Thursday, 18th May
Outside of Paris,Mont Saint Michel is the most visited tourist attraction in France. After planning a visit on a previous visit to France and it not eventuating, I am pleased to be there as part of this Backroads Tour. This remarkable medieval walled city, crowned by its great gothic abbey, is built on a small granite outcrop standing all by itself in the flats of the estuary of the river Couesnon, in an area now known as Mont Saint Michel Bay. It is one of the first monuments to be classed as a UNESCO world heritage site, as far back as 1979. It is not just a church on a rock but a whole city, one of the few places in France to have preserved intact the walls and defences. The small city still has inhabitants, though not many full-time. In addition to its religious monuments there are very old houses, narrow streets, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops plus souvenir shops….
Over one million tourists flock here every year. The Abbey situated at the very top is a fine example of medieval architecture, different parts dating from different periods. The impressive Gothic choir dates from the period following the departure of the English. I climb the 900 steps to the Abbey and join the congregation at the Mass. The singing is beautiful in a building with amazing acoustics. My only disappointment on this day is that the sun is not shining – we had constant rain. It is always difficult watching one’s feet on wet stairs whilst holding an umbrella and taking photos and, at the same time trying to dodge many tourists and absorb the views. It was certainly a different experience in many ways.
TIDES: The Baie de Mont Saint Michel is one of the most steeply tidal points in Europe with a tidal variation of almost 15 m.