Le Grand Voyage — Day 31 (Travel to Mont-Saint-Michel)

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The time remaining in our trip was dwindling. We ended our stay in Saint-Malo with more cream-filled beignets for breakfast. One more drive through the cobblestone canyons of the walled city to pick up our luggage, and we were off.

We headed east, taking the scenic roads along the seashore, eschewing the main highways completely. We eventually turned down a a side road to Notre-Dame du Venger (Our Lady of the Orchard). Here was a small maritime church, still in active use. From there we walked down to the channel, for more surf and more tidal pools. Nate loved it, of course.

On our way out, we stopped at a little stand for lunch. I had a croque monsieur and an Orangina, and the rest of the family had sandwiches. It was a run-down trailer, little more than a shack, and the bread was better than Panera Bread in the United States. It doesn’t matter where you get it; there’s just no bad bread in France.

Back on the road, we traveled through the resort town of Cancale, and continued on the coast until the road pulled away. It wasn’t long before we reached our destination of the day- Mont-Saint-Michel. We left most of our luggage in the car, making do with suitcase and day packs. The shuttle bus then took us across the causeway to the city.

Mont-Saint-Michel has been a sacred site for Christianity since the 8th century and the site of an abbey since the 10th. The abbey sits on a mountain top on an island in the middle of an extensive mud flat. Twice a day the tides roar in (“faster than a galloping horse”) and cover the mud flats. Only the causeway remains, and a few times per year even that is submerged. For many decades the causeway interfered with the natural currents in the bay, but they just finished an elaborate engineering effort to restore the bay over time. The causeway is now a bridge, and they fill up a dam full of water to aid in flushing out the silt.

Our guidebook warned us that the island was pretty touristy, and our initial impression confirmed that. Our hotel, ridiculously priced- not many rooms on the island- opened up to a pretty courtyard, and was away from the bustle. Lots of steps to get there though.

We dropped off our stuff and walked the ramparts. Great views across the bay. We searched in vain for a bar overlooking the water where could get a drink (really? Silly French!). We eventually just found a spot off the Main Street. Probably worth noting that the entire island is car-free, and the main street is about 8–10 feet wide. With stairs.

Dinner was in a lovely outdoor courtyard. I had a famous “frothy omelet” as a first course. They were traditionally made very rapidly as meals for pilgrims who had to eat and run before the tides came in. Traveling here across the mud flats was very hazardous before the causeway was built! The main course was lamb (excellent), followed by cheese and Creme Brûlée. All quite good.

Nate and Dorinna went to bed, but I went exploring instead. Mont-Saint-Michel at night is simply magical. It’s all lit up and most of the tourists have left for the mainland. The only ones still awake were romantics and photographers. I must have walked around the city taking pictures for over two hours. It’s a maze of stairways, passages, ramparts, balconies, parks, and cemeteries. I felt like I was walking through the set of a Harry Potter movie. Truly magical, and one of the highlights of France.

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