Mont Saint-Michel, Revisited

My post about Mont Saint-Michel must have gotten stuck within a shoulder-width alleyway of this postcard “island” in Normandy, or perhaps it was caught in the muck that surrounds it and then washed away by the enveloping tide. Regardless, having finally realized that I didn’t share a single word about our relatively quick stay there, I find it necessary to share even if two months later.

The shuttle across this town’s new connecting bridge lets you off at near the entrance of this mesmerizing sea-growth of human fortifications, but its walls don’t protect you until you pass through the main gate. Outside, earthly reminders include hair-whipping wind gusts and a tide known for bear-hugging the island and any unlucky trekkers who thought the walking path would stay dry. Although the sight was absolutely worth enduring the wind, it wasn’t long until we sought the protection of its medieval outer walls.

We weren’t the only tourists seeking refuge, either. You see, Mont Saint-Michel is the most visited destination in France outside of Paris, and there was no shortage of elbows and shoulders to bump into as we climbed our way to tour the gothic abbey that serves as the handmade peak atop the island. Worth the effort and crowd endurance, climbers are afforded an upper level view of the surrounding tides, as well as an interesting tour of the abbey’s many inner rooms.

Our room for the night was on the island, as prior reading had promised that the crowds would clear and the night aura would not disappoint. It did not. Nighttime at Mont Saint-Michel glows in a way that only Venice can understand. It’s both mystical and romantic, and it slowly burns into a forever memory.  And yes, the view from outside the walls at night is also incredible, but when you’re between the light, it embraces you.

I’m getting a little lost in those moments, no?  There are other, less mystical realities worth noting: if you stay here, you are held captive to the very few restaurants for the limited crowds who actually spend the night.  Our single dining experience was not notable, nor was it meant to be.  There’s also no nightlife to be found, nor (in our case of a weeknight stay) a store open to purchase wine or snacks. And the daytime situation, well, that touring company takes cobblestone footsteps as soon as 8 a.m.

Negatives aside, Mont Saint-Michel is simply a beautiful anomaly of a sight that I could never suggest passing up on account of crowds alone. As with any major sights, if you choose off hours, you’re unlikely to regret partaking in such an unusually beautiful destination.

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