Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Normandy Day 1: Le Mont Saint-Michel

We spent a weekend traveling through Normandy. We wanted to see the D-Day sites, Monet's garden in Giverny, and the beautiful Mont Saint-Michel Abbey. Our trip there made me fall even more in love with France. From the photos I think you will be able to see why. 

Le Mont Saint-Michel is majestic, ethereal, stunningly gorgeous. It sits out on its own little island just off the coast. Well its on an island when the tide is in. When the tide is out it sits on a marshland connecting it to the mainland. Be careful of the tide! Apparently it comes in quickly.

We stayed at the coolest hotel. The decor was very post modern and very funky. I really liked it! Everything was bright colors, the floor was carpet but it looked like a hardwood floor, there were Andy Warhol type pictures of cows and Le Mont Saint-Michel every where. It looked like a party. There were cows decorations everywhere, but it makes sense since Normandy is famous for Camembert cheese. France is the land of milk and honey, seriously!

We spent the a day hiking up all around the Abbey. It was so cool. It is its own little city on the island. You take a free shuttle bus out which drops you off about 100 meters away. Once you get to the island you walk through these gates that takes you to this beautiful cobblestone street enclosed with shops and restaurants. If you have seen the Harry Potter moves, it reminds me of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone film.
The beginnings of Le Mont Saint-Michel date all the way back to 708. A sanctuary was built here to honour the Saint-Michel. It became a major place of pilgramage and in the 10th century the Benedictines settled the Abby. When the Benedictines settled the abby is when the village (aka Diagon Alley) really began to grow. It was a stronghold during the Hundred Years War and as a result of with standing all the English's assults during the war it became a national symbol. During the French Revolution the Abbey was used as a prison. On a side note, it is a great example of military architecture.

We made friends with birds.
Me and Joan of Arc. Later on the trip we visited the town where she was martyred.

It was a hike to get up through the village to the Abbey. Everything was first in French, then in Japanese, and then in English. Apparently this is the top tourist destination for the Japanese in France. Makes since because this place is georgeous!
Cosette spied a cat.
We walked around the battlements before heading up to the Abbey. The view was spectacular!

Hiking around the battlements. It can be considered a hike with all the stair involved.

She found little windows that she could peek out of and see the ocean and land.

Vive France!

She found a princess tower! At least that is what she told us.

This ramp you see going up the side with all the metal on it. It was actually used to pull up materials to help build the abbey, and other supplies. It looks like it is still used like that today.
My two explorers. Once Henry starts walking he will be right there with them.
The actual Abbey was not as specatacular as getting up there. The cloisters were very nice. You would think with all the ornate architeture on the outside that the inside would reflect that. It did not. The inside was pretty plain, but functional. I guess sometimes functionality wins over beauty.

The Abbey has a very unique construction plan. Since it is on this island, the buildings were constructed wrapping themselves around the rock.

We spied one of the Benedictine monks! I was really happy that we spied one because if not my plan was to go through the Abbey until I found one. So basically stalking.

Henry at Le Mont Saint-Michel!
Right after we took this picture, she push/rolled him off her. No one was hurt! I feel like I should put a disclaimer here: no child was hurt while taking this photo. You can see my hand on the left. I was ready to jump in and swoop someone up if needed.
The Abbey chapel.
The beautiful cloisters. On the side facing the ocean, there was a plexiglass wall with this beautiful unobstructed view of the water.
The inside of the Abbey. Nothing to write home about. Okay, not true. Like I said, the inside is about functionality over beauty. Interesting to observe how they lived back in the day. Apparently the buildings are influenced by the guiding principles of the monastic life. Therefore by the Rule of Saint-Benedict say that the monks have to focus on prayer and work so the architecture needs to reflect that.

It was really fun to explore the different layers of the Abbey. It is not really built up by stories like buildings we are used to, but more built up layer upon layer.
Feeling super buff carrying her on my back.

Henry with Saint-Michel.
We made it through the Abbey! You can see by our smiling faces, we love it!

Starting to make our decent.

The Abbey village or as I call it the French Diagon Alley.
There is a draw bridge and everything! This place is a medieval dream!
The land in the area is pretty flat so you can see the Abbey from far off in the distnace. Lyndon describes it as a fairy tale, because it does not look like it belongs in our world. Lucky for us it is in our world!
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