Le Mont Saint-Michel
I love to scamper, at low tide, shoes in my hands, far from shore, across the mud flat in the vast Bay of
Since the sixth century, hermit monks in search of that solitude lived here. Location, location, location. The word "hermit" comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "desert." The next best thing to a desert in this part of
Imagine the "desert" this bay provided as the first monk climbed the rock to get close to God. Mix in the mythic tide, which sends the surf speeding eight miles in and out with each tide cycle. Back then, before the causeway was built,
Adding to the peril was quicksand, the thoroughly disorienting fog, and the fact that the sea can encircle unwary hikers. Braving these devilish risks for centuries, pilgrims kept their eyes on the spire crowned by their protector, St. Michael, and eventually reached their spiritual goal.
Whether scampering across the treacherous mudflats or just driving across the modern causeway, the sight of the distant silhouette of the Gothic island-abbey
Though a dreamscape from a distance, through the midday
The actual abbey of
Today's abbey is built on the remains of a Romanesque church, which was built on the ruins of a Carolingian church. Visiting the abbey, imagine the headaches and hassles the monks had when they built it. They ferried granite from across the bay (without the causeway back then) and hiked it uphill.
A walk in the abbey is a one-way route through fine -- but barren -- Gothic rooms. A rented audio guide, or English-language tour, make this historic sight more meaningful. Visitors may explore the impressive church, delicate cloisters, and refectory (where the monks ate in austere silence), and then climb down into the dark, damp Romanesque foundations. A highlight is the giant tread-wheel, which six workers once powered hamster-style to haul 2-ton loads of stones and supplies from the landing below. This was used until the 19th century.
From the abbey's veranda, survey the bay stretching from Normandy to Brittany. The river below marks the historic border between the two lands. Brittany and Normandy have long vied for
Hang out until after dark when the tourists are gone and the island is magically floodlit. Ramble on the ramparts. Ponder the promise of desolation and a simple life of solitude that attracted monks to this dramatic spot so long ago.
Recent Vacation Ideas & Travel Destinations
- Taking the Kids to Patagonia
- From France to Italy Over Mont Blanc
- France's Mont St. Michel: Magnificence On A Mudflat
- Paris: City of Cozy Neighborhoods
- Positano Italy: Stroll Behind the Chic Facades
- Naples: Italy in the Extreme
- Portugal's Nazare: Beach Town with Traditions
- Slowing Down in Germany's Mosel Valley
- 5 Easy Ways to Avoid a la Carte Anarchy When You Fly
- Transportation Department Steps Up Efforts in Aviation Consumer Protection
- Small-Ship Cruises: Intimate Unusual and Expensive
- Whose Hotel Reviews Do You Trust
- Family Friendly Day Trips From London
(c) 2010 Rick Steves
World-renowned chefs with an extraordinary passion for food, share that passion. They make great cooking easier than you ever imagined. Each feature includes both an expert tip and an easy recipe - exactly what you need to transform your home cooking from acceptable to delectable.
Recipes Click Here
Movie Reviews, commentary and more. Plus Trailers from movies currently in theaters and available on DVD.
Movie Reviews Click Here