Day trip number one from Rouen was to Le-Mont-Saint-Michel, a two and a half hour drive south. Once we turned off the main road we followed minor roads with hardly another soul on them as we by passed the town of Avranches and cut through the smaller settlement of Brecey. As usual a small town did not mean small church with Brecey having a large stone place of worship.
Saint Michel had a fairly new set up. No longer could you drive close, park up and walk the causeway. Nowadays they have decided to return the old car parks to nature, meaning that you have to park up further away in an expensive car park (€12.50 for two hours +) and take a shuttle bus along a new causeway to virtually the entrance to Le Mont itself.
As you alight the bus with all of the (other) tourists, there is a frenzy to get the first great shots of the enormous abbey perched high up on the rocky escarpment. The whole rocky hill with its rugged towers and spires stands there Mordor like, as if housing an evil empire that ruled the region with an iron fist. It would certainly not look out of place as a set in Lord of the Rings.
When we visited the tide was out leaving a sandy landscape dotted with pools of water. The hope is that wildlife will return in their droves once they realise that the lands are no longer reserved for coaches and four-wheel drives. Signs warned us that where we walked at the base of the rock would indeed be covered by the sea later in the day. It would have been great to stay and see it, but that would be a fair few hours away yet.
We decided not to pay to enter any of the museums of the abbey itself, content to just saunter up the rock to take in the views. As we ascended, happily the hordes of people thinned out somewhat allowing our dog to walk without the threat of being trampled on by a thousand feet. At 21 degrees, it was hot and thirsty work getting to the summit.
Thankfully there were plenty of shady nooks and crannies to get some respite from the midday sun and we were rewarded with spectacular views out across the sandbanks and up to the large town of Avranches opposite.
After an hour or so we were ready to amble back, deciding to shun the shuttle bus,thus enabling us to get some relatively crowd free shots of the impressive monolith. We were certainly thankful to have hats and water as the sun was beating down relentlessly. We took pity on the carthorses that had to ferry paying visitors to the attractions. No respite for them and a demanding coach master to boot.
So another UNESCO World Heritage site ticked off and well worth the effort too.
I made it there last week, thanks for reminding me that I needed to go there!
Another place on my ‘to do’ list that I haven’t managed yet. Maybe I will get to France next year!
My friend is travelling back from Caen today – very busy due to Calais knock on and sweltering too. The downside of travel! Happily we soon forget the bad bits and focus on the good ones instead.
Yes, that’s true, I always block out the airport misery!
Andrew – have you ever been to Montpelier and if so have you blogged about it? I am writing a blog post and mention the place but have never been there and could therefore include a link if you have done so? Wilbur.
Montpellier is a place that I regret not visiting. In 2011 I stayed a few nights in Beziers and I really wanted to see Arles and the Camargue so in my haste I missed both Montpellier and Nimes. Still, I can always go back!
Ah, me too. Pont du Gard likewise!