Mont Saint-Michel: An Island Stuck in Time
I have always wanted to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, as it has been on my bucket list ever since I was a little girl. The whole journey was an adventure and it started by going there myself. Although, I was travelling alone at the time, it gave me one of the most unique experiences possible. I was nervous the whole time; alone, disoriented, on a budget and not knowing much French would all suggest that maybe this trip wasn’t the brightest of ideas, since anything could go wrong. Having carefully considered all possible disasters, I went through with it anyway.
Mont-Saint-Michel is like nothing I had ever seen before, even the drive there was breathtaking. It is a really small town on an island that stands in a bay with remarkable landscapes and ecosystems. It is one of the prettiest places to visit in France. The site has been honoured with double UNESCO World Heritage status since 1979.
I made this trip in March of 2016. I was travelling from Spain because I was living there as an exchange student, so I was taking any chance I got to go visit as many places in Europe as I could. When the opportunity presented itself, without hesitation, I booked my trip to Mont-Saint-Michel.
I was making my way through France, visiting different cities in the northern most regions like Bretagne and Normandie. My next stop was Mont-Saint-Michel and it was the one I was most excited for. I travelled there by bus from Rennes. On the way there you can see all the different towns and villages with quaint little houses. I was mesmerized by the view. I’m used to desert landscapes and I had never seen so much green, it was simply beautiful. As soon as I arrived, it was foggy and it seemed as if I had got off at the wrong place. There was no one around and I was the only passenger getting off there. The bus left and I continued walking to what seemed like an information cabin in the middle of nowhere. Luckily it was still open and a very kind lady gave me information about where I was supposed to go. It turns out that the bus drops you off in the information centre.
There were no taxis or public transportation, so I walked to the closest lodging site. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting to go by car. As I was walking there, I was enjoying being there so much already, simply being in that beautiful place made me so happy. I continued walking for about an hour, and I knew it was getting late. It was getting dark and cold, but it didn’t matter to me. I could see the castle in the distance, peeking through the haze. I stopped to take some pictures, I was so excited! That was it! A castle like in the fairy tales! It was impressive and it is also known as “The Bastille of the Seas”, “The Wonder of the Mount”, “The Pyramid of the Seas” and each name did it justice. It was beautiful.
The next morning, I was ready and back in the information centre, ready to discover the mount. There were different transport options. You could walk, which only takes 50 minutes, go by shuttle or by the horse pulled carriage called “La Maringote”. I chose the regular shuttle service, which was free and only took 12 minutes to arrive to the main entrance. I only had that day to explore, so there was no time to waste. Being there was like travelling back in time. It was an impregnable fortress. Many years ago, visitors were dependent on the tide since there was no walking access. It really has a strategic position which helped it prevail in that era.
I stepped into a medieval village of quaint, cobble stoned streets, with old wooden houses and shops. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I wanted to explore every corner of it. I continued walking and going up the hill. It was like a labyrinth. Streets became narrower at some parts, then opened to small terraces, and there were small passages in each corner with staircases. As you go up the mount, each level provides you with different perspectives of the amazing view. You could find hidden gardens, little roads covered with flowers and trees, and terraces. The walk round the ramparts was beautiful too. It leads you to superb views over the bay and the abbey.
As I climbed to the top of the hill, I found the Abbey. Its architecture provides a magical view. It is a Romanesque abbey which was reconstructed in Gothic style. I went in the church and heard the tour. There were different options; for groups or you can go by yourself with a set of headphones telling you everything about the Abbey’s history. Since it was just me, I grabbed the set of headphones.
The amazing scenery wasn’t the only thing that surprised me. On this trip, I met a really nice girl who, like me, was traveling on her own. She was about my age and also was in Europe on an exchange program. She was studying in Ireland at the time but also decided to go visit Mont-Saint-Michel at the same time as I did. What are the odds of becoming friends with someone who is from the other side of the world from you? Anyway, I was standing in the Western Terrace of the Abbey, which has a remarkable panorama. I was struggling to take a selfie and take care of my stuff, without falling down. Apparently, she saw my struggle and offered to help. We became friends instantly, and it was just perfect, it made everything so much better. It certainly made taking pictures so much easier, but also it made me even happier that now I had someone to share this experience with. We’re still in contact to this day.
I will always remember this journey. Honestly, I was frightened to go alone because it was the first time I was by myself in a place where I don’t dominate the spoken language, but in the end everything went wonderfully. Mont-Saint-Michel is certainly the prettiest place I have ever visited. There are plenty of reasons to visit this magical place. It will always be a reminder to always follow your dreams and chase your ambitions. Even if it’s scary at first, you never know, you might surprise yourself.