Monday, April 8, 2013

Le Mont St Michel

Sorry that this is all kind of late, but I had planned on updating my blog over the weekend, and then the building's internet broke on Friday. Which of course meant that we had to go without internet for all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. God forbid anyone have to work on a weekend...Anyway. Last weekend was far more pleasant, though less restful, as I spent the whole extended long weekend traveling. Easter Monday is a holiday here, and I asked for Friday off too, not because I was feeling particularly lazy, but because of one particular thing I wanted to see. As I mentioned in my previous post on Mont St Michel, the bay there has one of the largest tides world wide, with the highest tides at the Spring Equinox, the Friday before Easter this year. The tidal range can be up to 15 m (nearly 50 ft); for comparison, the tides at Myrtle Beach, SC max out  at 2.5 m (about 8 ft). Most people never see the Mont at high tide because the high tides at early in the morning and late in the evening, when most people have left. I chose to go for the early morning one (I personally think the weather here is better in the morning than in the evening but I have no proof), and so booked a train, and a hotel, for the night before. 

Well, getting there was not as simple and easy as it was supposed to be. First, Caen was having some kind of student carnival where all the students dress up in costumes for no apparent reason, so the trams shut down. Because that makes sense. So I grabbed a bus and just barely made my train, which ended up being almost a half hour late. Emphasis on the almost. If they were a full half hour late, we would all get vouchers for discounted tickets. So I finally end up in this tiny town, the closest town with a train station, and we've missed the last bus to Mont St. Michel, which I would like to point out, we would have made with time to spare had the train not been delayed. There were five other people who were also headed to the Mont and we sort of banded together. Luckily this town had a bar that was open and I (the only one who spoke any reasonable amount of French) got the bartender (a very nice lady) to call a taxi company on our behalf. Once a taxi was confirmed we all drew an easy breath. My companions were: a pair of Brazilians studying abroad in Madrid, (the girl spoke English and so it was a fun little relay from French to English to Portuguese for her boyfriend); a Chinese couple who spoke some English and no French, also student age; and finally, a middle-aged woman from California who looked so relieved to find someone who spoke English. The taxi ride by the way ended up costing us a whole 3 euros a piece. My hotel was simple but clean, and it had a tv. Score! But I digress. 

Immediately after dropping my stuff in the room I dashed back out for dinner. The front desk had warned me that the restaurants would be closing at 9. You should know that this is very weird for France. Often the restaurants here don't even open until 7:30 and then they stay open until quite late. I managed to get myself a table, though the hostess gave me a dark look, and ordered a traditional ham/cheese/egg galette, my favorite. And then I was joined by the woman from California. It was nice to have someone to eat with, but she was a bit of an odd duck. And she had the worst French accent I've ever heard. I got her to to say "mercy" (for 'merci' meaning thank you) because it was an improvement. To think, my sister thinks my dad's French accent needs work...

Before heading in for the night I walked down to the lookout bridge over the river to see the Mont St. Michel. Y'all, it was so beautiful, an island of light against the darkest night sky...It was so amazing. And I got zero pictures of it. My camera just couldn't see what I could. 

The best of many terrible pictures I took
attempting to make my camera equal my eyes

So I settled in for the night and watched Ice Truckers dubbed over in French.

I woke up at 5:30. Yes, I can hear my parents fainting from shock, but it's true. I'm not a morning person, and I'm really not a cold early morning person. And it was cold. The wind was absolutely biting and it was just incredibly bitterly cold. So cold in fact that I found it impossible to stay in one spot, so I spent the next 2 and half hours walking all over the Mont, the streets, the ramparts, everywhere. Except the Abbey, because it doesn't open until 9:30, but I bet the views would have been awesome up there. All the same I got some pretty great views.

Dawn at Mont St. Michel

Don't let that pale blue fool you: it was cloudy all day
 Now I have to confess something: the tides aren't that exciting. I will grant that the water level rises in a surprisingly short amount of time, but it wasn't what I expected. From what I had read and heard, I expected to see these big rolling waves rush in and invade the bay, and that just wasn't it. The water sort of creeps in and fills it up, like you would fill a bath tub. I'd heard that Victor Hugo had described it as galloping horses and so I pictured something, well, kind of violent. High energy. This was more gentle. As it turns out, what he said was the tide is as fast as a galloping horse, and that makes oodles more sense. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I got to experience it, but it's more like a beautiful sunrise. Quiet gentle moments are good too. Incidentally, I would have been up to watch what I'm sure would have been a lovely sunrise, but the sun stayed hidden by clouds all morning.

That is the ramp you normally take to the main entrance;
at high tide you take a secret door right from the causeway

High tide

Cloudy, but still cool

Look how high the water is!

The river flowing out to join the bay

A better picture

After that I went back to my hotel, took a long hot shower, and enjoyed a short nap. Refreshed and ready I went back to the Mont, and this time up to the Abbey. I really can't imagine visiting Mont St. Michel without visiting the Marvel of the West. It never gets old, despite having parts that date to over a thousand years ago. (Get it? Hahaha I crack myself up). I treated myself to a nice sit down lunch and pulled a Meredith: dessert crepe for lunch. After I ordered, I heard the chef say (clearly about me), "That's what she's ordering?" It was worth it. Don't judge. I headed back to Caen after a short afternoon to recoup for another adventure.

Just a couple hours later and
the water was already much lower

The views from up here would have been fantastic

The Abbey

My favorite room, the Cloister

And the giant support columns in the basement

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