Mont St. Michele, France. If Heaven and Earth Should Meet.
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Mont. St. Michele, France
There are places in the world that defy explanation or reason but they will, for what ever reason, continue to come to be and exist. Mont Saint Michele, France is one of those places. Surreal and almost other worldly. Something of this magnitude could only be the work of madmen or divine intervention, Mont Saint Michele is the latter. Saint Aubert, after a vision of the archangel Saint Michael, set to work to build an oratory as a result. From oratory, to abbey, to monastery, to prison Mont Saint Michele has donned various forms through the years but maintains itself today as a Unesco World Heritage site and a welcome pilgrimage for the faithful. There are several ways to choose to visit. Stay on the island, stay just off the island (one of the many hotels at the end of the connecting causeway) or a day trip from Caen, Rouen and other Normandy points. You "can" day trip from Paris (3.5 hours from Paris), but that would make for a very long day. Mont Saint Michele is to be had in small, breath taking doses. You can feel Mont Saint Michele's presence upon approach, once near it feels as if the air has become still.
The sheer awe of Mont Saint Michele disappears once you enter the gates as the madness, crush and delirium of tourists and tourism abounds. There are two ways to the very top and sightseeing along the way. One by going the circular route around the ramparts, the other by walking walk through the switchback cobbled streets of the town. If you loathe people, just leave altogether, like get back in your car, your bike, your bus and leave. If you loathe them just a little less, head for the circular rampart route as it is less crowded and you have room to move and enjoy the sites and numerous views. If you can Kumbaya (mingle with masses) with the very best of them head straight into town. You will feel like you're body surfing in the "mosh pit" of your favorite punk rock band because you're in a mass of humanity like no other. Mont Saint Michele is beautiful, but it's streets are tightly packed during peak season (we were just off season and it was fairly crowded).We also timed our visit for later in the afternoon when most of the crowds would be leaving yet still, there we were amongst the throng. Soooo..., petty quibbles aside we made our way through town initially. The town feels like it would have long ago with the exception of souvenir shops and restaurants of all types, mainly touristy (high priced quick fixes). Grab a bite if need be, buy that trinket that shouts, "I was here" as it is all there. Some of the "frills" diminish Mont Saint Michele but that can be expected almost anywhere where a mass of people congregate. It's ok. The highlights of MSM is its history and once you clear the needless noise you'll find reverence in the abbeys, chapels and worship spaces. They are sacred, they feel sacred and even if you're not remotely religious you will be moved. We cleared our senses of the raucous, zombie paced public on Mont Saint Michele by dining at Le Terrasses de Poulard. It's a slightly pricey restaurant about the one third of the way up to the Abbey. Dinner was a welcome relief, but it's the view that is the best feature of the restaurant as the bay windows at the rear of the dining room are floor to ceiling tall, wall to wall wide offering a view that is truly inspiring. Visually it was the beginning of what was to come.
Arriving to the very top of Mont Saint Michele you'll be welcomed by the Abbey. Beauty is in abundance as well design modesty. It's here, once you've captured your memories via selfies and pics, you'll feel as if your prayers had a direct pipeline to heaven. This is why you suffered the crowds and the climb to be right here. If Mont Saint Michele is on your bucket list it is truly worth the visit.