Thursday, March 08, 2007

Le Mont-Saint-Michel

Monday was Ken's birthday and we went to the Mont-Saint-Michel to eat seafood and spend the night on the Mont to celebrate. We will both be posting our photos on our respective blogs over the next few days, and I hope we won't be too repetitive.

A Google Earth screen capture of the Mont-Saint-Michel at low tide.

I'm going to start with contrasts. In other words, the difference between the low and high tides that we saw while we were there. When the tide is out, the Mont is surrounded by vast mud flats. When there's a high tide the Mont becomes an island, except of course for the artificial causeway that connects it to the mainland.

A sunny day at the Mont-Saint-Michel seen from the causeway. Notice that it's low tide; you can see tour buses parked near the base of the Mont.

We arrived mid-day on Monday in very nice weather. It was relatively warm and relatively clear. In Normandy, that means a lot. It was also low tide. The signs we saw said that all cars needed to be moved off the lower lots up onto the causeway by 7:00 pm that evening due to the expected high tide, and again by 7:00 am on Tuesday morning for the same reason. All cars park on the east side of the causeway. Tour buses park in a smaller lot on the west side where the river flows into the bay.

High tide, and the bus lot is under water.

Once we checked into our hotel, we were able to put the car in the hotel lot up on the causeway, so that was done. We walked around quite a bit, retracing our steps at several points. We did not pay to go into the abbey itself, since we had just done that last June. It was interesting to notice how the place emptied as the evening came on. We felt kind of special, staying "after hours" on the island. It seemed empty, although there were still plenty of people.

At seven that evening, there was no sign of the tide coming in yet, but the town's public address system blasted warnings in at least five languages for people to move their cars out of the lower lots and up onto the causeway.

The caserne at low tide.

After dinner (I'm guessing around 10 pm), Ken and I climbed up on the ramparts and noticed that, indeed, the tide had come in, but it looked to us (in the dark) like the parking lots were not really flooded. Still, the water was right at the edge of the lots where only mud was earlier in the day. We found a restaurant that was still open and went in for after dinner drinks. We sat next to the fireplace and I sipped a calvados while Ken had an armagnac.

The caserne at high tide. The water covers the bus lot. There's a small boardwalk along the base of the Mont just above water level that you have to use to get in and out of the town gate.

It rained overnight - we had the window in our room open for part of the night just to listen to the rain fall on the slate roofs - and the morning was dark and stormy. I looked out the window at about 7:30 and actually saw the tide moving in over the sand, filling in the bay in a matter of minutes.

Ramparts on the southeast side at low tide.

When we checked out and got to our car, the parking lots on both sides of the causeway were indeed under water and, even though it was pouring rain, I got the camera out and snapped a few quick photos.

The southeast side ramparts and lower parking lot at high tide.


  1. That place looks incredible. I've been to France a few times but have never made it to Mont St Michel. I want to go one day. Thanks for the pictures.

  2. brian, I'm glad you enjoyed them.


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