Mont St Michel is a small island that lies a short distance off the coast of northwest France. It has been used as a stronghold and monastic settlement for over a thousand years. It’s a very popular tourist site, so we tried to get up early to get there ahead of the crowds. I’ve seen photos of Mont St Michel before, but it’s one of those places you really have to see in person to appreciate how impressive it is.
Once we were inside the walls, I was surprised at the small size of the village that resides below the abbey above. In no time we had walked past the village (and all the souvenir shops within) and were climbing the steps to the abbey. There are a lot of steps, but you’re rewarded with great views as you climb. I really like how the natural rock of the island would occasionally appear amongst the man-made walls. I like how the builders incorporated the natural rock where it made sense to do so.
Finally we reached the abbey at the top of the island. It’s a typical high-ceiling church in a cross shaped layout. One thing I did particularly like was the stained glass windows. Rather than the typical bright colors and religious iconography of most churches, this one had soft pastel colors and simple repeating patterns. Apparently it’s not the original glass, but I think it looks nice.
After the church we walked out to the cloister. This is a garden and courtyard where the monks can pray. The surprising thing about this garden is that it’s the top floor of a large building below. We continued our tour through the rest of this large building.
After the cloister we entered the refectory, or dining hall, of the monastery. It had the same stained glass colors and patterns of the church, but in tall narrow windows. The room had a great echo and I enjoyed whistling quietly and hearing it echo back to me.
Below the dining hall is a large guest’s hall where the monks used to welcome royalty or other noble guests. There were also other little rooms and long halls tucked away here and there. Wandering through the maze of the building was really interesting and I’m really glad we came here. I’d definitely come back again some day.
It was a warm, beautiful, sunny day and Mont St Michel was pretty full of tourists by this time. We pushed through the crush of people in the touristy main street and biked back to our campground. Just before sunset we got on our bikes again to look for a good vantage point to watch the sunset. We found a decent spot at the end of a rutted dirt road and took some photos as the sun disappeared. It was a lovely end to a great day of sight-seeing.