Between Normandy and Brittany in an immense bay invaded by the highest tides in Europe, lies an old monastery built on a rock. Our trip to Mont Saint Michel left us speechless and no surprise, this place is one of the most splendid places in France. Every year, around 3 million visitors pass by.
A little bit of history: It all begun in 709, when the bishop of Avranches, Aubert, built a church on this tiny island, based on the request of Archangel Michael. After the Benedictines settled on the rocks, a pre-Romanesque church was built in the 10th century. Later on, in the 11th and 12th century, the Romanesque abbey was extended, the crypts were founded and the first monastery buildings were founded. After the conquest of Normandy by the French king Philip Augustus, Gothic section of the abbey including the monastery ‘La Merveille’ was built. During the Hundred Years War, some military constructions were built in order to protect the abbey and later during the French revolution the monastery served as a prison for anti-revolutionists. It has been listed as a UNESCO site since 1979.
How to get there? The island is connected with the land by a road and there is a shuttle bus from Pontorson. The bus brings you almost to the entrance to the complex.
During the tide, you can hire a guide and have a walk around the island or you can also do it on horses. You will find a list of partner guides and schedule of tides on the official website of Mont Saint Michel, in case you would like to combine the visit with the observation of tide. Do not risk and don’t go for a swim during the tide. The water comes back quickly and recently few people died there doing so.
Where to stay? You can find several guest houses or hotels in Pontorson, but also in the neighbor villages. If you are looking for an authentic stay, go for ‘gîtes’ – a very popular kind of French guest house. They offer cozy rooms and home-made breakfasts.
Me and my boyfriend, we made a trip to Mont Saint Michel in May 2013 after our visit of Normandy. Already from a long distance, you can see sheep and cows and behind them the pyramidal silhouette of Mont Saint Michel.
The closer we were, more we could distinguish particular buildings and houses of the complex. There is a small village under the abbey with 40 inhabitants.
Nowadays, the magic feeling is a bit disturbed by the souvenir shops, restaurants for tourists and the name ‘Mère Poulard’ almost everywhere.
The island has one square kilometer and so the streets are very narrow and houses are stuck next to each other. The little village is just so cute!
When passing by the cemetery I got a question on my mind: if we suppose that people are living inside, what a feeling it is to wake up with a view of a cemetery?
Climbing up higher and higher towards the abbey, we are able to see the empty bay and a group of people, that look like ants from our perspective.
Finally, we see the monastery ‘La Merveille’ (Mystery) in front of us (or above to more precise). We cannot be far away then!
Well, it is not far away, just a few steps up.
We are entering to the abbey ‘La Merveille’ (Mystery) and joining a group with a guide, who will take us on the tour of the panorama of medieval architecture from the 11th to 16th century. Here is a small illustration:
After getting out from the monastery we are staring at the bay from the height. We can see in a distance of several kilometers.
On our way back down to the village, we are getting hungry so we head to the restaurant that was recommended to us: Mère Poulard. (Btw, you will see this name at least 20 times somewhere during your trip to Mont Saint Michel!) This is a quite famous place, where you can eat the famous omelet of Mum Poulard. Looks tasty especially when you are hungry, but I do not recommend you this place. I will explain why.
The entry to the restaurant is decorated with pictures of famous people that stopped by on their trip to Mont Saint Michel. You can see the cooking team wildly whisking the eggs with a rhythm. They do not look enthusiast – of course not! I guess they feel like animals in the zoo.
Well what shall I say – it is a tourist trap. The omelet is expensive for what it is – just an egg omelet made differently (cooked in the oven). I am not sure how many eggs they need for one omelet but it looked full of cholesterol.
It seemed to me very expensive and I didn’t trust them somehow. So I opted for a veggie meal and I have to admit I was hungry in an hour again. This is what I received: a mini soup, some kind of jelly a mini salad and carrot puree with cream. It was not tasty at all.
So this is it. Despite the bad food a lot of places and stuff are called after this Mère Poulard and tourists like it. After this experience, we called our trip Mont Mère Poulard instead of Le Mont Saint Michel… 🙂
Going to sleep and saying goodnight to Le Mont Saint Michel that we see from our window. 🙂
Have you ever visited a monastery that left you speechless? Tell me about it in the below comments!