Three years ago when we first visited Mont Saint-Michel, we agreed that if we ever got the chance, we would spend the night “on the rock”, and this year we did. Mont Saint-Michel is a remarkable piece of rock popping up out of the bay about a kilometer from the mainland at the boundary between the Bretagne (Brittany) and Normandie (Normandy) regions of northwestern France. On the approach, you get a breath-taking look at it from a distance:
Before climbing to the top I believed what I read about the height of it–302 feet above sea level, or about the height of a 30-story building. We had booked a room at “La Vielle Auberge” (The Old Inn); the information on the inn told us that our lodgings were not to be in the same building as the reception desk, but in one of the lanes in the village below the abbey. Let’s play my own version of “Where’s Waldo?”. Can you spot our room in this picture below?
Hint: above the cemetery to the right is a brown door. By the time we had trekked up to the room level, we were a mere 72 steps up a series of stairs from the entrance to the abbey at the top of the mont. But the reward was hard to describe:
I’m pretty sure the monks didn’t live like this. The seagulls visited. We watched the groups of schoolchildren having their ecological introduction to the bay surrounding the island (low tide, of course):
In the early days of the abbey, the pilgrims of the tenth century had only that option to reach their destination, since it was completely isolated from the mainland. Today there is a restricted-access causeway and a high-tech dam designed to preserve the ecology of the area as nearly as possible to what it was in the early days.
There is a special little “ruelle” (tiny lane) that we had read about, and that I had managed to actually use to get to the “Grande Rue” (Great Street). It’s about as wide as my shoulders. I wouldn’t have found it if I had had a better sense of direction and not gotten lost, but there you go. I don’t know if it was intended this way, but from the bottom, looking up through this little space, all you can see is the spire with the statue of Saint Michel:
After nightfall, I took my camera and tripod out to the causeway and got what I came for:
I am proud to report that, unlike three years ago, Anita went with me all the way to the top of the publicly accessible part of the abbey. And this is why we aren’t fooled by that publicity about its being only 302 feet above sea level. (Editor’s note: Anita is convinced it’s more like 10,000 feet, since she walked every step of it from the causeway up La Grande Rue, through a maze of stairways not unlike that of Escher’s famous drawing, all the way to the cloister garden, which was under construction. That’s her story and she’s sticking to it.)
We are resting up in Nantes, on our way tomorrow to Bordeaux, one of the major wine centers of France. Our legs will appreciate the rest.