Our trip to Mont St. Michel started with a little spontaneity.
No, we didn’t randomly decide to go there, we just changed our method of transportation the night before we left.
Originally we had planned to take a bus to the famed abbey, but I wanted more freedom with our time (ok, ok, I wanted to sleep in—the bus left at 9:20 and it was about 20-30 minute walk to the stop). I had mentioned to Colton our possibly renting a car if he was comfortable with driving a standard but he was out frolicking around the North Sea and didn’t give me a very clear response. So, the night before, we rented a car from Hertz with Colt saying he’d be fine with a little practice.
Well, it’s France so things are complicated. After experience with some friends in a car they had rented in Angers, I knew that certain quirks were to be expected. First, we didn’t get the dorky-yet cooler than the other cars Nissan Juke but got some silver wagon thing, this was ok though when I got in and saw that it had a sat-nav. Halleluiah! I won’t have to figure this out via saved pictures on my phone (oh the joys of traveling without Wi-Fi or data) and if we take a wrong turn I’m less likely to lose it mentally.
Then Colton tried to put the car in reverse. It wouldn’t. After ten minutes of it not going in reverse, we finally got the lady at Hertz to help. Apparently you had to push the gear lever down toward the ground in order to go left (I love how the car included a label for that). After getting in reverse and the Hertz lady getting out (I was frantically praying he wouldn’t crash the car with her in it), we had a few tense moments in the one-way street that ended in a tiny parking lot with not a lot of room for an American trying to drive a funky European standard car to make mistakes.
Once we escaped that area, we spent around 20 minutes driving up and down the road between the new part of town and the old part so Colton could get comfortable with the switched break and clutch pedals, and roundabouts. You know how we Americans have stop signs, and traffic lights? Well Europeans have those too, but you know what they really like? Roundabouts. They are everywhere and make driving a standard that you’re not quite comfortable in a lot of fun.
Finally, Colton felt safe enough to leave the quiet street and familiar circles and make our way to our real destination. This is where my fun began. Remember that awesome Sat-Nav I found in the car? Well, it wouldn’t let me input Mont St. Michel as our final destination. It also didn’t want me to take the scenic route that took us right next to the ocean for majority of the drive. So we spent the first portion of the drive with me ignoring the frantic instructions of the Sat-Nav begging us to turn right while I kept the car going straight. We escaped the city and were doing great, even got a glimpse of the ocean with Mont St. Michel rising like Godzilla in the distance (I’m a nerd I know, but it really was the first thing that popped in my head).
Keep looking, you’ll see it
Our view of the sea was cut short as we came to a road block in a small village we were passing through, and the little Sat-Nav finally got her way and we headed for the highway.
The rest of the drive was uneventful for the most part after that, we parked with everyone else, made our way to the visitor’s center for Mont St. Michel, and caught a bus to the island. We could’ve spent 30 minutes walking there but I felt that we walk enough so I was fine with the break. The bus left us a few minutes from the entrance but instead of heading straight for the main attraction, we headed out on the sands while the tide was out and wandered around the building. This was great fun until we needed to get to the main area and we had to go through very wet mud, this isn’t that big of an issue unless you happened to have rented a car which needs to be brought back clean by tomorrow morning.
Our path once inside was opposite of most, we headed straight for the top and as it was near noon, majority of those we passed had settle on various portions of the wall and were munching on baguette sandwiches. We continued to wander around, going high and higher (Colton’s idea, not mine) before heading back down and browsing in some shops (hotels, shops, restaurants, Abbey, that pretty much sums up what’s here). Both Saint Malo and St. Michel are tourist traps for sure, but Mont St. Michel is that on steroids. Shops contain nothing but souvenirs and you are forced to invade your fellow flocks of visitors’ personal space thanks to super tiny streets so you feel that you’re always fighting a current to change directions (at one point we stopped in a store and waited for an opening of people so we could jump out and go a different direction).
We stopped and found a little side path to munch on our own baguette and fruit we had brought to get us to dinner (we planned on stopping in one of the restaurants and having the local specialty—salt marsh lamb). After that, we headed back up and joined the line for the actual Abbey. It was immense, with the tour including climbs up and down stairs through various corridors and chambers. I believe it is still a working abbey because it had real nuns! That probably sounds weird but I just wasn’t expecting it. We wandered through the dining halls, crypts, admired the stony sanctuary, gapped at the massive fireplaces before we were finally led out of the large complex.
It was nearing five ‘o’clock at this point and we had dinner reservations at 7:30 but we no longer wanted to wait that long so we stopped by to see if we could eat sooner but they didn’t serve food prior to 7:30, right now we could only get drinks. So we started wandering down the path to see where we could find somewhere that would serve us but we were tired and weren’t that interested in food so we settled on getting something to tide us over until we got back to Saint Malo. Initially we planned to get a sandwich but ended up getting churros. France doesn’t cover their churros in cinnamon though, they give you the option of sugar, caramel, or Nutella (the French looooove Nutella, it’s everywhere and on everything. Ok, I’m exaggerating but you get my point). We went with dipping the fried sticks of dough into the super unhealthy chocolate-y stuff option. Yeah, that was our snack to get us home, healthy no?
We waited outside the monument until sunset so we could see the lights of the abbey and village glowing against the dark sky, every few minutes getting a little farther and farther away to give us a different perspective. It’s gorgeous whether in sunlight or silhouetted by sunset and that’s what made the trip worth it for me, not running around within its walls, but seeing it from a distance and all it’s unreal beauty.