Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mont-St-Michel, France

Mont-St-Michel is one of the most famous places in France. It is a massive rock sticking out of the muddy silt that surrounds in the bay named after it. The mount was occupied in the eighth century when St. Michael the Archangel appeared to local bishop Aubert and asked him to build a monastery on top of it. The first vision happened in a dream. The bishop ignored it. The dream happened again and the bishop still did nothing. On the third night, St. Michael touched the bishop's head in the dream and he awoke with an injury to his skull. He then ordered the construction of the monastery. Over the years the monastery grew and a town sprung up around it (or more properly below it) on the mount. People come from all over the world to visit Mont-St-Michel, just like we did.

We followed signs along the road to a parking lot that didn't seem anywhere near the mount. We were confused until the guy directing traffic told us there was a shuttle bus available.

Mont-St-Michel, seen from the parking lot

If you add a child to the top image, double the walking time

Needless to say, we took the shuttle, which drove past several hotels and restaurants. Getting off, we were much closer.

View from the shuttle stop of the new causeway which will have a tram...eventually

Mont-St-Michel with construction

We entered the town proper through the Porte du Roi, which features a massive gate and a cannon liberated from the British hundreds of years ago. The town was fortified during the Hundred Years' War and still maintains protective walls.

Porte du Roi

A more substantial gate inside

English siege weapon seized by French forces!

The main street is the Grande Rue, which winds its way back and forth up the mountain. It is lined with restaurants, trinket shops, souvenir stands, snack bars, and any other way the locals could think of to get money off visiting pilgrims. We did not do any shopping.

Beginning of the Grande Rue

A wingless St. Michael!

We did have the distinct feeling we were in a miniature Minas Tirith, with the many stair cases and winding passages leading ever up to the top of the hill.

Looking up to the abbey

Looking out to the bay (at low tide)

Looking down on the Grande Rue

Many visitors give up or get distracted before making it to the top, but not us. We were determined to see the abbey and kept going up.

Just one more staircase! (at least that's what we kept telling J and L)

The abbey

The abbey will get its own post, naturally. We did enjoy the view back to the parking lot, which is not easy to make out in the distance.

The way back to our car

After visiting the abbey, we ate our picnic lunch (we assumed all the food would be overpriced at the restaurants and shops). A bird flew near us hoping to get a snack. J did feed it a few crumbs. Luckily, the bird only invited one other friend to filch off us, so it was a pleasant distraction as we ate, rather than a Hitchcock reenactment.

Nice bird!

Up close with the help of zoom and cropping

We took a different route back down the mount, zigzagging through various terraces and gardens on our way to the entrance.

Going back down

On our way, we saw how supplies were brought up to the abbey and are still brought up--a steep railway!

Getting supplies to the top!

The kids were troopers when it came to going up and down. Luckily we went up first, so the easy down part came after they were a little bit tired. The promise of snacks back at the car kept us going.

Almost back to the Porte du Roi

The bus ride back was uneventful and we were soon off on other adventures.

More on the Abbey and a church in the next few posts (after an appropriate Friday the 13th post tomorrow)!

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