The abbey on the rock

Welcome to the third instalment of my September ad-French-ures. To recap:

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Saint Michael is watching you...

Mont Saint-Michel – or Saint Michael’s Mountain – is a medieval city built entirely on top of a tiny little rock island and one of those places that probably makes it onto every list of “places you absolutely must visit before you die”. It’s definitely the most unique place that I’ve ever been to.

Apparently the abbey came first, and the remainder of the city built around it. According to the audioguide for the abbey tour, the place was even used as a prison for a bit until people including Victor Hugo (author of Les Misrables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) pointed out that maybe it might have some historical significance and could probably be put to better use than as a lock-up.

The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Now there’s a carpark that’s off to one side where the cars, campervans (like us) and tour buses park. However during high tide, this goes underwater, so when we arrived the parking attendant duly informed us that we had to leave before 6pm the following day! We wanted to get a picture of MSM at high tide, but also wanted to get out before the last minute rush, so unfortunately we left earlier.

This is low tide. Our campervan is right at the back on the left, where it curves around a bit

MSM was also where we had the second-most expensive meal on our entire trip at 191 for four, at La Mre Poulard restaurant. Roughly translated, it means “The Chicken Mama” and their specialty was omelette:

Omlette at La Mre Poulard

The omlette was so light and fluffy, that outer part was practically egg foam

I’ve got a few photos of the cooks whisking the eggs in their giant bowls and then cooking it in the fireplace, but the video on their website is better so I’ll just refer you to that instead.

While we’re on the subject of food – the eating in France was uniformly excellent – even the 5 for 2-dozen croissants from the supermarket – everything was absolutely delicious and worth every (Euro) cent. I mean, it’s not a cheap eats destination like Asia where you get loads of variety at low prices (and service to match); I felt throughout the trip that French dining is not so much eating as having a culinary experience.

Here are some of the other dishes from that meal. Sorry to state the obvious, but I can’t remember the specifics of each dish. They were all yummy:

A mixed salad

Oysters

Smoked salmon

A chicken and potato stew, I think

Lamb cutlets and a stack of potatoes that had a fancy name but I forget what

One thing I regret not trying is the “special” lamb (unfortunately those cutlets weren’t it). Because the plains nearby are underwater at high tide, the grass that grows on there is naturally salty, meaning sheep that graze on it have naturally salty meat!

Yes, I took a picture of the garbage truck. So?

But Back to the city. The buildings themselves were largely unremarkable other than their age and precarious perch. It was interesting watching the “garbage truck” (a forklift of sorts) slowly reversing its way down the main street, forcing pedestrians up against the walls and into the tiny, tiny alleyways.

The buildings were largely taken up by souvenir stores, restaurants and bars. I don’t know what it was about them though, but they didn’t make the place feel like a tourist trap. Maybe because there were a variety of things beyond your usual useless trinkets – medieval swords and costumes, a shop containing a wide variety of books about the history of the Normandy region, etc. – instead of your usual gamut of keyrings, snowdomes, fridge magnets and so on (no offence to anybody that so happens to collect those kinds of things *ahem*).

The inside of the abbey itself is mostly empty, and the thing to appreciate is the architecture. We hired the audioguides, and other than outlining the functions of the various rooms, it was all arches, pillars, cloisters, frescoes, and wotnot.

Here’s the “big photo section” for MSM:

Mont Saint-Michel from afar

... with some very attractive people standing in front of it

... and from not so far

... and at night. Don't mind the terrible picture, but don't you think it has a little bit of a Disney "magic castle" feel to it?

The street below, through a hole in the wall

The abbey spire

The outer ramparts

Random buildings

Inside the abbey

A ... um, thing. Fresco maybe?

The cloisters

The cloisters again, close-up detail

There were a lot of big, empty rooms like this

At the top of a lift device that they used to haul things up into the abbey

A sunset. See what I mean about the sky? (From part 1)

And that brings us to the end of this portion of the trip. A stroke of luck: as soon as we left MSM it started to BUCKET down, but we continued on to our next destination, Angers Saumur Villandry!