Tuesday, May 11, 2010
From Giverny we drove toward Le Mont St.Michele via Caen(say-on). We found a hotel only 3 km from the main parking lot, at 9AM it wasn’t a long walk to the entrance and the parade of buses had not arrived yet. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of people, but it was still possible to walk through the lower town without bumping shoulders and being bitten on the heels by strollers. Marathon de France was setting up their finish line at the base of the isle, complete with tents, cameras and crew. Strategically positioned ATM machines greeted us at the entrance (après draw-bridge), right near the toilettes… everything the tourist needs.
The town is built at the base of the Mont. The earliest houses and shops are at the highest positions, late comers had to build lower and lower until they were at the high tide level. We walked up a narrow path past narrow shops and narrow restaurants. Where the incline exceeded more than 15% there were steps, but more important there were handy deliberator units indiscreetly attached every 100m to the ancient stone walls… with multilingual instructions. We stopped to read them, feigning interest but really trying to catch our breath. When we reached the entrance to the Abbey, I stepped aside so Barry could conquer the tower. With camera in tow he paid 12€ for the honor of climbing to the top. Well, 84 pictures later he returned quite pleased and still fascinated with the architecture and sheer willpower that it took to build this incredible monument. He swears that once inside the abbey walls, the Disneyana disappeared.
If you are interested try an internet search for Le Mont St.Michele for the history, it is truly amazing. It is said to date back to 708, when Aubert Bishop of Avranches had a sanctuary built to honor the Archangel. In the 10th c the Benedictines settled in and by the 14th c. the building extended as far as the base of the rock. The town grew, to support the monks and builders, eventually spiraling down and around from the Abbey to the draw-bridge. St.Michele has played an important part in France’s history. During the One Hundred Years Was it was seen as an exemplary military strong hold, and a symbol of national identity. During the French Revolution until 1863 it served as a prison. In 1874 it was classified as a historic monument and the renovation began, it continues today.
We got out of town, just in time, as we drove the 1.5km back into town the tour buses were lined up bumper to bumper from the town out to the parking lots.
And, if you have, thanks for reading