One Saturday in October, we were signed up to go on a weekend excursion with a program that runs trips and events for international young people in Paris.
The bus was early in the morning, and we were to be there at 6:30am sharp. Guess who woke up at 6:01am? I had packed 99% of my things the night before, but I had anticipated getting up earlier to be able to carefully pack the rest. But instead, I shot out of bed (no time to roll) pulled on my clothes (that I had had the foresight to lay out) and without even putting on makeup, I rushed out the door. I now had 20 minutes to get to the metro Opéra, a ride which usually takes 40 minutes on a good day. Yikes!
Thankfully since it was early and barely any of Paris was awake yet, the metro went quickly, and I made it on the bus intact. Turns out I wasn’t even the last one on, and on top of it all – we didn’t even leave until 7:15!
I was able to catch up on lost sleep on the three / four hour bus ride to Bretagne. Our first stop – Mont Saint-Michel.
This island commune on the northwestern coast of France has been a fortress since ancient times, and home to a monastery since the 8th century. Throughout the centuries many have made the pilgrimage to the abbey at the top of the mountain, a sort of metaphor for “God’s lookout over the earth and the people.” The surrounding town is a quaint yet bustling time capsule of medieval life, swarmed with tourists. There is one main street (if you can call it that) up to the top through which everyone is shuttled – jostling each other, pushing through, elbow to elbow. You can sort of imagine what it must have been like back in its heyday, with the local townspeople quietly going about their business while the tourists gape at the marvels. It’s now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage landmark.
Bretagne is known for crêpes, but unfortunately I have to say I’ve had better ones in Paris .. the one at Mont Saint-Michel was too thin, flavorless, and wasn’t wrapped up nicely in a triangle for an easy and mess-free experience ! But I had one none the less. Obviously like many small European towns and sights, Mont Saint-Michel has been transformed into a tourist economy, and so many – if not all – of the shops and wares are tremendously overpriced, and often of lesser quality.
Nevertheless we had a good time : it was a beautiful day, unusually warm after the briskness of Paris (this was October, so it wasn’t quite as chilly as it is now) and it felt wonderful to smell the sea and have the sun on my face. We had a ‘guided’ tour – we got as much information out of our audioguides than a detective would get out of a guilty suspect. But it was still nice to see the abbey and the view in particular. Also – so many people came with their doggos! It was so nice too see them walking and traipsing about, I just wanted to hug them!
Alors so the tide comes in, Mont Saint-Michel becomes an island, and there is no way out except by boat. Well – now I believe there is a pedestrian bridge, but you can imagine centuries ago .. if you were thoughtless and lost track of time, you’d better hope the local café has an extra bed in the back !
So there we were at the top of the mountain, just enjoying the bit of freedom away from the city and the glowing sunshine. I swear I am a different person when it’s sunny, and particularly when it’s warm. I’ve said it before – it’s like I’m solar powered 🙂 I feel more myself, more at ease, more cheerful, talkative, amicable. My best self when the sun is shining. And even more when I’m in nature. It was incredible to be up so high and to see the beach below us extending for miles. Some people actually walk on foot from the mainland across the beach to get to Mont Saint-Michel. In retelling this to my host mother, she said that she herself did it – before they had built the pedestrian bridge – and it had taken about 3 or 4 hours.
I’d love to come back and do that myself. There’s something so special about it .. and I’d love to stay long enough to catch the tide and watch it come in. What a sight it must be! I didn’t get to see it this time .. I had to make the bus onto our next destination ..