parking lot should the buses arriving from the island be too crowded.). These Passeurs operate daily, at very regular intervals, from 7.30am to midnight. Alternatively, you can book a special horse-drawn carriage (a Maringote) or you can walk all the way from the car parks, contemplating the full magnificence of the Mont-Saint-Michel as you approach. That's what we did !
Special tips for your visit in Mont Saint-Michel:
* Avoid the restaurants and shops on the island. They are more expensive. Expect a slow service in these restaurants. Take a picnic with you. Another advice: buy just quick-to-prepare crepes on the island.
* The whole visit in the island (and not just in the abbey) is concerned with plenty of stairs. There are flights of stairs on the way to the Abbey, and more stairs to reach the top of the Abbey after the ticketing booth. This tour is not suitable if you have walking difficulties. Prams are literally unpractical on the island.
* There are sections around the island without sufficient measures of safety (no benches, steep sections of paths, smooth or wet sections of cobbled-stone paths). Watch young kids !
* Be prepared for a lot of walking. The section of walk from/to the parking lot to/from the abbey's entrance is 35-45 minutes.
* Most of the paths on the island are cobbled-stone ones. Come with solid, tough shoes.
* Come as early as possible - to avoid the queues in the abbey's entrance.
* Skip several "partisan" museums around the island.
* By all means take light luggage. There are security control at the island's entrance and it is all an uphill crowded climb.
* Go to the bathroom as you come into the island area. There are no frequent or many of them further around. There is a nice clean restroom ALSO in the parking area.
* The winds and sea rapidly change in this area. Make sure to bring some layers and umbrella just in case.
* Online tickets: You can buy your ticket online for admission the same day or later. Additional charge: 1 euro processing fee.
* If you have the opportunity to have an overnight accommodation near MSM island - come and visit the island also later in the day, during the evening or night hours. The crowds were on their way home. The later - the better. You feel like you have the place mostly or totally to yourself. It is easy to see how the peace and serenity of the abbey, the island fortification and the ocean around - ALL help focus your attention on the contemplation of a higher power. Remember: the shuttle buses run till midnight.
* Check timelines of tide - before your visit day: https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/horaire-marees/mont-saint-michel.htm
* The shuttle bus gets crowded as early as 9.30. Get in early. The group tours usually arrive around 11.00. If you happen to be there during the middle of the day prepare to be swamped by other visitors.
Mont Saint-Michel Opening hours and prices:
Last admission one hour before closing.
FROM 2 JANUARY TO 30 APRIL: Open every day 9.30-18.00.
FROM 2 MAY TO 31 AUGUST: Open every day 9.00-19.00.
FROM 1ST SEPTEMBER TO 31 DECEMBER: Open every day 9.30-18.00.
CLOSING DAYS: January 1st, May 1st and December 25.
Last admission one hour before closing.
For 3 or 4 days around the following dates: February 2nd ; March 3rd ; August 13th ; September 11th ; October 10th the entrance is limited for 2-3 hours ONLY, during each day - due to a potential danger of high tide.
Accessing the island is FREE. BUT, entering the Abbey is concerned with paying an admission fee. FULL PRICE: 10€, REDUCED PRICE (Students and pensioners): 8€.
Audio guide price: 3€. FREE admission for under 18 years.
Lodging: There are a few hotels within Mont Saint Michel that you can book into; however, it’s helpful to note that since this is a highly isolated touristy area, the prices of these accommodations can be quite expensive (especially with the high demand as there are only a few hotels in this small island). Avoid the expensive hotels on the island. We paid more than 150 euros/double room/night in the Mercure hotel. Very good hotel, good breakfast. Silent and convenient stay. Very helpful and polite staff members.
The small town of Pontorson nearby has a better range of hotels at even lower prices and some nice French provincial restaurants.
The Navette buses can take you (FREE) to an extensive area where there are about 6 modern hotels, restaurants, snack bars, stores and camping. From here, one can walk to Mont Saint-Michel (about 30 minute walk) or continue with the Navette bus right up to the Mont. The bus stops also near the hotels (opposite the supermarket).
