I have been intrigued by the mother of all tourist traps for a while now. True, it's a bit hard to get to, and that was part of the reason why I hadn't been yet. I waited until I had in friend in town who really wanted to see it before planning a trip. It's about four or five hours drive from Paris. We looked into bus trips direct from Paris, but that would mean joining a tour. Unless the tour would promise to take us to back alley kebap stands, I'm alright with independently getting there, even if it means a little creativity.
I found that you could take the TGV to the city of Rennes, and then hop a bus from there that takes you to the Mont. It was fairly easy, and the layover between the train and the bus meant we got to walk around Rennes for a bit and eat pastry.
Two hours on the train, a bit over an hour on the bus through the Brittany countryside, and we arrived. There's no town around le mont, but a handful of tourist hotels on the country road that leads to the causeway.
So, they are doing mad amounts of construction as they are building a new bridge to replace the causeway. The old causeway blocked the tidal flow in the bay and created enough silt build up so that the abbey is no longer technically on an island. Once the new bridge is built, they will take out the causeway and the parking lot at the base of the island, and it will once again be a tidal island.
They also built a snazzy new dam that they are using to flush out the bay and deepen the channel. It's designed to be a nice viewing platform as well. Very slick.
The Mont itself is a sight to behold.
Since the 8th century, there has been a monastery at the top of the hill, and it's been a pilgrimage site for just as long. It's portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry, including the knights getting trapped in quicksand! About 40 people live on the island, most of them being monks or nuns as it is still a working monastery.
You can take a shuttle right up to the base of the mont, or you can walk or bike the 1km across. We opted for the walk just to spend more time taking it all in. Hopping a shuttle bus for the last mile seemed very anti-pilgram of us.
A touch of rare blue sky....
The weather in Normandy and Brittany was predictably between dreary and miserable. Wearing a rain jacket is a pretty good idea no matter what the forecast says.
The delicious stink of the sea was all around us. I miss that living in Paris.
You enter the city through a gate, and you wind your way through a tiny, steep street filled with cute medieval buildings and shops.
Mere Pollard has a monopoly on most of the real estate here. They sell their ridiculous 30 euro omeletes at their fancy place at the bottom of the hill, and every other shop has their name on it. The cuisine is pretty limited anyway, as you will get sick of crepes if you spend more than a few hours here.
The views from the top were pretty spectacular. The bay, the sea, the farms and fields. They've done a really good job of preserving the area from development and spoiling the views. If this would have been anywhere else, I feel as there would be condos touting their view of the landmark built up everywhere. Instead, the sheep get the majority of real estate is given to the sheep that graze the salt marsh.
The abbey is a Unesco site, so it's well-funded and well maintained. We ended up going later in the day, so it was fairly quiet, with none of the crowds I thought we would be fighting through.
I would dare to call it peaceful even.
I'll have more pictures for you of the Abbey tomorrow. As usual, I have way too many pictures for one post.