normandy: mont-saint-michel

Monday, July 3, 2006:  We have another lovely breakfast at Le Manoir.  This time we sit with the other American couple and they’re a little more friendly — the man in particular.  They’re from the Baltimore area.  They bought a Saab here and are having it shipped back to the States.  They’ve been driving it during their 3-week stay, all around France, Germany and Austria.

After breakfast, we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay.  It’s quite an impressive sight rising up from the water across the flat farmland.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

Considered the “Wonder of the West,” the Gothic-style Benedictine abbey, dedicated to the archangel St. Michael, is perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks; these are exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany. The village below grew up in the shadow of the abbey, which was built between the 11th and 16th centuries.  Says UNESCO: “The abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.” (UNESCO: Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay)

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

We arrive early enough so the crowds aren’t too bad, but they multiply rapidly after our arrival.  As usual, only two ticket windows are open to the abbey, so we have to wait quite a while in a long line.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel
Adam, Alex and Mike in front of Mont Saint-Michel
Adam, Alex and Mike in front of Mont Saint-Michel
me at Mont Saint-Michel
me at Mont Saint-Michel

The structural composition of the town represents the feudal society that constructed it. On top God, the abbey and monastery, below this Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen’s and farmers’ housing.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

We avoid the town and climb directly up the steps to the abbey, which is lovely and has a fantastic view of the sand flats, the water and farmlands.  Inside the stone walls is sometimes cool and breezy, other times damp and sultry.  It’s quite a warm, sultry day overall.

inside Mont Saint-Michel
inside Mont Saint-Michel
tower at Mont Saint-Michel
tower at Mont Saint-Michel

The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 46 ft (14 metres) between high and low water marks. Popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims making their way across the flats, the mount can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast. (Wikipedia: Mont Saint-Michel)

looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
the bay at Mont Saint-Michel
the bay at Mont Saint-Michel
me on top of the monastery
me on top of the monastery
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
cloister at Mont Saint-Michel
cloister at Mont Saint-Michel
cloister
cloister
cloister
cloister
statues at Mont Saint-Michel
statues at Mont Saint-Michel
Statues at Mont Saint-Michel
Statues at Mont Saint-Michel

We grab baguettes in the tacky tourist town on the way down.  Alex wants to buy a big sword in one of the gift shops, but we convince him that taking it home will be problematic.

I fall asleep on the way back to Le Manoir, as does Adam, but Mike and Alex stop at a market to get fruit and water.  Back at Le Manoir, Adam and I continue to nap while Mike and Alex take pictures around the Manoir grounds. The owners have a lot of aging, blind and deaf animals.  There’s Ozzie the rooster who prefers human to chicken company; Purdy, the white lab; Gimble, an English spaniel blind in one eye and tied up outside because he ran away 9 km once; Twinkle, the youngest white cat; and two 20-year-old cats.  One black Cocker Spaniel is blind and deaf.  Lizzy had worked at the SPCA for a long time and picked up lots of animals.

Mike and I go to see the Bayeaux Tapestry while the boys walk around Bayeaux.  The film presentation about the tapestry is fascinating.  We don’t have enough time there because we told the boys to meet us in front of the Cathedral at 5:15.  We wander around the town.  I am hoping to find some jewelry stores open but none were.  I do buy a cute black and white dress at SUD Express.

Bayeaux
Bayeaux
Bayeaux Cathedral
Bayeaux Cathedral
Alex and Adam in Bayeaux
Alex and Adam in Bayeaux

We go to Arromanches for dinner, where we sit outside at Le Bistro.

Creperie in Bayeaux
Creperie in Arromanches
beach near Bayeaux
beach near Arromanches

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