France with Deb and Gerry: Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

After visiting Paris, we picked up our rental car in Versailles and drove to Normandy to see Mont Saint-Michel, the ‘Wonder of the West.’

The car rental process was slightly more complicated than it sounds.  Prior to Deb and Gerry’s arrival, Tracy tried to reserve a rental car with the standard unlimited mileage option that is available from the US websites. However, the results she kept getting was a low mileage, not unlimited mileage quote. Tracy asked Deb to try making a reservation from the US and Deb was able to get a quote with unlimited mileage for the same car from the same rental agency.  Tracy wasn’t sure why there was a difference depending which country a rental inquiry originates from. Perhaps the rental agencies’ websites track the potential client IP addresses. In the end, Deb had to reserve the car while she was still in the US so that we could get the unlimited mileage package we wanted. Another oddity of life in France.

Mont Saint-Michel is a small tidal island with a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey, monastery, and city surrounded by fortifications dating back to the 8th century. The Abbey was built between the 11th and 16th centuries. It is located approximately 600 metres (0.6 miles) off the coast of Normandy, at the mouth of the Couesnon River. This island is about 100 hectares (247 acres) in size. One of France’s best known landmarks, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 3 million people visit Mont Saint-Michel annually.

Located between the regions of Brittany and Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel’s unique location created a tidal causeway (a path uncovered only at low tide) that allowed early pilgrims to walk to the island’s abbey during low tide.  However, high tide made the island extremely defensible with the possibility of drowning or stranding attackers caught on the causeway when the tide would come in and fully surround the island. There is an impressive 14 metres (46 feet) difference between the high and low water marks. Mont Saint-Michel was unconquered during the Hundred Year War. In 1433 a small garrison was able to defend the island from an England assault.  The island, like Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, was also used as a prison in the 1600-1700’s.

Tracy, Gerry, and Deb at Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Tracy, Gerry, and Deb at Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

We stayed in a cabin at the beautiful Camping Haliotis in Pontorson. The cabin was only 9 km from Mont Saint-Michele, we liked the facility and its amenities so much we decided to stay an extra night. We were lucky to be visiting on the last night that Mont Saint-Michele was open in the evening, so we explored the island as it transitioned from daylight to night time.  We drove to the parking area and took the shuttle bus out the raised causeway to Mont Saint-Michele.  We had a great time exploring the Abbey, the town, the fortifications, and watching the resident nuns use a hoist to transfer groceries and supplies up a cable into the upper Abbey.

The sunset was absolutely beautiful over Mont Saint-Michele.  It really is a “wonder.”

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Part 1:  Paris with Deb and Gerry: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Love Locks, Arc de Triomphe, and the Luxembourg Garden

Part 3:  France with Deb and Gerry: Omaha Beach, Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Part 4:  Carcassonne with Deb and Gerry: Le Cité de Carcassonne, Château de Montségur, Mirepoix

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