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Friday, October 19, 2012

[Mont Saint-Michel] Picturesque UNESCO Hertiage site in Normandy

You must have seen a picture of Mont Saint-Michel, even if you didn't know what it was.
I didn't travel all aroun the world. Still do I figure that the rocky islet with a medieval monastery on top is an unique site.
For this time, Mr. D and I wanted to visit the places that had impressed us in the past, so that our kids can share our fond memories. We still talk about our past trips of which we still talk about after 10 or 15 years.
We definitely wanted our kids to see the dazzling places we have been fascinated with. One of those amazing places was Mont Saint-Michel.
Mont Saint Michel and its bay were officially inscribed as a World Heritage Site located on an island just off the coast of the region of Lower Normandy in northern France, in 1979.  When you see the  grand Norman Benedictine Abbey of Saint Michel the the peak of the islet. One thing that makes the Mont Saint-Michel more dramatic is that it is a tidal island, rather than an usual island, which is connected to the mainland that is exposed at low tide and submerged at high tide. The islet is surrounded by the deep mud and quicksand.
Mont Saint-Michel is a tiny islet, that cannot be even called 'island.'
Its land area is only 0.97 km2 (0.37 sq mi). The population as of 2009 was 44. Most people who work at Mont Saint-Michel commute from Avranches and other neighboring towns.

Until last time we came in 2005, we could park the car at the parking lot just out of the remparts of Mont Saint-Michel ("MSM").
Since spring 2012, you need to park the car at a new car park that is located at 2.5 km from the Mont Saint-Michel, on the continent.
 You can reach Mont Saint-Michel on foot or by a shuttle. Well, actually, the shuttle bus stop is almost a 1 kilometer from the car park. I don't understand why they set the stop so far from the car park, to make it almost halfway between the car park and the Mont Saint-Michel! We still took the shuttle as kids insisted.
The shuttle stops in the middle of causeway and you have to walk a couple of hundred metres to get to the gate to the walled city.
The altitude of MSM is merely 80m.
 Still I had been kind of worried because of Pablo who doesn't enjoy walking at all. :(
The only way to get around in the walled city is on foot.
You can get into the city through the man gate at the end of the causeway which leads to the Grande Rue, which is probably not even 6 feet wide.
However, he cooperated much better than we expected. Except for so many tourists, the only(?) obstacles to reach the abbey at the top were a few dozen souvenir shops lining up all the way to the monastery. Pablo wanted to go in and check almost every single shop! It's not an easy job to refrain him from spending all his travel allowance of 20 euros, just within a few minutes!
Thanks(?) to Pablo, we arrived the highland only after much complications :(
And finally we were at the top that offers great views of the mudflats.
After enjoying the fantastic views, and also the Statue of Archangel Michael atop the spire, we entered the abbey.
The Abbey of Mont Saint Michel (French: L'Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel) is an abbey of the Medieval period. The monastery was founded about the year 708 AD by St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches.
According to the legend, the Archangel Michael himself appeared to the bishop in a dream on three separate occasions. Aubert listened to the Archangel only after Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger.
Then, about 966, Richard the Fearless, third Duke of Normandy, installed Benedictines from Monte Cassino at Mont-St-Michel.
The monks who resided at the monastery worked, prayed, welcomed, and silenced(meditated?).
The structure of the abbey when it was first built in 10th century, was not as sophisticated as now.
(11th and 12th centuries)
There were additions over the centuries.
The abbey witnessed the history for the past 1000 years. The islet of MSM was assaulted continuously by English during the Hundred Years' war in 14th and 15th centuries (1337-1453). However,  the abbey survived the war thanks to its improved fortifications.
 Then the abbey was converted into the prison to hold clerical opponents of the republican régime, but it held high-profile political prisoners over the years including the French Revolution, until the prison was finally closed in 1836 as the result of the campaign led by the influential figures, to restore what was a national architecture treasure.
Thanks to those influential figures, one of which was Victor Hugo, the monument was restored and can be visited.
  (Archangel Micahel appeared to St. Aubert)
The gate from the chapel to the cloister.
My favorite place at the abbey is the cloister.
The cloister was used purely for spiritual purposes, such as meditation.
Three arches of the cloister are surprisingly open to the sea and the air.
Glass wall prevents any incident.
  Remi was busy taking pictures, not only at Mont Saint-Michel, but throughout our trip.
 Remi at the cloister.
Remi's brother at the cloister.
 Pablo and his mommy.

 They look like they love each other, don't they? :D
View of the abbey from the cloister. 
I hope I come some time when there is nobody for medtation... Yeah... some day. :)
You know, hope is a good thing. (Do you remember Andy Dufresne's line at Shawshank Redemption? :))

 Having spent  some time at the cloister, we walked down the Grande rue packed with the tourists and souvenir shops, to taste MSM's fameuse "omelette."

 The culinary speciality of Mont Saint Michel is Omelette, whipped until frothy and light.
There were lots of other omelette restaurant, but we entered
La Mère Poulard, world famous for their omelette.
Because, the Mère Poulard is the person who made this local specialty, for the first time.
They cook it right in front of the window of the restaurant, and you can see and hear how they cook. The rhythmic whipping is something you want to hear, at least once.
BUT, expect to pay not less than €30 per person, for the privilege!

This is the most expensive omelette you can imagine!

We had the first apple cidre of our trip.
Cidre in France means a fermented alcoholic beverage traditionally made from apple juice exclusively, while apple cidre refers to sparkling apple juice, which is often filtered, in Canada.
Cidre was absolutely good. :)
 We got out of Mont Saint-Michel through The Porte de l'Avancée, the main gate of MSM.
 We left MSM before it got too dark. So we had to come back two days later after sunset, to take photos at night.

Mont Saint-Michel at sunset.
It was "magnifique."
 There are so many reasons why more than three million people visit this picturesque UNESCO heritage.
There are the places where you can't go just once. MSM falls into that category.
We may not go back to the pictoral mount, for next decade.
But, we will miss the striking views of Mont Saint-Michel, until the next visit.

You can see more posts about my trip to France if you click the links below:

1) [Auberge Ravoux] Van Gogh's last residence in Auvers-sur-Oise
2) [Basilique Saint-Denis] French Royal Necropolis - The burial place of the French Kings
3) [2012 Maffliers] Kids grow fast... and we age faster...?
4) [Chateau de Chantilly] Le musée Condé - The generosity of a royal prince
5) [Balade gourmande] Brittany by sail: Unforgettable day on a traditional boat in Cancale
6) [Must eat foods in France] You must try these ten inexpensive food in France
7) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris] The most visited edifices in Europe - Part I
8) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris] Notre Dame de Paris - Part II
9) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris Part III] Musee de Louvre or simply Louvre
10) [Opera Garnier] The symbol of Elegance at the centre of Paris

 Mont Saint-Michel


  1. oh-MY-GOSH! So good to see you again Colleen! I've been your big fan since you opened Korean blog years ago! I tried to search you everywhere and dah-you're in blogspot! I should've known. : ) Cathedral looks gorgeous. Hope I can visit there someday....

  2. Hi namu,
    thanks for your kind words. I'm touched.
    Mont Saint-Michel is such a picturesque site. It's even more beautiful from outside. When you go to France next time, please find some time to go to see this UNESCO heritage. :)