The Crowded Streets of Mont Saint Michel

16:26 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

Of our trip to France, I was most excited about Mont Saint Michel - I scheduled a whole detour for us from Normandy so I could make it there. I had seen pictures, the idyllic island (in high tide) off the French coast. It was gorgeous, picturesque and something for a bucket list of places to see.

Then we visited and I realised I wasn't the only one with Mont Saint Michel on my bucket list.

There were thousands and thousands of other people trying to crowd themselves into this tiny island. We parked in the car park at the end of the road, squeezed ourselves into the stuffy shuttle with other passengers (wistfully watching those who made the wise decision to walk the mile there), then shuffled off to join the rest of the herd.

Once within the walls, we followed the road up to the cathedral. Luckily, we found some steep steps up that had deterred many other tourists, so we dashed our way up, hoping to find no one had decided to make the climb up. Our hopes were dashed and nearly as many people were waiting at the top for us as at the bottom. The medieval abbey was imposing - lots of large stones, none of the delicate decorations you may find today. It was interesting to see how it was built upon itself over time as the population grew. We filtered through chapel after chapel, with vaulted ceilings, then queued up to leave the place down a narrow staircase.

 Low tide out behind the abbey
Once deposited back on the street, we followed the main road down. We passed street signs for butchers and cobblers that hinted back to the villages old history, but also reminded me a lot of Beauty & the Beast. I could certainly imagine Gaston rolling out of one of the locals belching.  A very short walk later and we were out, back on the road to wait for the buses to pick us up and return us to our cars. I could finally breathe.

Don't get me the wrong - the island is still picturesque, even in low tide when we went. I can only imagine being there when the place is truly an island in high tide. But. So. Many. People. I know that France gets a lot of tourists, but being 3 hours south of Paris and outside of the summer, I thought we could escape some of the crowds. You couldn't pay me enough to get me there in the middle of July. I know that sounds negative because, hey, I was one of those tourists. For me though, there wasn't anything to make this place special after all when you weren't able to explore nooks and crannies because you were being trampled by crowds. Part of the fun of visiting a place is finding hidden secrets and learning the history. The place probably had lots more for me to discover, it just wasn't possible with the number of people there. Plus, there are so many other places nearby with great histories and culture that probably have more to offer. Normandy is very nearby, or we stopped about 1 hour away at the Villedieu des Poeles for lunch and found it completely charming.

So with all that ranting, what's my verdict? If you want to go to see the island, snap your picture and check it off your bucket list? Go for it - it is beautiful, and perhaps even more beautiful from the balcony of your little B&B while you have breakfast (like we did) or at 7 am when they open before the tour buses arrive. If you still want to go, but want a truer experience, trying staying an evening on the island. However, there are only a few hotels on the island meaning they are expensive so make sure to book yourself in early.

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