Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mont Saint Michel and Mont-de-Huisnes

This morning we were up and out to visit Mont Saint Michel.  It's about ninety minutes from Caen.  Ideally one would stay on the island itself, but we're based in Caen, so we're driving.  Actually I am driving.  I personally have been driving a stick shift across France.  Anyway, here was our first view of the island from across the fields of sheep.  I mention the sheep because the island was in danger of becoming part of the mainland due to the build up of silt.  The local farmers were happy about getting more agricultural space.  However, in 2006 a project was started to clean out the silt to keep it an island.  Much can be read about this here.

Legend has it that in 708 the Archangel Michael told Bishop Aubert of Avranches to “build here and build high.” Drawing over 3 million visitors each year, the Benedictine Abbey that we see today was built between the 11th and 16th centuries. Reflecting the architectural styles of the time, the church is a blend of Romanesque and Gothic designs.

Before one reaches the abbey, one must trudge through retail hell.  The bottom of the structure is full of tee shirt shops, ice cream shops and restaurants.

Eventually the retail falls away, and one keeps climbing.

The mud flats.  See the bridge?  That was completed in 2014.   Every once in awhile, a super high tide will submerge the bridge.

When we reached the abbey, mass was being said.  It was prerecorded, the singing was sublime.  There was incense being waved and they started communion as we left.  For a practicing Catholic, this must be pretty cool to participate in.

Columns around the cloister.

A tiny garden with a terrific view.

This is the hamster wheel.  Apparently convicts were forced to walk the wheel which would raise sledges with building materials and other supplies into the abbey.

Another view from the top.

We enjoyed the visit.  If you go, either spend the night there, or get there early.  We arrived just before eleven.  Happy we were not to be any later in the day, and this is only April.  Come summer, you probably can't stir them with a stick.  This is the number three attraction in France.

After the Mont, we followed the signs to another German cemetery.  These photos were taken from the parking lot.  Is it not lovely and bucolic?  I think the French country side is the most beautiful place there is. 

I wonder what must it feel like to live in the country, and have the people who tried to take away your way of life buried on a hill top looking down on your farms and towns. As US citizens, we've not had wars of the scale of WWI and WWII fought on our turf. 

This is called Mont-de-Huisnes.

This is the only ossuary in the country.  It is the result of disinterments done by the German War Graves Commission.  The mausoleum was dedicated in 1963.  There are 11,956 soldiers here.

There is a viewing platform at the top - where one can see Mont Saint Michel in the distance.

After leaving Mont-de-Huisnes, we drove into Avranches to see what we would see.  We saw a lot of really narrow streets, very limited parking, and this.  No idea what this is, other than it's old.  After the GPS lost her mind again, we decided to just head back to Caen and have a rest.

We have not decided what to do here tomorrow, it's our last day in Normandy.  Tuesday we have the epic drive back to Paris.  One truly hopes the wretched GPS will be able to find Orly and will not send us around in circles again like she did twice today.


  1. Wow! Stunning views and architecture!

  2. So pretty! I love the countryside and the towers and turrets. Always wanted a bedroom in a turret as a child! Have a safe drive back to Paris.