Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mont Saint Michel - 3rd destination in my train journey around France

I never heard about this place before, I only found it while preparing my journey. Seeing this site on the internet, I was so surprised and wondering why I never ever knew about its existence!
I was hesitating a bit as I couldn't decide from where I better depart for Mont St Michel. Right from Paris? Or from Rouen? Rouen was also my top choice due to my wish to see Claude Monet's garden, but unluckily one day before my departure for Rouen, I had to cancel my short trip to Givenchy-Vernon to visit the famous impressionist-painter's house.

From Rouen to Mont St Michel was a 4-hour long ride in the train plus another 15' in the shuttle bus from Pontorson to this site.Anyway I was so excited to see the sight of MSM (i.e. Mont St Michel) from far in the train and then from the bus when it was approaching. It looked so stunning on the blue sky background!

                         I couldn't believe in my eyes - Mont St Michel was right in front of me 

This remarkable mediaeval walled city, crowned by its great gothic abbey, that you see right on the top, has been built on a small granite outcrop standing all by itself in the flats of the estuary of the  river Couesnon, this area now known as Mont Saint Michel bay. Mont Saint Michel was one of the very first monuments to be classed as a UNESCO world heritage site, back to 1979.

Mont Saint Michel is not just a church on a rock; it's a whole mediaeval city, though small, has to this day inhabitants and even a mayor, religious monuments, old houses, narrow streets, several hotels, restaurants and around 50 shops, all to serve the over-3-million tourists who come to visit this magnificent site each year.
I booked a room at "Le Mouton Blanc", an auberge right in the heart of Mt St Michel, I really want to experience the night life in a 1000-year old mediaeval city, it was quite crowded till late at night. It was good small hotel but from my experience of staying here, I would suggest you to find some hotels right outside of Mt St Michel. It's saving your pocket and out there - also very nice town with many restaurants, hotels, supermarket...with the shuttle bus service, it will take you less than 5' to MSM!

                 The main entrance to Mont St Michel.

I can't remember how late when I got this shot, but I'm sure it was not earlier then 10:00 pm, most tourists already back to their hotels, the MSM's inhabitants also back home, all shops were closed, except some restaurants. By the way, I was told half of hotels, restaurants, shops, museums in MSM belong to one man - the owner of a group company named "La mère Poulard" ! Can you imagine that!

The restaurant "La Mẻre Poulard", right at the entrance to MSM, with very impressive open kitchen decorated with the copper cookware. I didn't have chance to try the speciality of MSM - "the omelette of La Mère Poulard", but what I heard is the size of the omelette is huge, at least for 2 or 3 people. By the way, "La Mère Poulard" was a honour name given to a woman - Annette Poulard, living here since 19th century, she was famous with her cooking skill, especially the omelette that she always prepared for pilgrims in MSM.

I didn't try the omelette but found this video - interesting to watch the famous "l'omelette au feu de bois" at the restaurant "La Mère Poulard". 

             Le Mouton Blanc - my hotel-restaurant, but I didn't stay in this building...

                   I was sent to another building, passing thru this gate....

                     and how it looked at day time...

                and the corridor to my room has a big window with the view to this cemetery! Exciting?  

                Grand Rue - a main street in Mont St Michel, going uphill...up to the abbey on the top. 

                 another part of the uphill road, a museum on the right side with garden

                    the stairs on the right leading to the main entrance of the abbey. 

I arrived here around 5:00 pm, I missed all museums, next morning I had to leave, so I woke up at 6:00 am as I really wanted to get the feelings of walking around this 1000-year old city, before sunrise, but I was not alone, I met some other tourists who were also in hurry to go up to the abbey for morning mass, I met a middle-aged athlete running up and down here and some workers cleaning up the city.

                 The auberge with the lighted up windows in the early morning...

                      another view to the abbey from one of many corridors around this building... 

                    when I was approaching, saw a group of tourists, they were here for morning pray

                     Most of houses in Mont St Michel are either hotels or restaurants or shops... 

                     another small road surrounding the city with a view to the bay 

      a restaurant in the backyard terrace, the abbey in the background and...

                        with the terrific view to the bay 

all the roads in Mt st Michel are connected to each others thru these narrow alleys 

View to the bay from the rampart of walled Mont St Michel...

I should mention about the tide, actually staying here only for one night, I have no idea when is the high tide, when low, but on the site of MSM you can find the tide schedule with the exact timing when the sea water is rising, when is falling and with the warning "It's extremely dangerous to venture alone into the bay including immediately close to Mont Saint Michel". So be cautious! 

                   It took me hours to wait until the top of Mont St Michel was lightened up  

            To get this shot I had to walk a half way back to the bus station in the cold of the bay, but...

                    I was so happy to witness the sunset in Normandy, where I always dreamed to visit. 

Mont St Michel is an unique magnificent walled city with a thousand year old history, I didn't have enough time to explore it, I arrived around 5:00 pm when most museums, abbey were closed and next morning I had to catch my early train at 7:45 am, no where was open yet. The only thing I enjoyed was my morning walk around this small but so special place. When I walked to the bus station, looked back to Mont St Michel in the morning mist, admiring it as one of the best moments in my life. I'm heading to Blois, a famous town with many castles along the river Loire. See you in Blois!  

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