On a route between Normandy and Breton Finistère, Ava, our American student and her school group from Philadelphia took advantage of a beautiful day’s stopover at Mont Saint-Michel. The opportunity for Ava to devote a page of her travel diary in French as a foreign language to it.
My travel diary at Mont Saint-Michel
“In my travel diary, I wanted to devote an entire article to Mont St Michel, because it’s not called “The Wonder of the West” for nothing. This fantastic site is absolutely magical, I did not expect it!
After leaving our hostel in Saint-Malo, we arrived by bus near Mont Saint-Michel. Normandy makes us happy with beautiful sun and rare clouds! We were able to access the site by shuttle and then by crossing the footbridge. What a funny feeling… we feel very small!
We arrived there early in the morning as the tide was slowly falling: phew, there are still no crowds at this hour… Let’s take advantage of it, it’s the 3rd most visited tourist site in France !!
First stop: the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel
Incredible discovery. The abbey is huge. I am impressed by its size, because it comprises more than twenty rooms. It dominates this huge granite rock, and pilgrims have been going there since the 8th century. The abbey is an architectural feat. As our guide says, it is a remarkable model of military and religious architecture, all perched on a rock in the middle of a marshy bay! At its summit, you can see the statue of the Archangel Saint-Michael culminating at more than 157 metres, if I remember correctly.
During our visit, we crossed the refectory of the monks, but also the cloister of the Merveille, the crypt with the large pillars… all of this is enchanting! We even heard the prayers of the monks resonate, gathered in a room reserved for them.
To think that this abbey served as a prison for years… Thanks to several people, like Victor Hugo, the monument has become public again.
The village of Mont Saint-Michel
After visiting the abbey, we took the time to discover the village of Mont Saint-Michel, and stroll through its narrow mediaeval streets. Not always very authentic because there are many souvenir shops, especially in the Grand Rue. But there is also a lot of trade in religious objects, because we must not forget its function as a place of pilgrimage.
I pity a little the 40 inhabitants of the village, who meet almost 3 million visitors in the year! In reality, the residents are mainly religious, and they gladly accept pilgrims and tourists!
Take a tour of the ramparts
We followed the guide to take a tour of the ramparts of Mont Saint-Michel : an ideal circuit to enjoy the most beautiful panoramic views of the bay but also of the stone houses, and of the pretty flowered gardens that stand out around the village.
I really like these mediaeval half-timbered buildings : they’re unique, and the houses have a lot of charm. It reminds me of those we saw in Saint Malo 🙂
The ramparts were built during the Hundred Years War, and they connect 7 stone towers by a walkway.
I was able to take the most beautiful photos of my trip, and I particularly recommend the view from the Gabriel Tower, my favourite panorama over the entire bay of Mont Saint-Michel!
Tight passage in the Venelle du Guet
The Venelle du Guet is the narrowest street in Mont Saint Michel and among the narrowest in France. Difficult to sneak in, you have to crab to cross it! It is also called “Ruelle des cocus”, because one could not pass there with horns, they say.
Is Mont Saint-Michel an island?
Yes! Mont Saint Michel is indeed an island!
That day, we arrived at low tide. Sometimes the sea goes up to 15 kilometers away from the Mont. Sandbanks appear: here, they are called tangues. There are amazing reflections, dazzling mirror effects with so many different colors. Under the sun, the setting is wonderful!
When the tide rises, the water comes to cover the sand and joins the rock, with impressive force, as it is said. The tides there are very powerful and spectacular.
Our French guide tells us that the abbey, the village and the whole bay are part of the UNESCO world heritage. The architecture but also the landscape, and all the life of the local fauna and flora are very rich, and must be protected.
Ending in style by crossing the bay with a guide
As pilgrims do, we had the chance to cross the bay with a specialised guide. The area can become dangerous at rising tide, you can quickly be surprised. In the middle of the marshy area, we discover an extraordinary landscape and a breathtaking view of Mont Saint-Michel and the stretches of sand. Our guide taught us the quicksand system… and the technique to get out of it! An exciting and somewhat stressful experience at first!
The visit to Mont Saint Michel is one of my fondest memories of travelling to Normandy and Brittany with the French as a Foreign Language group. The site is grandiose and unparalleled. I recommend it to all travellers to France! After this busy day, we continue our trip to Dinard…
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