We woke to thick fog again in our motorway rest stop. I wished now that I’d driven the extra hour to get to Mont St. Michel last night, since it was a beautiful clear sunset – we just weren’t in a place to appreciate it. As we approached, the dull grey skies cleared somewhat, giving me hope for some nice photos – because I knew I was going to find it beautiful regardless of the weather.
It was one of those places that I’ve seen countless times in on TV (Tour de France starting stage 2016!), magazines, and online, but seeing it loom large for the first time was incredible. It popped into view and dominated the horizon. It truly reminded me of Uluru (Ayers Rock) or the Eiffel Tower, which are iconic, but the scale can’t be appreciated until seen with your own eyes.
Turns out that we should have came last night, as the car parking for motorhome sized vehicles has a 24hr flat rate – and it isn’t cheap! From here there was a free shuttle service to island, crossing the long bridge. I’d considered walking the 3km, but it was quite quick/efficient.
I’d wanted to walk out along the beach, and had checked tide times to make sure it would be safe. There were large groups of people all around the island – some looked kilometres away, almost out towards surrounding islands. We immediately attempted to walk out onto the beach, too, but then realised how thick the mud was, and decided against it. It turned out most of the groups out there were children, and they’d put their shoes in their bags – not sure how they were going to wash their feet before putting shoes back on!
We didn’t realise that there is more to the island than just the monastery, that there are a large (dozens!) number of (souvenir) shops, restaurants and hotels. I thought it would be quite amazing to stay in a hotel here, until I realised that you wouldn’t actually see anything from the room – you’d be better off in a hotel back on the mainland, looking out on the island!
We avoided the main street, which was a small cobbled alley, filled with souvenir shops, and instead walked around the ramparts, taking in the perimeter of the island before eventually taking us to the cathedral and monastery. The views out across the bay were amazing, as well as the glimpses of the giant gilded Saint Michael mounted on top of the cathedral through beautiful old stone buildings. I’m glad I put shoes on, because there was no shortage of stairs!
It’s probably obvious, but accessing the island is free, it’s only entry to the top monastery that has an entry fee.
The stairs continue, further up narrow alleyways, with even more amazing views out of the bay from the top. The first stop is actually the cathedral, which was beautiful, however unsurprisingly, very refrained and austere. There were details in the stonework, however, there was no lavish adornments, or gilded decorations inside. The only real sign of luxury was the large stained glass windows, which was surprising, given the previous use as a defensive fortress.
We’d arrived just at the start of lunch mass, which included some amazing sung hymns. Their voices were incredible, as were the acoustics.
There were several other rooms that were open to public. They started to feel quite similar after a while, as they were all roughly the same colour, and of a similar design – large vaulted ceiling, beautiful columns, long narrow windows and a lack of flair.
I’d heard that it feels like a time machine, even with a large amount of tourists. Fortunately we were here in the quiet season (which was still reasonably busy), and I would agree. I really got a sense of medieval life here. Also, the audio guide was decent, and well worth the small extra fee.
My favourite room (other than the cathedral), was the Knights Room. It had large decorative windows, as well as an intricate array of columns that met the vaulted ceiling.
Leaving the monastery, it was incredible to look at the heavily fortified walls. It was easy to imagine how it had withstood invasion attempts.
From Mont St. Michel, we headed towards Saint Malo. I’d read that nearby Cancale was famous for oysters. And, since Risa loves oysters (and enjoy one or two), we decided to make a detour. Fortunately, the entire bay is filled with oyster (and mussel) producers, so we were able to grab a dozen amazing fresh oysters without having to detour. It was a grand total of €4 for a dozen large oysters, that were probably the freshest I’ve ever had. We attempted to shuck them ourselves, but we were making a mess of the shell, and were at risk of visiting a hospital – so I had Risa walk back with her tail between her legs to ask the man at the shop to shuck them for us!
We got lucky with a park in Saint Malo, as most public car parks have a 1.9m height limit, even though they are outdoors. I’m not sure where motorhomes usually park if they come visit here.
We walked through the centre of town, which happened to be filled with modern shops, selling a combination of high-end fashion, and cheap souvenirs. It did however have an amazing galette/crepe restaurant, and wishing to eat local fare, I bought the ‘complete’ – which contained egg, cheese and ham. It was delicious, and I wished I’d bought a second.
We followed Lonely Planet’s advice, and followed the peer out to see the city from a distance. It was quite a fortified city, and it was amazing to see the uniformity of the design – they were all the same colour, around the same height, and roughly the same design.
It was probably also the first real sunshine that we’d had on this trip – granted it was only day 4! Still, it felt amazing to just sit and enjoy this for five minutes before continuing on – even if the winds were still quite brisk.
The city had several beaches, as well as several small offshore islands that can be walked to during low tide.
For no real reason, we treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant. We’d wanted to have some Burgundy food (hello butter!), but realised that we were technically in Brittany now. Risa got some amazing scallops, and I had a steak that got better by the end – the Roquefort sauce was amazing, especially combined with the great little potatoes.
It was still light outside by the time we’d finished dinner, which meant we had time for some more driving before calling it a night.