A 4 hours drive West of Paris will take you many places, through rolling hills, grand Cathedrals and artists’ gardens. But there is probably one special place you ( and 3 million other people every year) are heading towards: the charming and almost mystical Le Mont Saint Michele, one of the most picturesque landmarks of France.
2 weeks ago I arranged for a romantic weekend on Le Mont for me and my best friend. We booked a room in the tiny but surprisingly comfortable Auberge Saint Pierre, on Le Mont Saint Michele, to be sure to live the charm of this enchanted place fully, rather than having to go back to the mainland before the tide rose.
Le Mont itself is tiny, the main attraction being its beautiful Cathedral, nestled on is top, almost giving the impression of precariously balancing on the pyramid shaped island. What is probably most impressive however is the appearance of Le Mont from afar, as you walk or drive up the suspended bridge connecting this wonderful piece of rock to the wild countryside of Normandy. This part of France is well known for its capricious and extreme weather, so I could not have been happier to catch a day filled with sunshine, just the right setting for this wonderful sight.
Once you get over the view – and that might take a while – you can walk inside the main gates and follow the cobbled road up to the Cathedral, making sure to take in every detail of this special place. The shop signs, the smell of the famous cookies from La Mere Poulard, the beautiful cemetery and the view of the Cathedral towering over you as you get closer and closer.
There are plenty of photo opportunities as you go up, and catching a good shot, especially at sunset, is practically guaranteed. If you are lucky enough to go in the Spring, you might be able to experience the Cathedral’s garden in full bloom. In our case, it was just starting to wake up.
A visit to the Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Michele, would take you around 1 hour, but its impressive interiors, and inner courtyards are totally worth the time and entry fee. On the higher walls, you get a full sense of the importance this place must have held in the past, not only as a religious shrine, but also as a symbol of resistance. The tides in fact, combined with the impugnable build of the Cathedral, allowed Le Mont to be extremely defensible. so much so that during the Hundred Years’ War a small garrison was able to defend Le Mont from a full blown attack by the English.
If you are thinking of visiting, make sure to check the tides, to be able to time your trip to see this impressive show of nature.
If going all the way to Normandy for a church does not cut it for you, during the warmest months of the year, tour operators and local guides organise walks and horseback riding across the bay between Le Mont and the mainland. it gets muddy but it looks like tons of fun, definitely on my bucket list for next time.
If you choose to stay the night, a visit to La Mere Poulard to try the famous Omelette is a must. At the very least, make sure you pick a box of cookies (or two) before you head back, or even better some salted caramel candy, they are absolutely divineeee. If you are horrified by the touristy price of the restaurant (which is to be expected) don’t be surprised if the choice of food is limited, especially after dark. Most tourist tend to leave Le Mont at night. Staying on the mainland is cheaper, but not nearly as charming.
I took a chance to stroll around the place in the evening, and it is possibly even more impressive. the small streets and the lit-up Cathedral make for some incredible night photography if you have the right equipment, or at the very least provide the setting for a super romantic , yet somehow blasphemous, snog.
Seeing this place is really worth a drive, and i dare say even a plane or a train:-) If you have a chance, explore this wonderful region of France, just make sure you pack a raincoat before you go.