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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 11 Sep 2007

Location: Mont St Michel, France

MapLeaving La Rochelle and heading north, we passed by Nantes (with a huge bridge that seemed to fly over the city) and Rennes to arrive at Mont St Michel. Many have told us about how magical this place is, but to see it for real is to believe it. A huge stone abbey built on top of a large rocky outcrop jutting out of the water, it defies belief how this feat could have been achieved without the aids of modern-day machinery. A village has been built around the foot of the abbey to create a complete medieval township that has been preserved so that stepping through the front gate is like walking back in time.
The one thing that struck us, however, was the commercialism (much like the Old City in Carcassonne). Souvenir shops, bars, hotels (yes, you can stay in the village, for a hefty price) restaurants and ice-creams vendors line the narrow streets as you walk ever upwards towards the abbey. And there were hundreds and hundreds of people – with hundreds of cars, motorhomes and buses in the carpark (paying 4 Euros for the priviledge). But once you reach the abbey (and pay 8 Euros entry fee) you are transported back 800 years into the life and times of the Benedictine monk of St Michel. Incredible and breathtaking craftsmanship in stonework, so high above the water. Reaching the very top, we witnessed a wedding taking place – what a superb venue to get married!
After an evening meal at one of the dozens of restaurants close by, we walked out to the “island”, with high tide leaving just the road for access. With the sun setting and the lights of the abbey reflecting in the water, it was a lovely way to end a magic day.