One of The Most Visited Sites in France – Mont Saint Michel
Has it ever happened to you that you have seen a picture of a place somewhere far away in the world and you have said to yourself – I have to get there one day!! Well that happened to me when I first saw a picture of Mont Saint Michel. As soon as I saw it, I was in awe and vowed one day to visit!
Paul Signac & Others Painters Immortalized Mont Saint Michel
It seems that the neo-impressionism painter, Paul Signac was also in awe of this amazing Abbey. He immortalized it on his canvas in 1897 using the Pointillism art technique. The painting is beautiful as it captures the abbey in the morning light as the sun is rising. The Abbey has barely changed since Signac captured it on his canvas!!
We Land in Paris but Immediately Leave for Normandy
Finally, we bought tickets for Paris but when we landed, we picked up our hired car and set off to Bayeaux in Normandy.
We arrived in Bayeaux in the late afternoon, found our hotel and then took a stroll into Bayeaux’s beautiful old town. Bayeaux has a gorgeous preserved medieval center. In the middle of the medieval town is a beautiful flowing water canal with old preserved timber-framed and stone houses on either side. The walk along the canal is lovely as the pathway follows the canal until you reach a beautiful park.
The Day Has Arrived! We Are Driving to Mt Saint Michel
Our next morning in Bayeux was THE DAY! After breakfast we set off to Mont Saint Michel. It was a foggy morning so we could barely see the road ahead and we drove slowly along the winding Normandy roads.
After about one and half hours of driving through lush Normandy countryside, we finally saw Mont Saint Michel in the distance……. Wow!!!!!!!!! The view is exactly like in all the pictures! It is breathtaking!
Mont Saint Michel Does Not Disappoint!
It is Indeed the Jewel Crown of France
There is a large car park and a shuttle service that takes you to the island. However we decided to walk instead. It is only a 20 minute walk (2 1/2 kms) but delightful as you get to soak up the views of Mont Saint Michel en route… THIS WAS THE VIEW I had been waiting for!!!
It Is Always Crowded in Mont Saint Michel!
Once on the Mont, the main walkway leading up to the abbey is full of tourist shops, eateries and restaurants. It is a narrow street and bustling with tourists. We headed off without delay to the top.
There are hundreds of stairs to navigate and the climb up to the abbey is fairly steep. Less tourists seem to go to the top so it became far less crowded the further we climbed up.
After about 50 minutes, you will reached the top of the mountain where the actual abbey is located. Entrance into the abbey costs money and there was a long queue so we didn’t go inside. However, from the top of the mountain, you are rewarded with the most magnificent views of Normandy…. But to be honest, the best view of Mont Saint Michel are when you arrive at the car park and see the abbey perched on the hill.
We walked back down, enjoying the cobbled narrow streets and admiring the centuries old buildings. We took the shuttle back to the car park as we were feeling a little tired. Mont Saint Michel is hard work on the feet 🙂
Fun Facts About Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel has a circumference of one kilometre, rises over 90 metres above sea level and covers 250 square acres. The Island is surrounded by quicksand. Medieval pilgrims called the abbey “St. Michael in Peril of the Sea” because of the dangerous quicksands when the tides are low. Even today, visitors are advised not to walk across the sands (and only on the bridge), although some still try.
The Dangerous High Tides of Mont Saint Michel
The tides of the Channel are continually changing, causing the waters to rise and fall around the island. During extreme high tide, Mont Saint-Michel becomes an island, completely disconnected from France. It appears as though it is floating on the water. It is an amazing phenomena and attracts massive crowds!
During low tide, the island is surrounded by sand and you can barely see any water. This allows , visitors to walk around the island’s perimeters. However walking around the island can be dangerous and should only be done with a professional guide. These guides are familiar with the Channel’s tidal flows.
On about a dozen days of the year, the tides around Mont Saint Michel are extreme and very dangerous. On these days, the tides change extremely quickly, the sand becomes unstable and turns into quicksand. When the tides starts rushing in, there can be a difference of 15 meters (50 feet) between low and high tide!
Granville – Dior’s Hometown
After Mont Saint Michel, our next stop was an unplanned detour to the seaside resort town, Granville. Since it wasn’t a planned stop, we didn’t know what to expect but we really loved this small town. Granville has a lovely promenade along the beach, and a pink house on the top of a hill that was the childhood home the famous fashion designer, Christian Dior. This house is now a museum but was closed when we were there.
The center of Granville is full of lovely boutique shops, cafes and restaurants. The homes of the wealthy are perched on a hill, facing the sea. So pretty! There is even a Casino!
After strolling around for about an hour and a half, we drove back to Bayeaux. It was a wonderful day.
Mont Saint Michel did not disappoint and Granville was a charming bonus!!!
If you are in Paris and are looking for a day trip to Mont Saint Michel, press here for options.