One of the destinations on my bucket list, was the magical, water-surrounded Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. This conical tidal island has a rich and varied history, making it the perfect French travel destination for culture and history lovers -or if you don’t care for this, it is still a pretty fairy-tale, romantic destination!
Although it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in France (2.5 million visitors per year!), we were lucky enough to be there in off season (December), so there were hardly any tourists, which gave us wonderful photo opportunities, and a quiet, pleasant visit where could really take in the beauty and atmosphere Mont Saint Michel has to offer.
This is a tidal island, so a couple of times a day the tide comes in, and completely cut the island off from mainland France – well, almost. Unfortunately silt has built up around the island over time – both because of local farming on the mainland and the addition of the bridge linking the island to the mainland. As a result, there is now a constant battle to ensure that Mont-Saint-Michel remains a tidal island, and does not become just another part of the Northern French coastline! A word of warning, crossing to Mont Saint Michel on foot is incredibly dangerous and not recommended. Tidal surges occur and it is surrounded by quicksand. So definitely use the bridge!
We stayed off the island (which I highly recommend for both better food and room options), so we visited Mont Saint Michel during the evening and again during the day. As soon as I stepped out of the shuttle, I was transported to another century – one where I was completely wrongly dressed, and awaiting a knight in shining armour around every corner!
Come rain or shine, the island is breathtakingly beautiful. We wandered through the spiralling streets, enjoying the little shops, beautiful gardens and interesting museums. At the top of the main street starts the “Grand Degre” stairs (350 steps), which leads right up to the Abbey. The Abbey itself was the obvious highlight, but nothing could have prepared me for the jaw-dropping, breathtaking beauty, larger than life scale, stunning gardens and interesting history.
A magical medieval moment enjoyed in awe and silence.
For over 1000 years, the island has been home to a monastery – built at the request of the Archangel Michel – after which the island is named. The island itself has been inhabited for much longer and is of strategic importance to the French coastline. Mont Saint-Michel even appears in the Bayeux Tapestry. Without the monks, scribes, and illustrators that lived on Mont-Saint-Michel, much of what has been passed onto us would otherwise have been lost. During the French revolution, the island was used to house prisoners of the French revolution. In 1979, the site was made a UNESCO world heritage site, officially cementing the importance of this tiny island. If you are looking for just one reason to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, then make it this: it’s simply breathtakingly beautiful! Pictures could never do it justice! I hope you get to experience this too.