Dol-de-Bretagne: This is a little historic city which boasts some exceptionally old medieval houses along its high street and with a fascinating, huge cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Samson). Dol de Bretagne developed around Saint-Samson Cathedral. Countless buildings were listed Historical Monuments decades ago. Dol has therefore retained a wealth of medieval features and buildings and is very picturesque. All the half-timbered buildings that still border Dol are stunning.
However, the ancient shop with a granite counter at no1 really stands out!
It is now a restaurant, Le Porche au Pain.
The cathedral is an outstanding, defensive 13th-century church. The cathedral was built when Dol was one of the foremost ecclesiastic centres of Brittany. Naughty King John of England’s troops burned down the Romanesque cathedral, so a mighty new Gothic one went up – one hideous gargoyle on it is said to resemble the evil monarch. The church was saved from destruction in WWII by a joint effort of American military commanders and the town mayor. The cathedral patron saint is St Samson who allegedly crossed the English Channel in a stone boat. To mark the last Millennium, a new stone boat was carved and now is anchored outside the church. Outside, there are two un-matching towers, a large porch, and very interesting and unique buttresses. Inside, there are some beautiful stained-glass windows. FREE. The tourist office is next block:
Dol town is built above marshes extending to the Baie de Mont St-Michel. The town developed on the top of a hill that peaked above a vast marshy area. However, in the 10th century the monks attached to the monastery Saint-Samson of Dol drained the marsh in order to reclaimed the land. They also built a dike, which has left place to the current road linking St-Malo to Pontorson. The reclaimed area, the Marais de Dol, has two distinct zones. The white marsh, closer to the sea, consists of white silt formed from ancient marine deposits. The decaying vegetation that colonized the reclaimed land produced the black marshes. Go in the direction of the river and allow 20-30 minutes for a circular itinerary along these marshes. There is a "dry" wooden causeway/path near the river:
The best part is probably walking or driving up to the island and its striking, perched-above abbey. There cannot be anyone who is not struck with awe when you first see the Mont Saint-Michel island and abbey from afar. It looks utterly stupendous. From the distance - it will forever remain one of the most fantastic sights on earth. The island and the abbey magically appear and get bigger and bigger as you get closer:
On your walk to the island you see, on your left the Couesnon river dam. Commissioned in May 2009, by regulating the water levels the dam over the Couesnon gives the river enough strength to push sediment out to sea and away from the Mont. In addition to its hydraulic function, the dam blends in with the new approach, causeway wooden route to the Mont-Saint-Michel as a work of art and a structure to welcome the public:
When you approach this beauty - the island and the Abbaye: it’s mesmerizing, sublime, a view like no other, a monument that deserves to be remembered for ever. Mont-Saint-Michel served as an inspiration for creating the town of Minas Tirith (the capital of Gondor) in the Lord of the Rings film series:
One need to go and feel the magnitude of MSM site. It goes beyond the normal WOW factor ! One of wonders in this world ! You must visit it at least once in your life !
Like all the worlds treasures, be prepared to share the experience with thousands of tourists:
After we entered the village, I followed the Grand Rue. It’s the main street of this city and a shopping paradise. It is by this point that you will witness the narrow and charming streets of Mont Saint Michel! (This is a 200 meter paved pathway that climbs progressively to the top).
La Porte du Rey:
Going Up the Abbey: There are 3 routes going up to the Abbey.
* From the Center Gate - Passing through all the souvenir shops and restaurants
* From the left before entering the Monastery - Some winding slopes before a flight of stairs and more stairs along the way to the Abbey
* After the Gate where La Mère Poulard is - There is a flight of stairs on the right leading up and you can also view the causeway from there.
