The jewel of France is no longer Paris, no sir, the jewel is in the north, about 5 hours from Paris, and it is called: Le Mont Saint-Michel!
We do not expect it, we do not imagine that it can captivate us to such an extent, but crossing France by car is one of those trips that you have to do once in your life (or several times) and the North holds secrets that we want to share.
Charming villages, divine cuisine, wine, lots of wine and a new discovery: French cider.
The Northern France route took us to Normandy and some of its villages, the goal being to reach Mont Saint-Michel. So prepare for a series of stories about these villages that you can visit in Normandy and that will inspire you to leave Paris.
A brief history of Mont Saint-Michel and its abbey
Like many medieval stories, it all starts with a “once upon a time”…..
When you look at this fortress, or as Victor Hugo called it, this…
“work of nature and man
- work of nature and man, it is impossible not to imagine these children’s stories: castles and dragons.
But seriously, before it was called Mont Saint-Michel, the Gallic sun god, Belenus, was worshiped on this rocky outcrop between the sea and the Couesnon estuary, and his name at the time was: Mont or Tomb of Belenus, until the arrival of the Christians.
Legend has it that Aubert, Archbishop of Avranches in 708, had several dreams in which the Archangel Saint Michael appeared and asked him to build a temple in his name.
In 709 a church was built to venerate Saint Michael and a new story began.
Gradually, a Benedictine community settled on the rocky island on the orders of the Archduke of Normandy. This is how the story of Mont Saint-Michel begins.
From then on, the island had a small population, which grew over the years, witnessing the transformations of France and the world.
Its darkest period is perhaps that of the French Revolution and the Imperial period. The abbey of Mont Saint-Michel was transformed into a prison, which caused serious damage to its structure.
Victor Hugo was so fascinated by the structure that he dared to call it “the Cheops of Western Europe”. He loved the island and what it represented so much that he fought against the French Empire to have the prison closed, which he succeeded in doing in 1863.
In 1979, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mont Saint-Michel and the tide
We won’t go into details, but the tides of Mont Saint-Michel are part of the attraction.
Its privileged location in the Couesnon estuary, between the regions of Normandy and Brittany, allows this rocky island to witness the most important tidal phenomenon in Europe.
How to get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris?
TRAIN TRIP TO MONT SAINT-MICHEL FROM PARIS
You can get to Mont Saint-Michel by train from Montparnasse station in Paris. To get to this station, you can take the Paris metro, lines 4, 6, 12 and 13 Montparnasse – Bienvenüe.
From Montparnasse station, you will arrive at Pontorson station which is the closest station to Mont Saint-Michel. From the train station, you can take a bus that will take you to Mont Saint-Michel.
GETTING TO CAEN BY CAR
If you decide to go by car, which I recommend, because you can stop in each charming village, even if the journey is longer, you can consult the Michelin website, which gives you options of routes, with the cost of tolls.
Tolls in France are quite expensive and if you take the main roads you can find a few, so prepare your GPS and look for all the alternative roads, you won’t regret it, the villages you find are wonderful.
PARKING AT MONT SAINT-MICHEL
When you arrive at Mont Saint-Michel, you can park your car in the spaces provided for this purpose.
To go to the island, you must:
A transfer bus, called the Passeur, is free and operates from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.
By horse-drawn carriage or Maringote, for more information on this mode of access, contact the tourist office.
Don’t forget to check the tide times so you can choose the time of your visit, I assure you that you will be fascinated.
When is the best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel and Normandy?
Located in the northwest of France, the climate is predominantly oceanic and is characterized by mild temperatures and abundant rainfall.
The rainiest and wettest months are autumn.
Summer tends to be warmer, but with more visitors.
It is therefore recommended to visit this region in the spring. Not only will you benefit from a more pleasant climate, but you will also find better prices and fewer visitors.
The abbey of Mont Saint Michel.
What crowns the islet, on Mont Saint-Michel, is the majestic Gothic construction of the Benedictine abbey, dedicated to the Archangel Michael.
It is a center of pilgrimage, declared a World Heritage Site for the second time in 1998, as part of the French route to Santiago de Compostela.
Today, the abbey in honor of Saint Michael brings together believers and non-believers to appreciate its architecture and its history.
The abbey is administered by two communities of monks and nuns, who live on the island.
Go around the bay.
There are activities to walk a little around the island, to escape, understanding that for a few hours everything will be under water.
STAY SAFE. Avoid doing this activity alone and without knowing the exact times of the tides, there are stories of adventurers who went for a walk and who, without realizing it, found themselves surrounded by the waters.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Discover La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert
Small, a hidden gem on the island, you may find it empty, so take advantage of this secret space to escape the crowds. Built in stone, with paintings inside and a beautiful little altar.
According to legend, it all started in this chapel, where the Bishop of Avranches was touched by the Archangel Michael.
It is best to visit at low tide if you are concerned about safety.
Walk in La Grande Rue
The main street of the island, the one that transports you to medieval France. It will also be the busiest street if you visit it during peak tourist season. However, if you spend the night on the island, you will find it less crowded.
During the day you can visit cafes and souvenir shops. The buildings around it date from the 15th, 16th century, so be prepared to contemplate the details of their construction.
Entrance by La Porte du Roy / Porte du Boulevard / Porte de l’Avancee
That’s right, this grand medieval entrance with multiple names. The Porte du Roy, Porte du Boulevar or Porte de l’Avancée, is quite simply the entrance to Mont Saint Michel.
However, in the rush to visit, you risk missing out, and realizing its importance – quite a story has gone on there!
Fortified to prevent invasions, it has been visited by kings, pilgrims and even Victor Hugo. Now you are going to pass it.
Walk on the ramparts of Mont Saint-Michel
The ramparts remain an important piece of architecture to see at Mont Saint Michel. Part of their construction begins with the ongoing conflicts of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.
It was essential to protect Mt. So you will see these great fortifications, with towers, bridges, drawbridges and moats to prevent sieges. As you walk, imagine the moment, a great man-made wall, with the tides, (Archangel Michael) protecting Mont Saint-Michel.
Rest at the Couesnon Dam
The dam is an excellent place to contemplate Mont Saint-Michel, perhaps we will watch the sunset from there, with a picnic and the view of the show.
A small piece of modernity before plunging into the medieval world of Mont Saint-Michel.
Best omelet at La Mère Poulard
La Mère Poulard is a restaurant and inn founded in 1888. In the heart of the Grande Rue, this famous restaurant specializes in omelets and homemade biscuits.
The story of La Mère de Poulard is a love story, a young girl who falls in love with the baker of Mont Saint-Michele and decides to stay, together they open this inn and this restaurant which welcomed pilgrims at the time. Today, it welcomes pilgrims and tourists.
Visit of the historical museum of Mont Saint-Michele.
This museum presents the history of Mont Saint-Michele from 1300 to the present day. It’s not a very big museum, but it’s interesting to know a bit about what made Mont Saint-Michele what it is today. Here you will find historical pieces, such as sculptures, weapons, instruments of torture and paintings.
Watch the sunset over Mont Saint-Michel.
An essential activity, watching the sunset over Mont Saint-Michel is one of those sunsets that will be remembered.