|From the Mont to the Marais
||[Sep. 18th, 2015|09:48 pm]
It's a long time since we visited the Mont Saint Michel, and there have been changes in the interim: not on the Mont itself, but in the way you approach it. I had heard about this, and assumed it was all about relieving the pressure of ridiculous numbers of visitors, but there is more to it than that: the old causeway had been creating a build-up of silt in the bay, which was supporting the spread of vegetation and stabilising the resulting terrain. At this rate the Mont would soon cease to be an island.
So now you park well inland, and either take a free shuttle bus or walk or pay to ride the horse drawn shuttle (they have a name for this, but I've forgotten it). We walked the mile or so, along a track bordered with a forest of fennel, then detoured to admire the dam which regulates the flow of the river Couesnon to clear the sediment from the bay, and incidentally provides a new viewpoint of the Mont rising above the waters of the Couesnon. From here it's an agreeable walk along the causeway, with plenty of photo opportunities as the walkway curves round in the foreground, and the sun comes and goes on the face of the abbey.
What you can't see in this photo is the young woman who rushed past us, wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and waving her selfie stick, so that she could take a similar shot, but with herself and her friends in front of it.
We walked up the central street, as thronged with tourists and crammed with things for them to buy as it was when we first visited, and presumably for eight centuries before that. We didn't go into the abbey, but veered off at that level for a walk around the ramparts, lost ourselves in a quiet corner but found the way back down to the main drag through an alley that narrowed to such an extent that we took the last ten yards or so sideways. We picked one of the tourist-trap restaurants for lunch, and were impressed to find it skilled at delivering exactly what it promised, a classic 'formule brasserie' served by three tall thin waiters with speed, precision and charm. durham_rambler had moules marinières, and pronounced them acceptable; I had the omelette du Mont, as described by Elizabeth David, cooked firm and dry outside, but all soft foam of whipped egg within. This is more palatable than the conventional, runny omelette but sorry, desperance, I still prefer my omelettes cooked through.
Time to move on. We've spent all afternoon on the road, heading south. Memorable in a bad way: the Nantes ring road. Hitting it at five o' clock on Friday didn't help, but it was a slow and painful circuit, with only one highlight, the first sighting of a vineyard this trip. Memorable in a good way: after a shower, driving through the edges of the Vendée accompanied by rainbows: full arches, almost horizontal swathes high in the clouds, bright little stubs, hazy remnants, double bows, one stretch that seemed wide enough to work through the statutory seven colours and start again...
We are spending the night at the Hôtel au Marais in Coulon, near Niort, and very happy to be here.