The abbey is a long climb but worth the effort with the surrounding views. The Grand Degré staircase has 700 steps leading to the Abbey. This will be quite a climb and unfortunately, there are no elevators. Therefore, Mont Saint Michel isn’t friendly for disabled people. Actually, you do it 10 to 20 at a time, stopping off for a rest and photos at each level before you continue climbing:
Raise your head and get a wonderful view of the abbey, hung above:
As we said before: even if it is a long way upstairs, rest and take photos at each level before you continue climbing. The road upstairs in the western part of the complex:
View to the south - houses of the Mont Saint-Michel village:
The Eglise Saint Pierre, a small church just off the main street, is also worth a look inside to see its narrow stained-glass windows and golden chandeliers. Be sure and see the statue of Joan of Arc at the entrance to Eglise Saint Pierre church as you walk up to the abbey:
Inside are colorful stained glass windows, and the columns around the altarpiece date from the 1600’s:
there is a large statue of St Michael, slaying the dragon, in a side chapel of the main church:
As you approach the abbey, after climbing the stairs and the narrow road upward - the abbey might be extremely crowded. A line to enter the abbey might be starting at the bottom, what will scare you at first. But, the queue clears out quite quickly:
At last, near the top is the entrance to the Abbey itself:
From the entrance - we head to the viewing platform. More stairs to climb INSIDE the abbey. To reach this platform, we already climbed up through many stairs and rising streets before the abbey and, now, also some stairs inside of it.
Entrance to the abbey - the Cafeteria stairs:
Entrance to the abbey - arriving to the 2nd floor:
Entrance to the abbey - Continuing to climb the stairs into the abbey:
The end of flight of stairs into the abbey:
There’s no harm in going for a look around on your own. But, there are guided visits, and if you enjoy getting great explanations about the history of the area, you can join free or guided tours of one hour every day without reservations (except for exceptional dates). THESE GUIDED TOURS START AT THE OBSERVATION TERRACE - IN THE END OF THE FLIGHT OF STAIRS JUST DESCRIBED. For a more detailed visit, sign up in advance for a ‘Visite conférence’. These tours are led by specially licensed guides, who have access to parts of the abbey not normally accessible to the public. These tours last about two hours and happen at weekends and every day during school holidays (except for exceptional dates). The conference visits are NOT only in French. We remember there are tours in English, Spanish and Italian:
There are imposing views from the viewing platform on the top of the abbey. At the top you get some stunning views from the Mount out across the sea and Normandy & Brittany. In a bright day there are fantastic views of the La-Manche Channel from the top. Those who make it to the top have the Abbey to explore and view the vast emptiness of the surrounding beach. You can also see many seagulls who are flying around the island and also on the viewing platform of the abbey:
More breath-taking views of the the muddy terrain surrounding MSM abbey from the viewing platform (where the guided tours start):
Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel museum - Architectural model:
From the small museum with the abbey model - there is ADDITIONAL flight of stairs leading to level 3 of the abbey with ANOTHER viewing terrace:
If we look down from level 3 viewing platform or terrace that's what we see....:
the level 3 viewing platform is the best place to have a look at the abbey's high-rising tower turret. The spire of the abbey church is nicely constructed of timber, copper, gold leaf and slate:
And in close up:
Michael Archangel in the top of the tower spire:
The abbey church is surprisingly stark and plain on the interior. The inside is stripped of its colours and decorations. The abbey, inside, is very well preserved for as many as thousand years. Within the building, it is very interesting to see how the rooms and chapels were structured and constructed. The church, reminiscent of a medieval castle, is huge with several halls and secret rooms to visit. The church is also surprisingly large – given that it is on the top of the hill and required building enormous underground supporting rooms/vaults to make sure that a level floor was possible for a room of this size and height. There are beautiful views in every window that you have the opportunity to snoop around. The Benedictine Abbey is a mix of medieval religion, a military fort and an important pilgrimage site from the 8th century to the 18 century. Today, 24 brothers and sisters from Jerusalem reside and conduct services in this unique wonderful abbey, and it is open to the public:
The abbey is divided into 2 parts. First is the church which three crypts built: the Trente-Cierges chapel (under the North wing),
the choir crypt (to the East)
and Saint-Martin chapel (under the South wing):
A gift from the King of France, Philipe Auguste, in the 13th century would enable the construction of one of the most impressive elements seen today at Le Mont Saint Michel: the Gothic style "Merveille." These two three-storey buildings, with the famous cloister and refectory on the rooftop, were the living quarters for resident monks. Finally, as a result of the Hundred Years’ War, military constructions were added to the Abbey in the 14th and 15th centuries.
