Majestic Mont Saint Michel
Majestic: having or showing impressive beauty or scale.
Mont Saint Michel definitely shows impressive beauty. I mean just look at it! Rien de tel que le Mont Saint Michel. Nothing like Mont Saint Michel. I will never forget the feeling of seeing it in the distance for the first time, a little Hershey kiss on the horizon that became more and more remarkable the closer I got. Technically located in Normandy, I made this a part of my Brittany trip because it is literally just across the border. In fact, some of the Baie du Mont Saint Michel is a part of the Brittany region.
A Very Brief History
I enjoy learning about the history of the places I visit but admit I am not a history buff. I hope I’ve got all of this right, and I like this post on the Good Life France blog if you want to go deeper. Mont Saint Michel is named for Saint Michael, the Catholic saint who weighs souls on Judgement Day. The story goes that in the 8th century, Saint Michael asked the Bishop of the small church on the mountain to build a bigger church in his honor. When he failed to follow through, Saint Michael burned a hole in the Bishop’s skull with his finger. Today you see a golden Saint Michael perched atop the church’s spire.
Construction on the abbey and church finally began in the 11th century. Because it was incredibly difficult to access the Mont at high tide it remained protected during the Hundred Years War. It also served as a prison after the French Revolution. There is a large wooden wheel inside where prisoners were punished by walking incessantly in place in order to lift supplies up the abbey. Imagine getting supplies like firewood out to the peninsula and up to the top of the Mont! Incredible.
My Experience on the Mont
I was so lucky the day I visited Mont Saint Michel. Brittany is famous for it’s cloudy, rainy weather. On a Tuesday in mid February, I got sunny and 55! From the stories I’ve heard about tourists being packed like sardines making their way up to the abbey, I believe it was also a very low tourism day. There were many moments when I was in a room in the abbey and I was completely alone which was a pretty incredible experience. From the abbey I enjoyed beautiful views of the English Channel, and I even made a new friend!
You take the Grand Rue to make your way back down the Mont. The street is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants that are pretty much what you’d expect from a place that sees more than 2.5 million tourists a year. A section of the street was under construction during my visit so there wasn’t a direct path down, and several shops and restaurants were closed. I didn’t mind too much as I really went to see the Mont from a distance and visit the abbey, both of which were truly worth the hype.
I stayed in Rennes (click for my post) for three nights which gave me time to explore the city + take a day trip to Mont Saint Michel. You can take a bus from Rennes to the Mont (book tickets here). When you arrive, you can catch a free shuttle which takes you the last few kilometers to the causeway. From there you access the Mont on foot.
As I mentioned, I visited in mid February on a Tuesday and found it to be a rather low tourism day. I got INCREDIBLY lucky and it was sunny and 55 degrees. Brittany is known for cloudy, rainy weather so this might not always be the case, but definitely go for an “off” season during the week.
I gave myself 5 hours not including transportation to and from Mont Saint Michel, but I think 3-4 hours is plenty of time to explore the Mont itself.
It’s 10 euros to enter the abbey at the top, and an additional three euros to rent the audio guide which I suggest. I got mine in French because I’m trying to immerse myself as much as possible, but they are also available in English. In addition to the historical information, there are sound effects when you enter rooms like monks chanting. I think it really enriched the experience.
Food on the Mont is really expensive. I saw some families eating picnics along the ramparts and it looked lovely + a lot cheaper. If I went back I would definitely pack my own picnic and snacks!
This is one of those situations where I feel that the photos don’t do it justice, but I hope I gave you a good idea of what it’s like to experience Mont Saint Michel. For me it was a bucket list destination and a trip I will never forget!
Warmest of wishes from me to you, and up next I will round out my posts about Brittany with a recap of beautiful Saint Malo. Stay tuned!