We lucked out with the weather. The forecasted gloom would have certainly added a bit of atmosphere on our visit to this medieval city, but it was nice to be able to leave the umbrellas behind and turn our faces up to the sun. In the bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, you can find the tiny island of Mont-Saint-Michel (population of 30). In the early 8th century, Aubert, the bishop of Avranches, claimed that he was visited by the Archangel Michael who told him to build a church on the rock island. Aubert dismissed the vision, until Michael, who appeared to him two more times, drove his finger into Aubert’s skull and ordered him to build. And build he did. The Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel, which was built between the 11th and 16th century, is the crown jewel of this island. It has inspired millions of pilgrims throughout the ages, and when you get your first glance of the abbey looming in the distance it is easy to why.
Long ago, the pilgrims would have braved the quicksand and infamous tides to pray at the abbey. Present day pilgrims can traverse the causeway connecting the island to the mainland. They recently built a new visitor parking lot a mile and a half inland, and they have shuttles going between the parking lot and the Mont. If you’re up to it though, I’d recommend you do as we did and leg it out to the island to really get the full experience.
Once on Mont-Saint-Michel, wander through the cobble-stoned streets and alleyways. There is a decidedly tourist feel to this island, but given it’s history, it’s purpose has always been to cater to the pilgrims that traveled so far. Embrace it. Once you’ve had your fill of the town, head up to the abbey, grab one of the brochures and do a self-guided tour (or join one of the guided tours instead if you prefer). Walking through the grounds you can almost imagine how peaceful and serene a life out here could have been back in the day. After spending some time taking in the views of the bay from the abbey terraces, we left Mont-Saint-Michel behind and make it back to the car just in time – the rain had finally arrived.