Thursday, August 4, 2011

0033: Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel (MSM) is one of the most beautiful places I have ever personally seen. It is a beautiful Gothic-style Benedictine abbey with an amazing history - both sad and inspiring.

I remember the ride from Paris to the Normandy coast was fun so it didn't seem long. There were small towns and lots of landscape to look at but nothing prepared me for the image of Mont St Michel rising at a distance. It was breathtaking to say the least, I couldn't take my eyes off of it as every second the details started to come into clearer and clearer focus. Some people say that it was Disney's inspiration for Cinderella's castle - I can see that being true but who knows... As we got closer, there was a little road that was surrounded by water and there were several sheep grazing nearby. It seemed like we were stepping back in history, way back...

MSM is a tidal island named in honor of St Michael the Archangel - at the very top is a gold leaf statue of St Michael who protects and oversees the entire island. Being a tidal island, it was an island some of the time and attached to land the rest of the time, depending on the tide. History tells us that before the construction of the first monastic establishment - in the 8th century - the island was called "monte tombe". According to legend, St Michael the Archangel appeared to St. Aubert, a bishop, in 708 and instructed him to build a church, "build here and build high". St Michael reassured the bishop that "if you build it, they will come". - so that's where that comes from...

Photo by Jean Jacques Cordier
Once we got to the island, I felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie, where they buy all their magical things. It was a continuous string of stores, restaurants and cafes slowly winding up to MSM itself.

La Grande Rue (Photo by Francis Toussaint)
Then the abbey itself was incredible, it was cold and peaceful - you could sense the turmoil and the peace of its past.

The Abbey Cloisters (Photo by Eric Pouhier)
The views from the top were just awesome. Mont St Michel was the first site in France to be added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in 1979. (Sadly the site is at risk of losing its UNESCO status - read more.) This is definitely a place to add to your must-see list. I would go back a million times; It's truly magical.  

View over the bay (Photo by Intuxication)

View from Mt St Michel (Photo by Eric Pouhier)
Trivia: the island's population is about 40 but its annual visitors are approx 3.5 million people. 

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