The lovely old Abbey at the top of the Mont.
We ended up going through the abbey later in the afternoon and had most of it to ourselves.
One of the things I wish we would have done was the walk across the quicksands to get to the island. The combination of fast tides and, er, the quicksand means you should probably go with a group (there are a list of guided tours on the MSM website for you to pursue). You could see them working their way across the plain of sand.
The chapel at the tippy-top:
The rest of the site was a series of large halls and vaulted cellars where the monks would eat and pray and entertain visiting pilgrams. An impressive pile of architecture, but denuded of any furniture or art work to help you put the pieces together.
Just based on the train and bus schedules, we had decided to spend the night at a hotel just off the island so we wouldn't have to rush and hustle. The hotels on the island were very tiny and quite expensive, so we opted to be on the other side of the causeway, where they were bigger but shabby and cheaply furnished. There's really no difference in the end as everything here closes at 5 except for the hotel restaurants.
There wasn't even a local bar to cozy up at. We decided in the end that 12 hours here was more than enough time to see everything. Aside from the Abbey and the views, there was nothing but gift shops and places selling crepes and overpriced omelets and mediocre kouign-amann. A pastry that is mostly butter and caramel should never ever be mediocre.
Everywhere you looked, shops were selling gorgeous pictures of the iconic Mont, with long shadows and sunshine and snow and pretty much in every condition except of the one you are most likely to see it in, which is overcast or being pelted with sideways rain.
We did find a fantastic place to eat though. I was getting suspicious of all the places with traditional Bretange dancing and music that lined the area, so we walked past the gate of the pedestrian area and there was a cute renovated farmhouse called La Ferme St Michel. I had a lovely bit of pre-sale lamb, which is the local specialty of salt-marsh fed lamb, and they had really good woodfire cooked omelets for much cheaper than the fancy place on the island. You can get sick of crepes while traveling in this region pretty quickly, so it was nice to sit down and have a glass of wine and eat something that was not wrapped in a pancake.
But I guess the best thing about staying the night was being able to see the landmark splendidly lit up.
The next day was dreary with rain and enough fog to obscure the view, but we took a walk around the city walls while waiting for the bus to take us back to Rennes. The main street was packed with umbrella-toting tourist trying desperately stay dry. True to the place, devoted pilgrams/tourist do not let a little rain stop them.
Like I said before, 12 hours is plenty of time. 24 hours and you'll be a bit bored (especially in the rain) and you might actually start to drift inside the plentiful gift shops just to have something to do.