They’ve changed the way you can get to Mont Saint Michel. Or so we were told. It sounded like the parking lot used to be closer to the island but it was making sand build up which was interrupting the natural flow of the water. So they’ve changed things so that now the parking lot is a lot further inland and there’s a walkway that you can either walk or take a shuttle bus that goes out to the island. We parked and then walked from the parking lot into the little town-area where the shuttle bus stop was (it’s a little area with hotels and restaurants and a market). That wasn’t so bad–except the guy that’s in charge of CIDEF walks extremely fast. Which is a problem for me. I’m 5’1 and the shortest in my family. When we go on trips or vacations anywhere and we’re walking somewhere, it’s almost always certain that I’m at least three steps (sometimes half a block) behind everyone else. My legs just are not that long. So when he said that we had to try and keep up with him, I laughed. It wasn’t that bad though. He did walk extremely fast (I swear the man has more energy than all of us college kids put together. No, really, he was still bouncing with it at 2am when we got back from Le Puy du Fou) but our group ended up being kind of spread out in clumps. I was happy to find out that I–well, I and the girls I was walking with–weren’t the last ones.
The shuttle ride was pretty short. It gives you a chance to take a look at the area surrounding the island. It was low tide when we were there so mostly we just saw some of the tall grass and gray sand/clay with trees and such in the far distance. The ride also gives you a chance to study Mont Saint Michel and watch as it gets bigger as you get closer.
It was really nice. It’s stone and cobblestone everywhere and it’s got the narrow streets and is so picturesque. I loved it. For all that Mont Saint Michel is an island and that the abbey is at the top, for some reason I didn’t think about how many steps there’d be. Seems almost like a no brainer right? Abbey’s at the top of the hill…it’s an old place so no other way of getting there except by walking….wait, there’s how many stairs? Yeah, I dunno, something was definitely not connected there for me. But it was fine. You’re definitely warm by the time you get to the top though. But it’s worth it, I promise. The view from the top is incredible. You can see for miles. I really wish that we could’ve seen what it looked like when the tide was in but we didn’t stay that long.
The abbey was really cool. After getting to the top, at the beginning of the tour (there are actual tours that you can take or you can just walk through on your own and follow the arrows like we did) is a room with five or six models of the island. These show you the progression and growth of the island over the years. Almost immediately after that I think, is the church. The back of the church where the pews are were a bit darker than the rest but I think that’s just because not as much light reaches back there as most of the windows are either really high up or by the altar. The altar. It was a very simple, marble altar with a small bouqet of flowers but it was beautiful. And it was bathed in light from the windows behind and above it while we were there and oh, so beautiful. There’s also a cemetery attached to the church that you pass as you ascend all the stairs. It’s very interesting in a way because as popular as the island is and as many people as must work there to help keep the place going, the island only has 50-55 full time residents. Everyone else commutes.
Be careful on the way back down the steps when you’re finished visiting though. No one fell, that I know of, but a number of the steps are smooth or a little worn down from being used so much. Mont Saint Michel sees something like 3,000,000 visitors a year so they get a lot of use. That was just something that I noticed on the way down because I was wearing my Pumas which have smooth soles (like many European shoes) but because of that, it would have been a lot easier for me to slip or trip than some in our group who wore actual tennis shoes. Just a thought to keep in mind for anyone going to visit. Just be careful.
We ate a picnic-style lunch on the grass near the bus before climbing back on and driving about an hour to Saint Malo. Saint Malo is a decent-sized port city but what makes it unique is that it is enclosed within a huge stone wall. There were a good number of boats in the harbor (I took a picture from on the ramparts). It kind of reminded me of Marseille though I’m not sure Marseille is like that. I know it’s a big port city in the south of France though. The ramparts were cool. A few of the girls I’ve made friends with and I walked along 3/4 of them before switching and walking on street-level for the last bit. You can look off to the left and see the boats, the few islands off-shore, and the beach while to the right is the city where you can totally creep on the people walking down the street and see what people are eating in the little cafes that seem to be all over the place.
