Reunited 2008 travel blog

Mont Saint Michel, France

Mont Saint Michel looking down from the top

Near the top of Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel at a distance

Shops and entryway to the top of Mont Saint Michel

Today, we left Jacques' home and his warm hospitality when he drove us to the train station in Morlaix. A few days ago, we were total strangers but today we are fast friends connected by our relatives, their pasts lives, and the events that brought us together. We cannot express our thanks enough to him and everything he did to make our journey a successful and meaningful memory in our lives. Scott is at total peace because he was able to lay his Mother to rest in a beautiful place where she will now remain for eternity.

We soon board the train back to Rennes, where we connect to the town of St. Malo, in order to pick up a rental car and continue our trip across the Normady coast. I loved riding on the trains in France, as in the past when we took the trains to many other countries in Europe. Our Eurail passes with a rental car option, that we arranged before we left the US, has proved to be seamless so far. We are entitled to first class when it is available, and the cars are clean, uncrowded and efficient. Bathrooms are spotless and there is food available on some of the trains, for which you can even pay with credit card!

In St. Malo, it continued to spit rain and the cold is something for which we are not dressed. Avis rental in St. Malo is right at the train station, a few steps from the train, and we were soon set with our transportation that we would use for the next few days. I insisted on full insurance coverage since we had heard horror stories about car rental companies fleecing customers over the smallest of dings and when we heard that partial coverage had a 600 Euro deductable, we decided to spring for the 100 Euros and get full coverage. We were prepared for a minicar that would not fit either us or our suitcases; however, we were surprised to find that we were given an automatic upgrade to a Volkswagen SUV, just about the largest car we saw the entire time in France. Most cars are very small, use little gas and can park in the tighest places or go down the narrowest roads but we managed very well in this comfortable car. Scott was well prepared with a GPS and map program on his computer, so instead of the piles of maps that we usually take, I just held the computer on my lap as we drove along. Not terribly comfortable, a little hot, but we managed. Right about now some of you are asking why we didn't just buy a handheld GPS. Don't would have to know him. We rarely got lost although we did have to take a few trips around and around some roundabouts while I tried to figure out which exits to take. It certainly stopped a lot of disagreements about which direction to go since men don't ask directions anyway in the US and it would have been impossible in France to get him to stop, much less understand any answers.

For many years we've wanted to go to Mont Saint Michel, an unbelievably beautiful abbey established in the eighth century on the coast of Normandy. This is a very busy tourist destination but it's not terribly crowded since it's only May and school isn't out yet, nor have the summer tourists started swarming the area. The abbey is built on the very top of the island with a causeway that can be covered in very high tide. We parked the car as near as possible and started a very long walk to the gates to begin the exhausting climb up through the village that starts at the base of the island. Our first reaction, upon seeing the cobblestone streets and tourist shops filing up toward the abbey, is oddly enough that we are at a Disney location because it's too touristy and themelike. Shaking off that thought, we get into the mood and start upward.

If you ever go there, be prepared to get into real shape before you go, premedicate with Tylenol or just exert a real effort to get to the top in order to be rewarded by the panorama and the spectacular interior of the abbey. Smokers need not try the walk up and we heard swearing in about five languages as people realized there were more and more stairs to climb. But, if you make it to the top, you will be rewarded by one of the most spectacular buildings and vistas that we have ever seen in Europe....and we have visited a lot of churches, abbeys and basilicas, so many that we can't keep all of them straight. One can only imagine how difficult it was to haul up the stones that were required to build this enormous edifice, even through there is a huge wooden wheel in one of the rooms that was used for that purpose. It will make you feel sorry for the peasants that built this incredible building over the years as it was repeatedly added onto. No wonder the life expectancy was so short then.

We spent about a half day here, although we could have stayed longer, but it was getting late and we had to move along in order to make it to our hotel in St. Lo where we would spend the night. We found a mid-level, pleasant hotel chain, the Mecure, at a good location so we headed there and checked in because we were so tired. Since it was still raining, we decided against touring the town until in the morning and settled in to rest in a good bed, nice bath and very clean room.

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