Day 4: Bayeux/Mont Saint-Michel
Today started with a true local specialty: french toast made from scratch by our wonderful B&B host Sandrine. In chatting with her and our fellow guests about upcoming plans over breakfast, everybody ruefully agreed our next stop this evening at Mont Saint-Michel *might* be a fool’s errand into a crowded tourist trap. Hmmm… But have these people ever been to a Blackhawks Championship Parade?!?
More importantly, today was our last day with the world’s best bathroom bay window. With THIS view of the Cathedral spires and the sounds of medieval festival ambiance floating in the air, it was impossible to not start humming the appropriate tune.
One item on our Bayeux to-do list we had yet to complete was the Bayeux Tapestry — a UNESCO “Memory of the World” attraction. A quick walk from the house, we arrived at the museum and started with the audio tour that narrates the story depicted in the 224-feet of embroidery.
Thought to be made sometime shortly after the year 1066, the tapestry shows the story of William the Conqueror and his rise to power over Harold the oath-breaker. The rest of the museum features a few exhibits explaining how the tapestry (or really an embroidery) was made, how it has been restored, and more about its storied history.
Tapestry viewed, we departed Bayeux and headed to the CimetiÃ¨re AmÃ©ricain de Colleville-sur-Mer near Omaha Beach in Normandy. This well-known American Cemetery honors the troops who died in Europe during WWII. While technically still French soil, as a symbolic gesture, France has granted the land to the US. Arriving just in time for a guided tour with an American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) representative, we walked through the cemetery grounds and learned more about the landing at Omaha, the importance of the cemetery, and a few soldiers who are buried there.
After the Normandy American Cemetery, we (somewhat purposely) drove the most Normandy-ish back roads we could find in a westerly direction. In part, we were hoping to stumble upon another bar with a TV tuned to the Tour de France. Alas, we could not find anything resembling a “sports bar” or “French restaurant open in the middle of the afternoon.”
However, we did find various public officials informing us our back road choices were part of a local bike race of some sort — which funneled us towards even more obscure back roads through the beautiful Normandy countryside (bonus). Soaking up the scenery, we eventually made our way back to the main roads and toward our next destination: Mont Saint-Michel.
As mentioned above, everyone we talked to in France was passing along dismal reviews of their trips to Mont Saint-Michel, mostly due to the touristy nature of the place — large crowds and overpriced food. You know, the Navy Pier of France. So, to be safe, we lowered expectations, pulled into reserved parking lot P3, and packed our overnight bags for the hike to the island.
We opted for the 1.5 mike walk from the parking lot rather than attempt the shuttle bus because you’ve gotta pilgrimage properly! We managed to find and check into our hotel about 15 minutes before closing time, then we immediately set out to explore the area on and around the Mont. Our plan to arrive after closing seemed to work great, as there were only a few people walking around, making the experience quite pleasant.
Tomorrow we hope to find a guide to take us on a hike in the bay when the tide is out. You have to have a guide to make sure you don’t fall in quick sand or get overtaken when the tide comes back in. So, that should be fun! After that, hopefully we can check out the Abbey when it is open. However, as everybody has warned us… if the tides don’t overtake us, the crowds might. We shall see!