Posts Tagged With: Brittany

An Archangel Burns a Hole in a Skull and Malo Isn’t really Bad at All

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.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island 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.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France, pilgrimage, abbey, island, cows  We park the Renault (which curiously enough has not been named by us) and take a shuttle bus Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, bienvenue, bienvenidos 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.Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  There’s a medieval town on the mount with its expected winds and turns and narrowness.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, medieval town  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 Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, souvenirs 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.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, chapel  And then onwards towards the abbey. Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, Mont Saint Michel Abbey

Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, souvenirs  The abbey is built on the islet’s top point so it’s a bit of a climb. Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, church  It has a gothic feel to it.  The church Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island is more austere Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, church 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.   Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  Normandy, France, pilgrimage, abbey, island   Before heading back in I am fascinated by how large the seagulls Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, seagulls, birds are around here. Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, seagulls, birds Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, seagulls, birds  And how privileged they are to fly so high and have such an amazing place to land.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel  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.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, bridge  And going about their chores around water source which has the largest faucet I’ve ever seen.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, water, faucet  We go back inside to explore how the monks lived.  I like the simplicity and solidness of it all.   Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island   Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  As usual, I am distracted by a window with a soft view of the outside.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, window, stained glass  But I concentrate on my steps in the inside for it is dark and a gentleman going down the steps has fallen.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, hallway

Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, Archangel Michael, psychopomp, archangel   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.

Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel  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.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides 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!  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, door  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.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, La Mere Poulard, omelettes, restaurant  One look back.Normandy, France, pilgrimage, abbey, island, causeway

And we leave.  Mont Saint Michel, car park, Normandy, France  The Renault is waiting for us.  Mont Saint Michel, car park, Normandy, France  We have already paid for our ticket so Saint Malo here we come!

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.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  We are rewarded with beautiful views as we climb the steps to walk the wall that surrounds the city.

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city

I’ll just be quiet now, for the view captivates me and hopefully captivates you as well.

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Malo.  Malo in Spanish means “bad” or “mean”.  This “malo” is good!!!

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled cityThere’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).Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Rio de Janeiro, where I lived for 4 years. Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city 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.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  It’s not that warm outside but there are people enjoying it, diving from the board.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city The city was not only walled but well protected. Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  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.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city, restaurant in Saint Malo, 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. Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city, restaurant in Saint Malo, The city is on the coast after all so I was counting on good seafood.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city, marina, boats

Once we retrieve the car we are on our way to another real adventure… which I will tell you all about tomorrow!

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A Market That Was Not, And Everything Else That Was

I’m going to the market. Not a mentionable fact except that the owner texted us saying that Place des Lices is a well-known market. People come from all over the area to it.  I am one that loves markets so, needless to say, I am not missing this one.  Dean is.  I head out alone.  It’s Sunday and the streets are deserted.   Almost seems set up for me to enjoy this town through my lens.

P1190471

P1190472 Here comes the blue door deluge.  One I had not photographed the day before. P1190473

 I reach Place des Lices in no time at all but find it as deserted as the streets. P1190474  I peek in and in fact the installation is there but no people around. P1190475  I walk back and I see a couple with produce and baguettes protruding out of their bags and I ask them if they know about Place des Lices and they tell me that the market was on Saturday.  I resign myself but also am grateful that it wasn’t on for there would have been hoards of people. This way, I got to enjoy the streets calmly.

At the turn of the corner I am reminded of my hometown.  P1190501

P1190498I roam around a bit and see that Saint-Pierre Cathedral is opened. In reality there is a sign that says it is closed between 11 and 2 today but the door is open and I go in.  Turns out it is closed for the public but open for mass. It’s only me and I’m pretty quiet so I tiptoe in.  Right after me comes a Russian tour group.  The leader seems unaware or doesn’t care about the fact that there is a mass going on and talks loudly to his group of around twenty.  I cringe.  But I am also technically ignoring the rules so I move around.

The inside of the church is being repaired.  At the very end the congregations prays.  P1190477

If a cathedral has a life of its own, this one is not trying to impress but does. It is dark and uses much wood in its decor. It almost imposes introspection and demands you to stay and pray. I don’t but walk as close to the altar as I can without disturbing the congregation.  P1190481  On the side aisles (I am sure there is a proper word for the passageways on each side) there’s darkness from the paneling and I get this desire to just sit and close my eyes.  P1190485  The stained glass is beautiful though it is not the main attraction in here.  P1190482  P1190489

Before I leave I pass a little altar.   The name of Lourdes catches my attention.  My parents and I visited  Our Lady of Lourdes when I was around 6, footage that I recently saw. I don’t quite understand what it says but I have the urge to light four candles here to the Virgin.  2 for my mom and dad and 2 for Dean’s Nan and mum.  I am sure that they are looking down, protecting us as we go.   P1190490  P1190491

As I leave, I take a last glance – as I usually do. P1190478

I continue my exploration.  This wall is not pretty but anything that was built between the late Third Century and early Fourth Century has to have my respects even if the expensive and expansive wall that surrounded the city was soon to be found almost useless.

 P1190499    P1190500

P1190505  Wall art / graffiti again reminds me of Los Angeles.

  And what would this blog be without a little more on blue doors?  P1190506

This little tabby cat comes up to me and follows me as I reach the main plaza once again.  He gives up after a block.  P1190508

P1190502I reach home and am greeted with a nice cuppa (cup of tea).  Dean leaves to get a GPS for tomorrow we are renting a car for the next portion of our trip.  First stop is Mont St. Michel.

I am left to explore our home. This place we got through airbnb (I know I am sounding like an ad but it has afforded us some incredible opportunities to stay at wonderful places and meet such interesting people) is certainly not the most luxurious P1190512 though it is quite large and has really good vibes.  The bathroom is fun.  You have to go through a saloon-type door to take a shower. P1190511 Inside a sign that says its wombat crossing. 🙂 The owner has a lot of knick-knacks from Southeast Asia June 16 and that already makes him way cool in my book.  He also has tons of books some of the greats in Spanish literature. And how not love a place that has antiques P1190520 P1190518 that remind me of my little store and one which Tutu has claimed for his perch. P1190514 He is pretty stubborn just like this collectible bull which is my astrological sign. P1190524  Outside there is a kiddie park P1190525 that is for exclusive use of the building we are in, and on the other side is the park we visited yesterday.  In the middle some city work building and I catch a worker taking a break.  P1190528

I would cover the same ground I did this morning again, for when Dean returns we go out to dinner.  We settle in an Indian restaurant P1150654 where I have a vegetarian dish of spinach.  P1150658 It was delicious.  We chat at length about the town with our Nepalese waiter.  He tells us how he came to Paris first and is now in Rennes.  How there isn’t much to do but he loves it here.  I may have to agree with that!!

As Walter Conkrite would say: “And that’s the way it is.”  Good-night.

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