The long history of Mont St-Michel is thought to date back to 708 when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, built a sanctuary on Mont-Tombe in honour of the Archangel, Michael. The site soon became a place of pilgrimage and the Benedictines founded an Abbey here in the 10th century. It’s ramparts and fortifications resisted the English assaults 3 times during the 100 Years War, but today they succumb to the thousands of tourists who assault the Mount and storm the many stairs to the Abbey; some trying their feet in the quicksand before the tide comes in.
There is a cloudy and dramatic English Channel sky today as we drive from the hotel the short 20 or so kilometres. Le Mont St-Michel is visible from practically everywhere around le Manche, poking her spire out of the mountain top. We park at the lower end of the parking lot and walk to the only entrance that exists on the ramparts. We are greeted with an almost Disneyesque version of “Ye Olde Medieval Towne” complete with restaurants, tacky souvenirs and Japanese tourists. We make our way up to the top of the mount and enter the great gothic cathedral and do the tour, quickly and with purpose, and decide to beat a retreat from the oncoming wave of tourists washing up the mount, almost as if the tide had just come in.
Our Only Stop in Brittany
We break through the touristic up-wash and return to the car, where we continue northwest to St-Malo, our only stop in Brittany. We will stop there for lunch: the restaurants can’t be as tourist oriented as they are in le Mont St-Michel, can they? 80% of the old town of St-Malo was destroyed in WWII, and its major monuments were restored in the 1970s. The rest of the quaint, ramparted town was restored to an 18th century standard and style of French architecture. It is an odd combination to view when you walk through. We have a very uninspiring lunch of pizza (we are happy for the change from the roasted meats, sauces and frites that the “gastronomie française” is so famous for), with a pichet of white wine, and wander a bit amongst the Saturday shoppers on the main street.
Our uninspiring lunch leads us to an even more uninspiring dinner at the Ibis; we don’t even consider heading across the parking lot to the line-dancing steakhouse. Their friendly staff continue to compliment our French. We have been practising; so much so that we are actually speaking to each other in French. It is really nice to be able to communicate in the language of the country you are travelling in!
We wonder how we will do when we return to Belgium in a few days.