So, the second part of the abbey is the “Merveille” or monk’s living area which is further subdivided into two parts: the East and the West. The East side was built first and has 3 rooms: the chaplaincy (cistern of the aumônerie),
the hosts room (visitors descend down a few steps to get to the lower floor of the abbey. This is the so called “Merveille” floor where the monks lived and also where guests where hosted). The “Salle des Hôtes” or “Hosts Room” was used to welcome honorable guests and offer them dinner. Therefore the room has/had very large fireplaces to allow proper heating. It is located directly under the monks refectory/dining room (which was not heated):
and the dining-hall:
The West side was built seven years later with 3 rooms too: the wine cellar, the Knights room
and the cloister (garden quadrangle):
Mont Saint-Michel - the tower from the cloister. The Cloister is a tourist favourite. Surrounded by two rows of arches, the cloister has a beautiful garden in the center that was formerly used as a food-garden by resident monks. The cloister serves as a key access point, with each side providing access to a different wing of the church. All except the north side which gives visitors a beautiful view of the church’s gardens and the ocean below:
Entrance door to the cloister:
The charming cloister garden started in the thirteenth century. Today the garden is planted with herbaceous plants. They would not have been here during the Middle Ages but they create an unexpectedly soft domestic character to a dramatic place with dramatic views:
Coat of arms of abbey, bas relief, Le Mont-Saint-Michel - is it the order of Jerusalem Kingdom ?
Bas-relief from the 9th century. Archangel Saint Michael appearing before Saint Aubert:
Saint Madeleine Chapel:
The original lady of Mont-Saint-Michel was a classic example of a Queen of the Underworld. Until the 8th century her island was called Mont-Tombe, i.e. Mount Tomb because it was a Gallic burial site - the Black Madonna of Mont Saint-Michel:
The 11th century would see the construction of the Romanesque-style church designed by William de Volpiano. It was this Italian architect who decided to position the church’s transept crossing at the apex of the mount: the closest to God as possible. Great idea in theory, although the mount did not provide enough level ground for the foundation. To compensate, four immense crypts were built whose roofs would serve as the large level foundation necessary to build the church and abbey on top of. The Cryptes de Gros Piliers (Crypts of Big Pillars) gives you a firsthand look at the massive pillars that now keep the crypts from collapsing and meeting the same fate as one did in 1421. Since there are only a few small windows, it is a very dark yet somehow majestic room:
You then leave the crypt and follow a few corridors. Afterwards you enter the Ossuary – which was later transformed into a storage facility and also houses the tread wheel crane that was used to transport goods up to the abbey building. The Grand Roue (big wheel) is also an element that always fascinates. The goods lift wheel was installed around 1820 during the time when Le Mont Saint Michel served as a prison. Its purpose was to hoist provisions to those being held prisoner in the Abbey:
Adjacent to the former ossuary is the small chapel of Saint-Etienne. The other side of the chapel has a door to the grand staircase that leads again to the main northern building. Chapelle Saint Etienne, or St Stephen's Chapel, was built in the 8th century (and so one of the earliest Christian sanctuaries) with later 13th century rib vaulting, part of the Romanesque abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. The chapel served as a mortuary chapel and beneath the archway is a Pieta sculpture where there was a stone bath used for washing the dead:
The gorgeous Scriptorium - here, the monks copied and documented scrolls, maps, monastic documents:
Here, in this point we complete our long climb to the Mont Saint-Michel abbey. We exit the glorious, historical wonder and turn to our part 2: lunch, walking along the walls, having a glance at the salty sands around the island and visting, again, Mont Saint-Michel at dark hours. Turn to Part 2.
