Gentle Guide to taking a Journey: Mont Saint Michel

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(Sunset near Mont Saint Michel)

I love Mont Saint Michel, I think you would too. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s a religious monument. Yes, coffee and a croissant costs more here. But there’s something… something deeply attractive about this place, something worth going out of your way to visit in a gentle way. I once heard a tour guide say the rock part had been there for thousands of years, maybe even a hundred thousand years. That’s an old rock.

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(Mont Saint Michel from 3km away on the bike path near Beauvoir)

We had a long drive from Saint Palais sur Mer on Tuesday morning and we weren’t entirely sure we’d get all the way to Mont Saint Michel. It was hot and we hadn’t started very early and there were road works. But in spite of all that Denis knew I really, really wanted to see it so we kept going. We arrived about five and although we were only 3km away I took off my shoes pulled out a deck chair and had cool drink. Denis stayed in the van and to work. Three hours later we went to get some food, forgetting we were in France. We eventually found a place open and willing to feed us. On the way back we saw the sun set and got a distant glimpse of the Mont.

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(View from the free bus stop at the end of the cycle path)

I thought that was going to be it, we were leaving early next morning and there wouldn’t be time to visit. Next morning came and it turned out we didn’t need to leave early, we really didn’t. We could just about do the drive to Cherbourg, get the work that needed to be done, done and fit everything else in before we sat in a queue for the ferry… if we left at midday. So I set off at nine to walk the 3km. From the moment I saw the little speck of it in the distance I felt it’s draw. There was a mist and I was a long way off but it was unmistakable and I didn’t want to stop until I got there.

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(View on getting off the bus)

Where the land meets the sea, they have built a road and free busses drive along this road all day (and all night if you contact them.) I wanted to try the bus, so I stopped and waited. I had to wait for three busses to pass, they were all full. Each time I wondered if it might be better to walk that last bit but I didn’t, I held out and finally a bus with just enough space stopped and I crushed in with some Canadians.

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(View from just outside the walls)

I was first off and so perfectly placed to take pictures without other people in my shot – the bonus of squashing into a bus. Then I walked through the gates and up the path passed the shops and restaurants. I retraced my steps as I knew I had less than an hour and choose three things to do. I would have loved to write for hours looking out towards the sea or in towards the monuments. I would have loved to sit with a coffee and a croissant feeling the sea breezes.

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(The narrow street)

I would have loved to take pictures from every step and every wall and of every front door. I would have loved to have sent postcards to everyone I know telling them to come visit the Mont Saint Michel. I would have loved to have taken a video of the narrow paths and lanes. I would have loved to have asked the Canadians why they choose to come here. I was free I had one hour and I could do anything but I couldn’t do everything. I choose three things: Coffee. Croissant. Postcard.

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(My view)

First I purchased the postcard. I had stamps from last year. Then I found a cafe that would sell me coffee and croissant. It took three attempts. One was finished breakfast, one had no croissants, one would be open at noon. The fourth had an upstairs with a view out to the sea but there were no seats so I went up to the next floor. My view was of the stone buildings a very long arm’s length away and little birds flying in and out of the window. (With a sign saying: don’t feed the birds, it’s not hygienic.) I wrote some postcards and ate my croissant and drank my coffee.

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(View from inside the walls)

Then it was 11am, time to leave. I walked quickly back down the stairs, along the narrow streets, past the post office, posted the cards, through the gates, along the path to the bus. I was first on the bus this time. I got off at the bike path and turned around to take one final look at the Mont. It was hazy again and small. Then I walked back to the motorhome aire.

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(There’s an angel on top of the cathedral spire)

I would love to tell you: Go visit Mont Saint Michel! If you have a motorhome it’s easy, stay at the motorhome aire in Beauvoir for €12.50 a night. If you don’t… maybe it’s possible to get a cheap Ryanair flight to Beauvais, not take the bus to Paris, but find a bus or train to take you here instead? Maybe you could stay somewhere close by so you can walk each day along by the river to the free bus?

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(Goodbye Mont Saint Michel)

Unfortunately, not everyone can go so instead maybe you would permit me to tell you: Go visit some place lovely! Your favourite forest, cafe, river, park? Walk there or park at the furthest spot and walk from there. Consider what you would love to do. Choose what you could do with the time and resources you have. Then… Do it. Stay in that lovely place until you have to come home… but before you leave take a little look back.

Thank you for joining me on the daily blog, it’s been lovely writing to you xxx Mairead.