Skip to main content

Mont Saint Michel

"The following morning at dawn I went toward it across the sands, my eyes fastened on this gigantic jewel, as big as a mountain, cut like a cameo, and as dainty as lace. The nearer I approached, the greater my admiration grew, for nothing in the world could be more wonderful or more perfect". Guy de Maupassant, The Legend of Mont Saint Michel

Mont St. Michel from the causeway

It's hard to forget the first time I saw Mont Saint Michel from the bus window. I saw its fairytale like silhouette from a distance and I was captivated. So this time around, I waited with bated breath as the bus approached Mont Saint Michel but alas, we took a different route and I didn’t see the Mount until I had walked up the causeway from the new village that grew in recent years. Our bus from Dol dropped us in front of the tourist center where free shuttle buses ferry visitors to the foot of the Mount. I opted to walk the 2 km distance so I could see the Mont from afar and feel its magic. It was sprinkling a little bit so the Mont was shrouded in mist that partially covered its spire. And it was low tide so the bay was quite dry.

The Bay of Mont Saint Michel

The approach to the Mont has changed dramatically from my visit ages ago when visitors were dropped off close to the foot of the Mont. The bay surrounding the Mont has silted up due to land reclamation, intensive farming and a host of other human activities including the use of land for parking and the construction of the old causeway. The Mont is increasingly engulfed by sand and salt marshes. The French government and local authorities are now correcting this problem by addressing the causes of the problem including building a new dam over the Couesnon River which will flush sediment out to sea. The parking lot has been moved to the mainland where thousands of flora and fauna have been planted to provide a green landscape.  And the old causeway will be replaced by a footbridge which will be more in keeping with the environment. They estimate all phases of the project to be completed in 2015. And Mont Saint Michel will once again be surrounded by the bay and rise from the sea as it has in the past.

The half timbered houses of the Mont Saint Michel

As I had visited the abbey in the past, I spent my time walking along the ramparts and going up and down steep stairs wet from the early morning rain. It was a good (if not precarious) way to see the village with its narrow passages and remaining half timbered houses.

Grande Rue

The Grande Rue is the main street of the Mont. It's lined chock a block with souvenir shops, restaurants and houses which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Walk past the shops and go up the Grand Degre or Grand Staircase toward the ramparts and abbey for great views over the rooftops of the village and the bay beyond. But don't miss the village church of St. Pierre just off the Grande Rue. It's a respite from the hectic street below and there's a beautiful stained glass window inside.

Stained glass window inside the Church of St. Pierre

To get to Mont St. Michel from Paris, take the TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes and transfer  from there by bus to the Mont. Alternatively, there are trains to Dol or Avranches where you will again transfer by bus to the visitor center near the Mont. A free shuttle called Passeur takes passengers to the Mont. It's a short walk from the shuttle stop to the gate of Mont Saint Michel. There's also a horse drawn carriage which takes visitors to the Mont for a fee. But the best way to approach the Mont is to walk up the short distance and be rewarded by exceptional views of the Bay and the Mont. The restrooms are just outside the gate as you enter the village.

*   *   *

Images by TravelswithCharie

Popular posts from this blog

8 Heritage Houses of Iloilo

Lizares Mansion The province of Iloilo on the island of Panay has a rich trove of heritage houses, left over from the sugar industry boom in the 19th century. Iloilo also had the largest port in the Philippines at that time which facilitated the export of sugar to foreign shores and deposited money in the hands of the sugar barons. The barons dropped their earnings into the acquisition of properties in Negros and the construction of beautiful homes in Iloilo, many of which are located in the vicinity of the Jaro Cathedral. The Lizares Mansion was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife, Concepcion Gamboa and five children. The family fled to safety when World War II broke out and the house was occupied by the Japanese military. The family returned to the house after the war but left once again after the demise of Don Emiliano. It was sold to the Dominican order in the 1960s and was converted in 1978 to a private school, Angelicum School. The mansion now houses the

The Art of Carlos Botong Francisco - Progress of Medicine in the Philippines

Pre-colonial period Pag-unlad ng Panggagamot sa Pilipinas (The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines) is a group of four large-scale paintings depicting healing practices in the Philippines from pre-colonial times to the modern period. Carlos Botong Francisco was commissioned in 1953 by  Dr. Agerico Sison who was then the director of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) together with   Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing of the National Museum, Dr. Florentino Herrera, Jr. and Dr. Constantino Manahan. These oil on canvas paintings measure 2.92 meters in height and 2.76 meters in width (9.71 ft x 8.92 ft) and were displayed at the main entrance hall of PGH for over five decades. Owing to its location, the artworks were in a state of "severe deterioration" at the beginning of the 21st century from exposure to heat, humidity, dirt, dust, smoke, insect stains, grime, termites and an oxidized synthetic resin used in an earlier restoration. These canvases were restored three times, the last was

Filipino Struggles in History - Carlos Botong Francisco

In 1968, Antonio Villegas (then Mayor of Manila), commissioned Carlos "Botong" Francisco to paint the history of Manila for Manila City Hall. The series of large scale paintings was called  Kasaysayan ng Maynila  (History of Manila).  The paintings deteriorated over time and no attempt was made to preserve these historical canvases until 2013 when Mayor Amado Lim sent them to the National Museum for extensive restoration. Four years later, in 2017, Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Manila City Council signed an agreement with the National Museum to leave the paintings at the museum so they may reach a larger audience in exchange for museum grade reproductions to replace the originals. Kasaysayan ng Maynila was later renamed Filipino Struggles in History and is now on display at the Senate Hall of the National Museum . Carlos "Botong" Francisco died in March 1969, a few months after completing the paintings. He is one of the first Filipino modernists and