Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mont St-Michel

This post outlines some of our adventures on our Spring Trip in April/May 2012.

Along with Versailles, Mont St-Michel was on my 'must see' list for our time in France.


Although on the morning of our visit I wasn't feeling very inspired. Do you ever get travel-fatigue in the middle of a long holiday? We all had a touch of it that day, no doubt due to 8 days straight sight-seeing in the cold and rain. We Provence types aren't used to so much rain.

So sitting in the carpark with rain splatting on the windshield and wind rocking the car (it was gusting 70 km/hr), the last thing I felt like doing was getting four small people kitted out in waterproof attire and trudging up the top of a mountain.


But of course we did it and of course we weren't disappointed.

So, what's all this about Mont St-Michel? Briefly:

  • It's old, old, old. The first chapel at the summit was built in 708 AD.
  • Europe's highest tidal variations are experienced there - the difference between high and low tide can be 15m!
  • It's terribly touristy (and very crowded), so be prepared.
  • Have little kids? Forget about the pram and take the baby backpack. There are steps everywhere.

A small sample of steps

We saw these crazy people shoeless in shorts despite the weather conditions.


As we gained some height we could see them, with a guide, walking around the Mont at low tide.

Off they head, to the left there

We forged straight up to the top of the hill as soon as we got there and found a big, long line waiting to get into the abbey . So instead we wandered the streets a bit, checked out a newer chapel down the hill and had a spot of lunch.

By the time we finished that (after 2pm) we found the line had disappeared.

The abbey is spectacular, especially when you consider where it's built. Imagine lugging all that stone up the Mont.

These pictures are from inside the abbey church (Eglise Abbatiale):


From a quilting point of view I thought the stained glass windows provided tons of inspiration.


Elsewhere in the abbey, this large wheel (built in the 19th century) was used to pull supplies up the Mont. It was powered hamster-wheel style by prisoners (the abbey became a prison for a while after the French Revolution).


The view from the wheel (before the wheel they just dragged stuff up the side of the mountain with ropes):


You can go down amongst the foundations of the church too, where it's built on solid stone and supported by these huge pillars.


Some more quilty inspiration - this time on the floors.


There were also some old, spooky sections that the kids thought were awesome. Me, decidedly less awesome thanks to all the Stephen King I've read.


As always, you exit through the gift shop. I really liked this make-your-own cardboard model of the Mont, very cool:


Next door to the church is this gorgeous cloister:


The double arches around the grassed area were great for the kids to weave in and out of:


The awesome view from the cloister:


The refectory, built in the 13th century, has a pretty awesome rounded ceiling:


Which is actually based on triangles, as this model demonstrated. Isn't geometry sexy?


You can imagine how cold it was living up there in winter (we were pretty cold and it was Spring) - hence the need for these enormous fireplaces to heat the Guest Hall. You can see a lady standing in the other one to get a sense of scale.


Think of much wood would be required, and then think about lugging it all up the hill. Crap.


One final word on the new parking arrangements, which had just opened the day before we visited. The old carparks closer to the Mont have been closed off (they are sinking into the marsh) and now you park a good 2-3 kms away and take buses to the base of the Mont. The buses were free, the parking you pay for. Unfortunately the carparks are not sealed - this is what it looked like after 2 days of use:


I'm not sure how they're going to hold up, so think about your footwear!


A visit to Mont St-Michel is definitely recommended. Yes it's touristy and it's logistically difficult if you have little ones. However the views, the medieval ambience and the engineering feat that is its construction will leave you marvelling.


  1. Beautiful photos! Got me wishing I could visit.

  2. I loved visiting the Mont! I have so many of the same photos that you took. We were lucky, when we visited it was a beautiful day in September, 2010. So glad you persevered and went to the top. It really is hard to imagine that people lived there and dragged and carried all their supplies to the top, isn't it?

  3. Agreed, a must-see if you are in the area. We also skipped the crowds by going a little later, then you can watch rhe sunset over the bay from the west terrace and eat dinner once almost everyone else has gone home. Plus, the night view is spectacular! Thanks for the beautiful post, it brought back memories.

  4. Thank you for the visit! You make a great guide

  5. It's stunning! And they should buy your photographs for postcards in their gift shop. m.

  6. Wow, Wow, Wow, is all I can say! Thanks for the tour :)

  7. Your photos are gorgeous. We have such wonderful memories of visiting spectacular Mont St. Michel in June.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Anne xx

  8. Absolutely amazing architecture! And I see what you mean about the windows... very inspiring.

  9. Love that last photo the best. Brings back lots of memories of frequent childhood visits. My ten year old self was most taken by the gift shop so it's nice to see a picture of it here ;)

  10. That is on my bucket list. Thanks for the tour and the tips. Love the quilty photos too, there's some great patterns there.

  11. Gorgeous photos as always! I haven't been to Mont St.Michel for years maybe I'll just book a ferry and go.....

    1. Absolutely! Plus you'll be able to check out the weather before you book so you'll have a better chance of blue skies. I'm jealous!

  12. What a beautiful place, somewhere to put on my to-do list now! Great explanations, great pics!

  13. But was there a chandelier???
    Question: What has been your favorite church in France so far and why? x

    1. I don't think I can choose, I love them all. (Although maybe Notre Dame of Marseille, she's so beautiful but not so big as to be impersonal.)
      I think the chandeliers were probably the most spectacular at the Notre Dame in Paris. And just so many of them…

  14. I'm amazed that you managed to take all those lovely photos - without hordes of tourists appearing in them! Well done - you must have loads of patience! The new parking arrangements seem to be causing a degree of controversy according to the local papers - hopefully everyone will get used to them eventually! I love to visit in winter/early spring as there are fewer people about and I can admire the "patchwork" of the tiled rooves - it's an inspiring place!

  15. My word you lead an exciting life! Gorgeous pictures you shared.

  16. It never ceases to amaze me all the places they hauled stone to to build abbeys, cathedrals, churches and castles, absolutely mind blowing when you consider the lack of engines to help! It does explain why some of them took a century or two to build mind... ;o)

  17. The engineering involved in the construction of these buildings is mind boggling, particularly to a non-science person like myself. Amazing photos again. Thank you.

  18. I have recently discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoying reading back through your posts. I love your beautiful photos and many of the places we have visited so they bring back wonderful memories. It is my dream to take photos of lavender fields like that - yours are just so amazing. Of course it is our common love of quilting that led me here, and I am inspired by the lovely things you create.

    1. Thank you! And thanks for dropping by.

  19. I never go the chance to visit Mont St-Michel. We stayed in a 500 yr old farm house in Mohon for a week. Best holiday!!! Now, through your photos and descriptions, I am content. Thank you.


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