Crispy fresh bread, butter, local strawberry yoghurt, jam, pain au chocolat, pancakes. This was our first morning at La Grange Bagnolaise, our beautiful accommodation in Normandy. Talk about sugar overdose! Not my kind of breakfast, but it did have its charm. And we were energized to start our second day of discovering Northern France.
Mont Saint-Michel: The Wonder of the Western World
Mont Saint Michel and its bay are part of the UNESCO world heritage (since 1979) and it is one of the most visited tourist sites in France. Each year, nearly 2,5 million visitors from around the world arrive at Mont Saint Michel to admire its indisputable grandness. A few weeks ago, we were 2 of them.
The Mont Saint-Michel abbey is situated on an island of the same name right where Normandy meets Brittany. Everything is extremely well organised, so getting there is really easy. Regardless of the means of transport you use, you can find all the advice and information you need here (Preparing your visit). We got there by car and we parked in the very large parking area. We then followed the signposts indicating our way to the shuttle. If you enjoy walking, make the most of the beautiful scenery by following the special pathways. It takes around 45 minutes, depending on your rythm.
The site’s history began in 709, when Aubert (Bishop of Avranches) built a small church at the request of the Archangel Michel. Later in the 10th century, a community of Benedictines built the pre-Romanesque church, whose abbey’s was further founded one century later. During those times, the first monastery buildings were also built, at first up against its north wall and later on extended to the west and south. Due to the Hundred Years War (that actually lasted for 116 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 4 days), a set of military constructions had to be build to protect against a 30 years old siege.
The Abbey was turned into a prison during the French Revolution and Empire (1791 – 1863). It might sound schocking at first, yet truth be told it is an ideal natural prison only when you think at its isolated location. During these times, the Abbey was nicknamed as „Bastille des mers“. The prison held mainly clerical opponents of the republican regime and high profile politicians. Victor Hugo visited Mont Saint Michel and wrote about the abbey: „Je suis bloqué par la mer qui entoure le mont“.
The view from the top is truly overwhelming. Only for that and it is definitely worth going. You are literally in the middle of the ocean from where the world seems an endless truth. We queued for a while to visit the abbey and in the end I was not extremely impressed. Especially since we discovered you cannot go to the actual top, which we were very much looking forward to. You can buy tickets online for a fast lane.
Everywhere was so overcrowded when we wanted to leave that it felt like leaving a top headline concert. This slow exit was really exhausting so we decided to go straight to Saint Malo for lunch.
Saint Malo: a romantic drama
When my boyfriend said we should also visit Saint Malo, I was skeptical. Without any research whatsoever, I imagined it full of tourists, crowded, superficial. When we got there, the blue sky was merging the deep cobalt sea. Hours later, brewing rain under darkened skies brought the most dramatic cold sight. To me, Saint Malo lacks the French charm, but it is a powerful cold beauty that I adored and will always remember.
Needless to say that had I known the sea food they serve there, I would have immediately said yes to going there.
We had lunch, and we got wet at the beach. It was not the sea though, but the cold romantic rain. What a lovely day.