|Lonely Planet Summer 2016
A few years ago, over a Thanksgiving week, I traveled to France with my sister to visit a friend who was studying in Caen, which is in Normandy. We spent a few days in Paris before driving out to Normandy, but the majority of the time was spent in this region that I have never visited before. We visited the invasion beaches, the cemetery, and the Nazi bunkers that are still intact this long after WW II.
We visited Mont Saint-Michel on Thanksgiving day, which in France is not a holiday. We climbed to the top of what once was an abbey and monastery. It is really as magical a place as I had conjured up during French class in high school when we would look at pictures of the various regions of France. The tide was out and a silky, intimidating sand circled the stone island. I would not be the one to run up on the place for fear of losing myself in the silt. For those of you who don't know the place, sitting on the beach of the ocean, at high tide, the water swells around the mount. When we were there, a fortified road pounded out of dirt and sand led to it. If I'm not mistaken, a modern road has been paved to access the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fortunately, because we were there in November, we didn't have to fight crowds of day-trippers on tour buses.
The island is said to have been founded by an Irish hermit in 8th Century A.D. It's old. And if one allows it, the past speaks. In the great halls, in particular, I felt a great sense of the time that had been spent within the stone walls. In November, the weather was cool and cloudy, which only leant to the 'spooky' appeal of the place. The views of the ocean are spectacular from the top. The line on the horizon this day was nearly invisible.
As it was Thanksgiving, we decided to have a festive lunch. I remember sitting in one of the small restaurants that are at the base of the monastery drinking french wine and enjoying wonderful mussels in buttery, garlic broth, which we sopped up with what the French do best after wine and perfume: baguettes. Good thing that we stopped for the meal after having climbed to the top because I wouldn't have made it after the 'oh, one more bottle ...'