Thursday, May 22, 2014

Le Mont St Michel

It's the land of baguettes and flaky pastries which is how we start our morning. Even a plain patisserie at the railroad station bakes on site fresh each morning. The baker is in the tiny back kitchen with balks and balls of freshly risen dough, and girls roll tall carts with trays of neat little croissants ready to be baked. Piles of breads and rolls are constantly being replenished and we are amazed at the volume of sales the must make each day.

Our rental car is a compact Opel with nav system, a British woman with a beautiful voice and the most specific directions I have ever heard. She even says, "please turn...". We head to Dinan in Brittany. Dinan is a charming Rance river valley town with stone houses and a tall bridge that rises high above the harbor. It is a great town for walking as there is the harbor level and the upper bridge level. The fort sits high on the hill surrounded by a city wall. Inside the fort, the alleys are windy and narrow. The b&b Le Logis de Jerzual is located on a cobbled pedestrian hill, not for the faint of heart. We drive around and around the fortress 3 times trying to find a way into the neighborhood, before finally giving up and drive up the steep alley that is marked no cars, going through a very slim arched doorway, only to find the path chained off.  We drop off our luggage and give kudos to Ray driving stick shift on narrow alleys and having to back all the way back down! Another guest later tells us the wife got out looking for the gate and tried to get herself im through a tiny gate that she later learned was a cat door! The street designated as free parking is a slanted narrow road virtually imposdible to park on with stick shift! Our room is at the top of skinny stairs, very french and decorated in blue.

We head to Le Mont St Michel. It is now alternating between periods of sun and pouring rain. We arrive at 4 and true to the guidebook, the masses of tourists are leaving, hurrah! We walk the ramparts and ooh and ah at the mudflats below which reflect the sun and create luscious shadows and texture. Stay tuned for real photos. This has been a pilgrimage center since 708, one of 4 in Christendom in the world. Since the 16th century, hermit monks in search of solitude lived here.The abbey used to be surrounded by water but with the old dam, has silted up such that water no longer flows fully during high tide which can move in at 18 mph. The area is being redone with new dam and causeway, returning it to its former splendor by 2015. We get to the abbey too late to go in. Apparently there is a special early closing. However I take many photos of the lines and shadows and we take a short walk onto the mudflats whic spread out or miles. We see some groups way out on in the distance. Friars made the pilgrimage from the abbey to land during low tide. 

Travel advice: to visit Mt. St. Michel, stay in the town itself so you can walk in early in the am or late at night when the place is empty. With a car, park in the lots; shuttles start running at 7:45am but you can walk in before then. Go to the new dam and viewing platform for the best view.


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