31 March – April Fools Day
The Aire at Beauvoir just over the border into Normandy is excellent with space for 100 motorhomes and only about 3km from Mont St Michel. It was the busiest place we had been so far with around 15 other motorhomes there, but there was plenty of space. Our chosen spot looked across the fields towards a working windmill perched on a low ridge.
Cycling in to Mont St Michel was a doddle, a lovely cycleway along the canalised river running out into the bay through land reclaimed from the sea for crops – very reminiscent of Holland except for the unmistakeable silhouette of Mont St Michel growing bigger through the hazy morning air.
At the causeway a sign prohibited bicycles from 1 May so we cycled the mile or so out to the Mont – only to find parking bikes forbidden, so we had to cycle all the way back, park up and cram onto the shuttlebus with the surprisingly large number of pilgrims. Once there we found ourselves joined by hordes of school groups – not exactly the quiet “out of season” experience we had anticipated!
Started as a small sanctuary dedicated to Archangel Michael around 1300 years ago, Mont St Michel grew in fits and starts, it’s buildings wrapping themselves around the conical mount transforming it from a Benedictine sanctuary to a stronghold rising vertically from the rock like a fairy-tale castle.
It withstood the 100 years war unscathed and became a prison durng the French Revolution, finally being restored as a religious house and becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site attracting huge numbers of tourista, all catered for by huge numbers of gift shops and restaurants. Also much used in period films & TV for understandable reasons – it’s very photogenic.
We climbed the winding cobbed footways up to the Abbey where we gazed upwards, past the soaring walls to the tall Neogothic spire topped with a gilded copper statue of St Michel. They certainly know how to make a statement! The views from the west terrace would have been awesome if it hadn’t been so hazy, but even so they were pretty good.
We walked back along the causeway, the sound of skylarks filling the air in the marshland near the shore, reminding us of home.