The seagulls there are also just like the pigeons. By which I mean they apparently love to pose for pictures. I can’t tell you how many seagulls or pigeons we saw Sunday that would just stay still and just turn their head this way or that while people took pictures. I’m telling you, they’re attention-seeking birds. Speaking of seagulls and such, we did go to the beach at Saint Malo briefly. Jocelyn (one of the girls I was with) is the only one that actually went swimming that I know of. Our group split into two at that point. Jocelyn, Emily, and Brittany decided to stay on the beach while Carina, Erin, Antony (he’s from Japan if memory serves. He’s cool), and I opted to walk along the streets sight-seeing and finding a cafe that sold both cider and crepes. They did have one cool thing at the beach. There was this big sqaure walkway and in the middle of the far end of it was this big platform where you could jump or dive into the water. We’d seen people doing that from the ramparts and thought it was cool. As we got closer to the beach we also passed a group of older gentlemen playing boule. (I think in the states it’s botchie-ball) Fun game.
Walking around the streets was cool and turned out to be a good idea. Since the beach is towards the back of Saint Malo, we weren’t in a huge touristy section like the front. It was cobblestone and narrow alleyways and really quaint. Loved it. Oh! And, fun fact, we just happened to go down this set of steps and were walking along and saw this really cool looking house that looked like it’d be something at Hogwarts or from Harry Potter. So we all took out our cameras and took a picture. Well, later on our way back to meet up with everyone, we stopped at a shop so I could pick up some postcards and guess what house was on the front of one of the postcards? Yep. We unknowingly took pictures of the house where Duchesse Anne lived at one point (I’m pretty sure it’s the same Anne of Bretagne who married Maximillian I of Austria and later King Charles VIII of France). Pretty awesome, right? See, this is what can happen by just wandering around.
I mentioned earlier how we’d wanted to find a cafe that sold both cider and crepes. Well, we found one so the four of stopped and took a little break since we had an hour left before we needed to be out front to meet the rest of the CIDEF group. We’d all heard from a couple different people that we had to try the cider while here as well as that we couldn’t come here and not get a crepe. Carina and I took the advice and ordered both. Erin and Antony stuck with just the cider but had a bite or two of our crepes. I just got a simple crepe sucre (sugar) while Carina got something fancy. It had whipped cream, sliced peaches covered in a raspberry sauce, and a scoop of raspberry sorbet on top. I had one of the peach slices covered in raspberry sauce and a small bite of the sorbet and it was good. And then of course we all got just a glass of cider (cidre in french apparently). They had fancier options but none of us had had it before so we went simple. It was okay. I liked the cider but there was an afterbite that I wasn’t too fond of. Yes, I realize that it’s alcohol (what we’d call hard cider in the states). I knew that before ordering it. And maybe, I’ll try it again at some point and like it a little more but for that first time, not a huge fan of the afterbite. Though it did remind a little of wine. I think Erin and I drank the most. She finished her glass and I had most of mine. Antony had about half of his I think and I don’t think Carina liked it at all because she barely touched it. But we wanted to try it and we did and it was an experience.
It’s kind of weird getting used to the fact that we can drink here (legally) since I turn 20 this month not 21. There was a reception (called the Mayor’s Reception or something) last night for CIDEF where we went across the river and looked at these really cool tapestries at the Musee Jean Lurcat before heading to a reception hall up the street. There we listened to the director of CIDEF (the man with all the energy) and two other people talk (one of them was the assistant mayor I believe. I don’t think the actual mayor was there) before being served little cookies, orange juice, and wine–both red and white. The white was nasty, I didn’t care for it–I took a sip of a friend’s. Ironic because she tried mine and didn’t like the red so to each his own I suppose. I had a glass of the red wine. Not bad. Not my favorite but definitely liked it better than the white and the cider. Maybe I just take after my father though, who is partial to red wine. It was nice but it was just a little weird since in the states none of that would have happened. And here, the monotrices (kind of like T.As I guess. They sit with us at lunch and are the ones in charge of our oral expression and lab classes) go to the bars with the students. Like the activities planned for some nights (like tonight, for example) is to dress up and meet at one of the bars at 10 to get to know each other and practice french. What? Like that just wouldn’t happen at home.
Alright, I’ve got homework and other stuff to do so I’ll leave it here for now. I think I may try to do another What I’ve Noticed though because I’ve got a few more to add to the list.