Mont-Saint-Michel -Part 2:
Leaving the abbey church and walking back to MSM town - will be, probably, along the mighty eastern walls of the abbey:
The restaurants on the island are VERY PRICEY. The quality of their food is very average - but, the service is honest, efficient and polite. Expect families, busy spaces and... marvelous sights around.
Mont Saint Michel is famous for crêpes and omelettes and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. If you’re after an omelette, you simply have to visit La Mere Poulard. This restaurant is world-famous, cooking up delicious and innovative omelettes, but be warned, it can get busy here, though it is possible to MANDATORY a reservation. Omelette is MORE than 50 euros !!!
Crêpes are the next best thing, and you won’t have a shortage of crêperies to choose from. Tucked away off the narrow Grand Rue is Crêperie La cloche, arguably serving up the best crêpes on the island, though others claim they are among the best in France!
Remember ? another local delicacy you can find only here is agneau de pré-salé - salt meadow lamb. The animals’ unique diet of grazing in salt marshes results in a distinctively flavoured meat. Look for it at restaurants on the island or on the mainland:
The main asset of the island's restaurants - is the VIEW AROUND:
After leaving the abbey it is really a good idea to climb up to the city walls. From there you have have wonderful view over the surrounding area. Also you can marvel at the exterior of the abbey and get a glimpse into the village streets below you. It is possible to walk almost around the entire island. Only the northern section of the wall is not accessible. So an option can be to walk from the entrance of the abbey all along the city wall down to the main gate of the island. Allow, at least, 1 hour for the walk around the walls:
Do NOT attempt to make your way to Mont Saint Michel by any other route other than the causeway or bridge! The terrain surrounding the island consists of deep mud and quicksand; add the fact that the sudden tide can trap or drown you. Mont Saint-Michel is really an island in the time of high tide and a part of mainland in the time of low tide (difference between high and low tides there are as many as 12 metres). Guides take small groups onto the sand. You do need a guide to avoid the risk of getting stuck in mud or drowned by the incoming tide or both. Don't go on your own ! When the tide comes - it is very quick (speedier than a train) ! 20 times a year the island is surrounded by high tides. Again, if you really want to cross the sand, it’s best to take an experienced guide with you and check the tidal information. Mont Saint-Michel looks, at these high-tide times, is even more magical !
This is the accomplishment of generations that worked throughout the centuries to deliver this masterpiece.
Visiting Le Mont Saint Michel is like being transported back in time to a bustling village from the Middle Ages. Even the walls surrounding the town/village still date, for the most part, from the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The structure of town represents the feudal society in the Middle Ages. On top is the abbey and monastery – representing God, right below the great halls with stores and houses, and at the bottom houses of fishermen and farmers. The tiny town or village has been there since the Middle Ages and is tucked below the abbey on the island's southeast side. It is home to some quaint shops and restaurants. Once you enter, you are in medieval times. This wasn’t just a worship place but also a town, which is now a bustling shopping paradise for souvenirs, built over the years as the abbey expanded. The town itself consists of many old houses in both Breton and Norman styles. The town really feels like a fairy tale village with heavy stone walls and half-timbered houses leading up to the imposing structure of the abbey at the top of the mount:
Try to go there by night when all the tourists leave the place. It is a wholly different thing. Be aware that the last bus to the parking is at 00.30. We enjoyed the place so much we returned back again at night to see it all lit up. If you go at night - come after 21.00 because it is free. During the night hours there's hardly anyone there and it feels magical:
There are loads of tourists who wait, patiently, on the beach, opposite the MSM island - during the dusk hours. Most of them equipped with cameras and photography equipment. During the high-tide days and hours - you'll find hundreds or, even, thousands of people there (during the high season months).