Monday 17 May 2010

Mont St Michel ***

While we were in France, we amused ourselves by noting on the atlas the star system Michelin employs – not just for restaurants, but for towns and places of interest. The places Michelin gives three stars to are sometimes surprising: I mean, Paris – sure. But Caen, really? And some times they’ll give three stars to a whole city and sometimes to one historic monument. Although, in the case of the three stars they give Mont St Michel, I can’t argue. The place is really and truly Worth The Detour.

The guide book says Mont St Michel has the second most-recognised silhouette in France, after the Eiffel Tower. Who decides these things? But it’s true the excitement builds from the first glimpse of the island’s outline:

As you get closer, it starts to take shape and you see that what looks like one structure is actually several: the church and then the village winding around it, like lights on a Christmas tree.

Our hotel was on the mainland, just where the causeway to the island starts. Although Mont St Michel was once cut off from the mainland at high tide, the causeway is clear all day so now you can access the island any time. We walked across, and arrived on the Mont just as the sun was beginning to set. Luckily for us, this meant that most of the visitors were leaving. I don’t know why more people don’t stay (maybe they have tour buses to catch) because twilight is a magical time on the island. We walked up the main street and up the steps of the Abbey, then we doubled back around the ramparts.

The restaurant we picked had a wonderful view of the sea, and we were sitting right at the big picture window. Beside a candelabra. All very romantic except, y’know, I was with my brother. So we concentrated on the food: the local speciality is ‘pre-salted lamb’ … supposedly the meat picks up a special flavour because the sheep graze on salty ground. I’ll admit it did taste slightly saltier, but whether that’s the lamb or that the chef had a heavy hand with the seasoning, I couldn’t tell you.

After dinner, we did another tour of the village – there was just a little bit of light left in the Western sky but by then they had switched on the lights that illuminate the abbey.

As we started to head back across the causeway, we noticed flickering lights. Cormac deduced it was camera flashes – but it wasn’t, or not only. There was a group of schoolkids preparing to walk across the causeway, and they’d evidently been issued with high-viz jackets. Every time someone took a photo (with flash), the jackets lit up:

The next morning, we got takeaway coffee and pastries and took them back to the beach at the foot of the Mont.

The car park was beginning to fill up, with motor homes, coaches, cars and … these:

The tide was far out enough that we could walk around the base of the island. We had to jump a few miniature rivers, but it was worth it for the view of the hidden side of Mont St Michel.

We both agreed that it was a magical place, one to visit again. Another time, I’d try to get a hotel room on the island, just to be there when the sun rose, but as Cormac pointed out – if we’d been staying on the island, we wouldn’t have had the wonderful walk along the causeway.

[Photos by LTBB, my camera battery being dead.]


  1. Can I make a special comment on the photos today. Some excellent reminders od Mont St. Michel. I do feel slightly disappointed that the road is improved however, it was exciting knowing that one could be swept away at any time. is it true the other. hidden, side of the rock has a Lidl?

  2. Absolutely true about the Lidl. And a casino. But they confiscated those pictures.