The morning was uneventful which is okay by me since the rest of the day (and this post) is going to be jam-packed with visual delight.
We are renting (“hiring” in Aussie and Brit talk) a car and heading out to the coast. Our first stop will be Mont Saint Michel. I’m a bit nervous about the drive. French drivers are really good but drive at lightning speeds. Fortunately I won’t be driving. Dean has bought a GPS for our journey so we won’t be getting lost either. We don’t have much of a route set up. We are traveling, as always, waiting where the winds – in this case the wheels – will take us. I like it that way though at times setting up good accommodations requires a bit of knowing our itinerary ahead of time.
I cross the street to buy some croissants and milk and coffee for the road. And we are off.
It’s a two-hour ride to Mont Saint Michel and it just flies by. Before we know it we are approaching the very familiar site of Mont Saint Michel. As we get closer the little spots I see in the distance turn into munching cows that concentrate solely on eating and disregard the island behind them. They create a perfect photo-op that I can’t let pass by. We park the Renault (which curiously enough has not been named by us) and take a shuttle bus that takes us closer to the entrance and then walk to the island which is linked by a causeway, which makes it technically not an island any more. A fact that does not deter from its beauty and impressiveness. There’s a medieval town on the mount with its expected winds and turns and narrowness. The hoards of tourists remind me that this has been, through the ages, one of the top pilgrimage sites for Christians. The abundance of souvenir shops lining the quaint (and exercise inducing) steep streets may make you forget that this place has much history, dating from when years didn’t have four numbers. It also has a peculiar history. It is said that before the abbey that’s on it was built in the 8th century, the Archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church. Seems that Aubert ignored the archangel so Michael burned a hole in the bishop’s skull with his finger. The abbey was built afterwards. First there is a little chapel we visit. And then onwards towards the abbey.
The abbey is built on the islet’s top point so it’s a bit of a climb. It has a gothic feel to it. The church is more austere than any of the other churches we have visited but if it doesn’t quite match the beauty of the others it holds its own by just where it is situated. Before heading back in I am fascinated by how large the seagulls are around here. And how privileged they are to fly so high and have such an amazing place to land. Once my eyes get unglued from the birds and the view, my imagination takes flight. I can almost see the robed monks going from one side of the abbey to the other through this bridge. And going about their chores around water source which has the largest faucet I’ve ever seen. We go back inside to explore how the monks lived. I like the simplicity and solidness of it all. As usual, I am distracted by a window with a soft view of the outside. But I concentrate on my steps in the inside for it is dark and a gentleman going down the steps has fallen.
I encounter the Archangel Michael in the basement. He is a plaster replica of the one that is on top of the spire and he is the one I mentioned earlier who burned a hole in the bishop’s skull. I certainly would do as ordered! He is also a psychopomp – which I wouldn’t mention except for the fact that the name made me giggle – though the responsibilities of one are quite serious. He leads the dead and weighs souls (didn’t know souls had weight) on the day of judgment and is often presented with a balance in the scenes of the Last Judgment. I would definitely want this guy on my side!!
It isn’t a sunny day but it almost enhances the feeling of going back in time. The view, with the tides low around the mount, is a bit surreal.
Another unique feature of Mont Saint Michel is that the bay around it has the highest tidal variations in all of Europe. At low tide the Mont is surrounded by sand. At high tide the water comes in at an astonishing speed, compared to a galloping horse. In fact, Wikitravel has a warning that says that it is not unheard of for tourists to die after being cut-off by the tide if not crossing through the causeway. It must be quite a sight but we didn’t stay for we were headed to Saint Malo. I, quite the contrarian, have to look up as we are going down. A door caught my attention and reminded me that this place was also used as a prison. What a history! As we descend the many steps we pass The Mere Poulard which cooks its famous mega omelettes on an open fire. I was sorry I wasn’t hungry enough to eat there. They looked really good, served in a really great setting. But I am glad I didn’t for the reviews on yelp were pretty bad and at 28 to 60 Euros an omelette it would have been quite disappointing to not have an extraordinary meal. One look back.
Saint Malo was recommended by a travel group I belong to, The Travelzine. They said the walled city was lively and a good base to explore the area. We are not staying there (more on that later) but I am fascinated by walled cities and we figured it would be a good place to have dinner before we on to the farm. We enter the narrow streets of the walled town and are at a loss to where to park. A delivery van is blocking the street in front of us so I get out and ask him where to park. He tells me to follow him and takes us to a municipal parking lot (car park for my Aussie and Brit readers) right next to the water and marina. We cross the street to the city itself entering it through the Saint Thomas Gate. We are rewarded with beautiful views as we climb the steps to walk the wall that surrounds the city.
I’ll just be quiet now, for the view captivates me and hopefully captivates you as well.
There’s a lookout point that has a telescope which points into the direction of areas I have some connection with. The Falklands (Malvinas to the Argentinians and from where a lot of my friends are). Rio de Janeiro, where I lived for 4 years. Quebec, where two children of a family I considered my own live, one of them who I taught to drive.
A pool on the side of the sea that reminds me of Australia, a country I have learned to love because of who I love. It’s not that warm outside but there are people enjoying it, diving from the board. The city was not only walled but well protected. I loved the city but later Brittany locals (the region the town is located in) would tell me that they consider it a “sad” town mainly due to its history and the fact that it is walled in.
Hunger strikes me and Dean knows me well enough to get me into a restaurant fast before I get cranky. 🙂 So we dive into Le Lion D’Or. I’m glad we did cause it had great reviews on Tripadvisor and I would add mine to them. I had a really great huge plate of mussels that was delicious though the mussels were small and could not compare in size to the Tasmanian mussels a friend and I had at the Sydney fish market, though they were matched in taste. The city is on the coast after all so I was counting on good seafood.
Once we retrieve the car we are on our way to another real adventure… which I will tell you all about tomorrow!