Day 5: Mont Saint-Michel
Waking up early in the shadow of Mont Saint-Michel, our plan for the day was an early guided hike in the bay during low tide (before the high tide at ~4:30pm). We didn’t book one online because it wasn’t entirely clear which guides were bilingual… or working today (we’re looking at you, Homan!). However, the friendly German travelers we spoke to yesterday said you can just go to the information office and they’ll pretty much hook you up.
And hook us up they did, sending us on the next available nature hike with our guide Alexander — who was great. We walked on quicksand, slid through riverbeds of silt (free spa treatment), and climbed over the salted marshlands.
Speaking of salted marshlands, plenty of hearty vegetation finds a way to survive in the bay. At least two plants we discovered are edible raw… which we sampled (of course!). The samphire plant was especially tasty, with a satisfyingly salty flavor. The plants are so salty, that lamb raised around Mont Saint-Michel is actually saltier than other lamb — a result of their diet featuring the high-saline vegetation.
On our way back, we played with quicksand. Alexander informed us how to get out if you get stuck, and offered the helpful platitude “Quicksand is not a problem. But it is your problem.” Meaning: you can get out, but nobody can really help you.
Quicksand is a layer of sand sitting on top of a pocket of water. The depth of the sand determines how fast you sink in. When the sand is thick and undisturbed, you may not even know you are walking over water. If the sand layer is thin, you can fall in very quickly, but only up to your chest (yay buoyancy!). Alexander led us to a safe spot, and as a group, we disturbed the sand (via doing the samba in unison over a focused area). The movement on the sand created waves in the water below, and the sand rippled in a way that felt like we were jumping on a water bed. With the sand now broken up and mixing with the water, it was easy to slowly sink in. We continue to have fun with quicksand for a while before continuing back.
At the end of the hike, Alexander sold us discounted tickets to the Abbey, allowing us to bypass the ticket line at the church. Despite the warnings about long lines and big crowds, we hiked back up to the top of the Mont and walked right in. After entering the Abbey, we explored the place for a bit and met the guided tour at 2pm.
Our tour guide Anne took us through each of the accesible rooms and areas of the church — originally built in 933. Some sections have been destroyed or changed, and additions have been built built. As it was not fully completed until 1523, there are various styles of architecture throughout.
Upon completing the tour, we watched the tide start to rise and we returned to the hotel to pick up our bags — successfully avoiding buying any crazy souvenirs. To depart the Mont, we once again opted to walk back to the mainland and enjoy the glorious afternoon weather instead of waiting in line for the packed shuttle buses (the ones with two front ends so they don’t have to pull U-Turns for the return trip).
Just before returning to the car, we ducked into a hotel bar for some coffee. And, of course, we watched part of stage 3 of the Tour De France, as we ate our contraband hotel sandwiches and regained some energy.
Back on the road, we decided to drive the slightly more scenic route to Port-Louis, and got a feel for the natural transition from Normandy to Brittany. After checking into our hotel, we tracked down the Caucutts.
Over some welcome shots of apple brandy, we caught up and confirmed our plans for Tuesday and Wednesday. Tomorrow should be a fun day of cider, castles, and the Tour de France if we can pull it off.
Mont Saint Michel is great. And sounds like you got a great visit. I’ve never been on the salt marsh tour and the cloister was under construction the last couple times I’ve been. Awesome photos, makes me want to go make… in say, early August!
by the way, there are tourism offices in all of the towns in France and they can be very helpful if you are somewhere off the beaten path and need recommendations.
Wow! The photo of Mont Saint Michel in the distance is almost surreal – all by itself on the horizon. Sure is interesting – especially about the quicksand, etc.
And the photo of the abbey architecture made me think of Escher! Is the weather always so nice there? So glad for you guys after all the rain you experienced in Norway.