As we went to bed so late last night we ended up only going out for breakfast at about 9:30 this morning. We didn’t want to eat in the hotel because it was R150 each for breakfast. We did find a small bakery/cafe and managed enough French to order coffee, orange juice, hot chocolate and pain au chocolat’s. When it came to pay though, we ended up paying a lot more than was expected and it seemed they charged us for sitting down. Won’t make that mistake again.
We had a drive of 3:30 to get to Mont Saint Michel where we were headed for the next 2 nights. The weather was variable. It rained and then the sun would come out and then it would pour down and then it would be sunny again. At times it was raining so hard we could hardly see the road in front of us. We managed to figure out how to refuel the car. There is another thing that would never work in SA. Refueling the car for yourself and then going to pay in the shop afterwards. Everyone would do the refueling bit but would have limited appetite for the paying bit.
We decided to stop at a supermarket and buy lunch for ourselves. We did the French thing and got a baguette, cold meat and cheese. The cheese was very cheap even by SA standards. We stopped at a park and ate our lunch in the park. The Brie was fantastically good – very creamy. The French really do know how to make good cheese. It was a great lunch – much better and cheaper than if we had gone into another restaurant.
Our GPS then directed us to Mont Saint Michel via the smallest roads in France. What it was up to we have no idea. I became suspicious when it was directing us away from the way the road signs were pointing. We did get to see the French countryside and cut through agricultural land. It was definitely not the tourist and bus route into Mont Saint Michel. The GPS then directed us to a road blocked by a boom and yet our hotel was beyond that point. After much questioning whether we were in the right place we eventually pushed the ‘info’ button and they let us in and to the hotel. Our hotel is the Le Relais Saint Michel (http://www.relais-st-michel.fr/). It is as close to Mont Saint Michel that you could get without actually being on Mont Saint Michel. I had tried to book a hotel on it but they were all full. We were relieved actually we didn’t because being surrounded by tourists and water wouldn’t have been our thing.
The picture is the view from our hotel balcony. It really is a spectacular sight. And to think that the abbey was built hundreds of years ago when they would have had no large machinery and they would have had to wait for low tide to take anything across that they might have needed. As my weather app on my iPhone was predicting no rain from 4-6pm we decided to walk there after checking in. It looked closer than it was on foot. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the bottom and a whole lot of climbing (and dodging tourists) to get to the Abbey itself. They charge for going into the Abbey but under 18s pay nothing (if from EU country) and the adults pay €9. We weren’t going to enter the Abbey but Michael was insistent (it being his Mont at all). We were glad he did insist because it was impressive. When we bought the tickets I asked the guy what we had to pay and he said nothing for the under 18s. He issued the tickets and then asked ‘nationality’. I took the path of least resistance and said ‘English’ and have spent the rest of the day being branded a liar by the family. I am a permanent resident of England actually.
We wondered around the Abbey probably making too much noise but no one seemed to mind. Helen took 97 photos while we were inside the Abbey (not kidding). I went through them all and tried to select the best two for you so that you get a sense of the Abbey. These were the two I thought were the best:
By the time we had finished in the Abbey and started to make our decent, it was raining again and at times quite hard. It was also quite slippery and I managed to skillful slip off a step and land on both feet still 1 step further down. Helen was about to ask to walk with me as she was afraid of slipping but when she saw that she said “You’re on your own” (nice wife!). Michael was squelching next to me. His shoes had holes in them and they were soaked right through. That concerned him greatly as he was a afraid of getting ‘Trench foot” (look it up on Google if you don’t know what that is). We stopped in for some crepes and drinks on the way down and were duly ripped off (€4 for a single espresso). It really is tourist central and the prices have risen to reflect that (like the Disneyworld of France). The coach tours pull in by their tens and hundreds. Everyone is here from the Japanese to the Americans to the British (including us) to Koreans. That does spoil it a little unfortunately. Made me want to go back to Chartres were we seemed to be the only tourists.
The rain had let up after our coffee break and so we walked back to the hotel again. There is an alternative of taking a bus but really who needs to take a bus for a 20 minute walk, Yes I know if took us 30 minutes there but we walked much faster back because we were walking into the wind and could see exactly what the wind was bringing with it – very black clouds and a sheet of rain. Michael being concerned about his ‘Trench feet” decided to run back and then Lara followed (keeping up her hockey fitness) which prompted Stephen and Chloe also to run after them. Helen and I walked at an even brisker pace and made it into the hotel just as the downpour began.
We had a late dinner at a restaurant across the road. Just after we had ordered a man who looked like he was part of the French Mob arrived. He wanted to talk to our waiter (who also seemed to be the owner or at least the manager). An argument then ensued between the two of them. We were speculating whether it was because he hadn’t paid his “rent”. Unfortunately our French was not good enough and we just picked up the occasional word and that made up what was going on. It did involve the chef. It got more animated and they got closer and closer together. Helen and Lara didn’t want to look at them in case they became witnesses and were also hunted down by the mob. The ‘discussion’ eventually ended with hand shakes and he went immediately to the kitchen and out came our food.
It was 9:30pm by the time we were finished eating and that gave Helen some more time to take a whole lot of additional pictures of Mont Saint Michel. So to give you an idea of how it changes in the light and time of day I have included 2 photos above and another 2 below. That’s all for today (as if that wasn’t enough!).