Disney World. That is the first thing I thought of when I saw this massive, looming, wonder, just off the coast of Normandy, France. My mom has since told me that, indeed, this was NOT the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney’s Magical Kingdom—that was Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany—but your have to admit, it’s still pretty magical.
At first, the island looked pretty accessible and just a short walk away… but man was it a long, hot day!
During non-COVID times, I think we would have only been able to make this a pit stop on our way to Paris And been forced to take the shuttle bus from a distant parking lot but since there were so few tourists and so many vacant hotels, we were lucky found a hotel so close to Le Mont Saint-Michel that we could walk. There was a gravel path just behind the hotel that led right to the Causeway. People were biking and walking along this trail all day long; it was always very busy, even with the Coronavirus pandemic, it was still bustling with traffic.
We Followed the gravel path to the bridge but noticed that, because the tide was way out, there were also people walking underneath the bridge, escaping the summer’s relentless sun and enjoying the shady, breezy alternative. So, being the adventurers we are, we followed the minority and decided to walk below the bridge. Half-way there, we discovered that the mud gets quite sticky in certain parts and we were definitely wearing the wrong shoes. 🙂 but it made it a more memorable adventure.
This is where I should probably mentioned that there are also free shuttle buses that take you across the bridge but walking means you don’ have to wait for the crowds. Seeing Mont Saint-Michele in person is amazing and definitely worth the trip!
Recommendation: IF you can, I would spend 36 hours here. That gives you time to go and see the monastery lit up at night shortly after you arrive, and time to walk out and explore the commune and monastery the following morning.
Word of advice: Do NOT go into the commune around noon or in the early afternoon, you will regret how sweaty and thirsty you’ll become.
Again, by recommendation of a good friend, we added another detour to our trip and boy are we glad we listen to friends! For everything that Saint-Malo wasn’t, Mont Saint-Michel WAS. It is one of those world heritage sites that you have to drive way out of the way to see but after miles and miles of pasture lands and rye fields, when you first catch glimpse of its glory, Out “floating” in the shallows like a mirage, it is a hands-pressed-against-the-window, sharp-draw-of-the-breath, kind of marvel.
You might think that just spending the day here would be enough but again, thanks to our friend, we were encouraged to spend the night too, so we could revel in the marvels of the Mont after the Day Trippers recede and the monastery begins to glow.
Plan on either taking the free shuttle bus out or start you or journey early on foot to avoid the hordes. We definitely started our journey on foot too late in the day and had to take refuge in the shade of the causeway for part of our journey. We were not the only creatures with this idea.
Once we reached the island, we were surprised by the number of tourists and couldn’t imagine what it would be like during non-COVID times. I imagine, during non-COVID times, we would never have been able to add a last-minute detour like this to our trip AND secure a family room at one of the 5 hotels that lie within the gated boarders of the World Heritage site.
During our daytime visit, we were willing to battle the heat and the crowds outside the Abbey but were thankful for the timed tickets that allowed us to wander peacefully and unhindered within the Abbey close. We didn’t take time to eat in any of the hamlet restaurants or even browse the souvenir shops, our mission was to get a lay of the land, take in the history of the remarkable, religious compound and then catch a shuttle bus back to our hotel to rest and freshen up before making the return trip for the light show at night.
Recommendation: I agree with Queenie, an ideal visit to Le Mont Saint-Michel would be to arrive in the early evening, have dinner at one of the handful of restaurants out at the Abbey and then peacefully experience the glory of the cathedral and monastery with the minimal crowds during the timed and ticketed light show. Stay at one of the nearby hotels and then travel back out to the Mont early the next morning to experience it’s history and magnificence during the day. Leave before/by lunchtime.