It’s funny the difference a few days can make. Just last week we were making plans to pack our bags and move to Germany. This week we are settling in to France for another few months. It’s a long story that involves visa delays and last-minute scrambling (neither of which was from our end). Suffice to say we are extremely disappointed and quite frustrated.
Still, if you have to be stuck somewhere for an undetermined amount of time, Toulouse is a nice place to be. We’ve made the best of the situation and even picked up a Christmas tree from Ikea to focus our energies on other, more fun things.
Over the weekend we were able to divert ourselves touring Normandy and the Loire Valley. Our first stop was Mont-Saint-Michel. Since it was an eight-hour drive from Toulouse, we started out after Matt got off of work last week and stopped halfway for a night in La Rochelle.
We didn’t have much time to see the city, but from what we could tell La Rochelle was a lovely old town perched on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The white stone buildings were tightly packed together and many of the streets were barely wide enough for a car to drive down. Our hotel was right near the port, so we did get to capture a few nice pictures first thing in the morning.
We headed up to Mont-Saint-Michel first thing in the morning. This abbey and surrounding village sits on an island just 600 meters from land. At low tide the island can be reached on foot, but when the tide is high, it is entirely surrounded by water. This feature gave the Mont a unique defense advantage and protected it from many would-be attacks.
Today, there is a road leading out to the Mont that makes it accessible no matter the tide. We followed that road into the village, stopping to admire the surrounding landscape and sheep along the way.
Mont-Saint-Michel dates back to 708 when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, had a sanctuary built on the top of the mount in honor of Archangel Michael. It soon became a popular spot for pilgrims.
In the 10th century, the Benedictines settled in the abbey and a village began to form beneath its walls.
During the Revolution and until 1863 the abbey was used as a prison. It wasn’t until 1874 that it was classified as a historical monument and reconstruction on the abbey began.
Today it is listed as a UNESO World Heritage site and it attracts millions visitors from all around the world every year.
We grabbed a quick bite in town before making our way up the stone streets to the abbey that overlooks the rest of the island.
We found a beautiful, little church along the way.
Eventually we made it to the top of the Mount and purchased our tickets to tour the abbey. We started the tour with a slightly closer look at the spire on which St. Michael is perched overlooking the fascinating old town below.
We continued making our way through the abbey church (which was built in the year 1000) and continued through the cloisters and other rooms. Since the abbey was built up over a number of years, many of the rooms were constructed in different centuries. As old as much of it was, the inside of the abbey was remarkably restored.
The views from the terraces offered stunning views.
It took us about an hour or so to wander through the many rooms, but we picked a good day to go.
Perhaps it was the weather, or the fact that it iwas off-season (or maybe a combination of both), but there weren’t many people visiting the Mont that day so we could tour at our own pace.
Mont-Saint-Michel was on the bucket list of places we needed to visit before we left France. We have more time now than we originally expected to explore this great country, but it was fun to spend a day touring one of the most iconic sites in France. Do you have recommendations on other places we should visit? Leave them in the comments below.
Our northern France tour continued in Bayeux. That story is coming soon!