The tale is magic in a way. Archangel Michael revealed himself in a dream and presto an Abbey is started on this inhospitable rock. The rock is one thing, the tide another. In the nay where it is situated the difference between rise and fall is about 15m. Hence the rock can only be reached at low tide – Last century they found a way around that, to avoid tourist drowning (such a stain on the national emblem if they do that) and built a dyke with a road to get there.
Unfortunately as a result of that the bay is filling itself with sand and as a result the Mont was fast threatening to become a peninsula, taking away some of the magic. So now they are building a low bridge instead, once that is finished the dyke will be demolished and hopefully the silting of the bay will stop.
This of course is all back story to tell you what magic it is to drive toward the Mont. How utterly breathtakingly beautiful and captivating it is. Early in the morning when there is a little fog it sits on top of clouds and you’d almost become instantly religious because of it. It really is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places man has ever built. It really deserves the 4 million people that visit it annually.
Now with visitor number like that you need to organise them. So you arrive and are quickly separated in car people and bus people and professionally guided to the nearest parking area that is open. For cars we noticed they have about 10 of those. Fortunately we were reasonably early (around 10) and no longer in the high season. We were parked in the area closest to the Mont for general visitors. Now when I say closest we mean a 10 min shuttle ride or a 40 minute walk to the base of the mont and the village. We walked that and soaked up the wonderful views of the island coming ever closer. Mind you that mountain rock becomes rather big up close and the main attraction – the Abbey – is at the top.
We looked up and SO said; “we are taking the elevator”. Which sounded like a lovely idea, but also it was a joke, There is no elevator. You have to use your own two feet and walk. First there is the walk through the village, which has not changed much since the 13-14th century with exception of electricity and ice-cream parlours. Even back then they were there mainly to sell memorabilia to the tourists, then known as pilgrims. Of course they sold different things then like sand in lead bottles instead of ugly t-shirts and glass snowballs. Once you have manged to get yourself through these amazingly small streets and have looked at a number of interesting old fronts you get to the next big thing. Or rather 300 of them.
Now according to our tour guide (see later) only one in four tourists make it up those 300 steps to the abbey. I believe it. We saw many people getting stranded and one or two people even at the bottom that we knew were not going to make it. Then again some really tiny kids just ran up those steps as if the steps weren’t there. SO and I stormed up that hill past the souvenirs and other tourists. Then we took on those stairs. One by one in quick succession. We made it but I had a bit of an asthma attack getting there and we were gasping for breath at the top, but we were the one in four that did get there. Very proud of that and the views did make up for the required energy spend.
Once there we found we were just in time for a guided tour in English, which is included in the price. So we tagged on. The guide was great, he also told us several times not to always believe the guide as it was also his job to tell a good story. The pilgrims in the past would go there as Michael is the ones weighing up whether you can go to heaven. So getting tot the top gets you a notch on the good side of his balance. Nice to know. He also told us that the Abbey was a prison during the French revolution. Now somehow I thing that is fitting considering the job that Michael has to do don’t you?
The guide did tell us great stories about rosaries, collapsed church heads and how it was built over 13 centuries. It took him near to two hours to take us round. Then he told us to enjoy more. However we were abbeyed out and to be honest I was not going back another 100 steps to get back to the top. We did however buy a mug there. Yes we are tourists, but every holiday we bring back at least one mug and we thought as this has been a souvenir ship for such a long long time we ought to get it here SO and I wandered back to the village over the other path and enjoyed the magnificent views over the bay. It was not completely clear, but close enough.