Friday, 14 November 2008
Le Mont Saint Michel
Four hours drive west of Paris you'll find one of the most special places in France. Le Mont St. Michel is a small island located on the coast of Normandy full of history, soul and experiences. The first Christian building was built here for more than a thousand years ago, which over the years have been expanded. The monastery covers the top of the island, while a small middleage village takes up the rest of the space.
The island is surrounded by water at high tide, which is rather impressive in that region, and you can only access the place by a kilometre long damn. Even large parts of the parking lot is covered by water. The island is landfast at low tide, and you can walk there without getting your feet wet, if you dare enter the labyrinth of quicksand and seabed.
Once you've crossed the damn and stand before the city walls you'll be transported back in time. They're tall and thick and you can only enter the town by walking through the old gate. This was certainly a place the enemies couldn't easily conquer, especially since the damn wasn't built back then.
Inside the walls you'll find a thriving bustle. There's a lot of tourists during the season, so it's highly recommended to visit outside of the school holidays and religious festivals. The place is a pilgrimage for many Christians. May and the beginning of June (with the exception of pentcote) is a good time to visit, and the same is true for September and October, where the schools have started again and the French are done with their holidays. The weather is still good these times of the year.
The streets are narrow and paved with cobblestone. There are plenty of shops which all sell medieval and tourist products. They're clearly taking advantage of the impressive history the place has. A narrow long street winds its way up the hill and when you arrive at the top of it, you'll be met by a large gate which leads into the monastery itself.
It is like stepping into another world. The place is huge and full fo soul and historical scents. It is an impressive building. At the top you'll find a small garden, where there's a magnificent view over the bay. These days plexiglass covers the opening to protect the visitors and avoid people falling hundreds of feet into their death. Back then it was open and apparently the opening was used for the few who wished to meet God. Standing at the edge will certainly give you a thrill.
There's so much to tell about le Mont St. Michel that it's impossible to cover just a tiny bit of it all. If you think Notre Dame is impressive, then prepare to lose your breath completely. The little island in Normandy is so much more and one of the places in Europe that you must visit before life is over.
Photo: http://flickr.com/photos/jackversloot/ & http://flickr.com/photos/84019257@N00/