It is Wednesday and that can only mean one thing, it is time for another Wanderlust dreamy post and today Sabina Lorkin, from Normandy based Anibas Photography is sharing her insights on the best things to do when visiting Mont St Michel. I have to admit that I have never been – maybe it is time to nip across the Channel for a visit. If you have missed out on any of the wanderlust series during the busy summer season, they don’t forget to check up here.
Visiting Mont St Michel
The Mont St Michel is an island just 600 metres off the Normandy coast at the southern end of the Manche department. It’s close to the Normandy/Brittany border. It is famous for it’s monastery and is one of France’s most recognisable landmarks. Many people visit every year just for a few hours but what most people don’t realise is that it is actually a small town where you stay in one of the hotels along the tiny alleys for a romantic get away.
Most visitors go home as the sun goes down having visited the Abbey and the museums. This is a great time to arrive as the atmosphere completely changes. It feels like being on the set of a medieval film.
Autumn of 2015 was a special time for the Mont St Michel as over ten years of earthworks to remove 750,000 m3 of sand from around the Mont to return it to it’s maritime character. A brand new bridge has been built that sweeps round and the old car and coach parks at the foot of the Mont have completely disappeared. It returns the Mont to a truly magical site that feels much more like an island.
The Tides at Mont Saint Michel
The highest tides take place 36 to 48 hours after the full and new moons. In fact, the highest tides in continental Europe take place at Mont-Saint-Michel, up to 15 meters difference between low and high water. During the top of the spring tides, the sea goes out 15 km from the coast and comes in again very quickly.
You can observe the tides from many areas, even right from the top by the Abbey and on the new bridge which does become submerged at the end during spring and very high tides, meaning without wellies you’d have to wait for an hour or so before being able to cross when it momentarily becomes cut off and completely an island.
Getting to the Mont St Michel : By far the easiest transport is to visit the area by car. By Car
From Paris: A11 motorway towards Chartres-Le Mans. Exit Fougeres towards Mont Saint Michel.
From Brittany: A13 Motorway to Rouen and Caen and then use A84 to Le Mont Saint Michel.
From Paris you can take the TGV to Rennes, about 55 km south of Mont St. Michel. The Les Courier Bretons bus makes the 75-minute transfer to Mont-St-Michel several times a day.
The train from Rennes takes you as far as Pontorson, 9km from Mont St. Michel. You can take bus #15 to Saint Michel from the station.
While most visitors to Mont Saint Michel come from via Paris, it is possible to fly into the Rennes airport, which is located about 75 km away. There are several flights per day to many other French towns from this airport, with 70 destinations and connections.
The Dinard Pieurtuit International Airport in Saint-Malo is located about 70 km from Mont Saint-Michel, and has flights to London’s Stansted airport and the Channel islands.
What to do in the area around the Mont St Michel :
If you’re feeling active there is plenty to do around the Mont St Michel, including both guided walks and horse rides, across the bay at low tide directly to the Mont. There are many beautiful coastal walks.
The surrounding areas :
In La Manche, you can visit to Avranches – Town of Mont Saint-Michel’s manuscripts and the Scriptorial Museum; or Villedieu-les-Poêles, the coppersmiths’ town. In Granville, you can visit Christian Dior’s birthplace, you can go by boat to the Chausey Isles’ Archipelago, or the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.
On the Brittany side of the bay, you can take advantage of your stay at Mont Saint-Michel to visit Saint-Malo or Cancale and admire the vistas of the Côte d’Emeraude, “the Emerald Coast”.
Unlike other areas in Normandy, the western area is dominated by architecture of granite houses with slate rooves (as also used in the Channel Islands which are to the north of the Mont St Michel.
Where to stay : I haven’t stayed at the Mont st Michel myself as I only about 40 minutes away but there are many hotels on or near the Mont and plenty of B&Bs and self-catering gites to rent in the surrounding areas.
What to eat :
If you can try and find some ‘Agneau de pré-salé‘ (Salt-meadow lamb). This is lamb that has been raised right by the Mont st Michel in the salt marshes that flood at high tide. Sheep graze the pastures that cover with the sea water giving their meat to have a distinct taste that is considered a delicacy.