Well this is the big one – one of the most visited sites in France after the usual attractions in Paris, of course. I always hestitate to post pictures of iconic symbols such as this because there are probably about a million fabulous photos of it online. What can I add to that? My iPhone snapshots? But I guess the whole point is to show that “I was there”. So here you go. Don’t bother to google the breathtaking images of Mont St. Michel, because here is how I saw it. (And honestly, I think it has to be photographed from the air to get the full effect.)
This is a view from Mont St. Michel
One interesting thing I did learn about Mont St. Michel by the way, is that both Normandy and Brittany can make a claim to this monument since it is on the border of these regions. Apparently there is an ongoing (but good-natured) rivalry along these lines.
Then a trip to St. Malo, a popular seaside town in Brittany. Just like any seaside town in the Northeastern U.S. …. Well except for those 16 century ramparts that encircle the whole town…
And there is some pirate lore associated with this city as well, although I believe in French they are called “corsairs”.
Another thing you don’t often see on U.S. beaches are these forts on the little tidal islands that you can walk to at low tide, but which are separated at high tide. And there was an interesting swimming pool that catches the tide water. Even on the next to last day of September there were a good many people swimming and sunbathing.
Now that was the good part – the photos. Most of you can stop here, you’re done. If, however, you are interested in the actual process of traveling from Point A to Point B via bus/metro/train in France, then stick with me. I have to recount this mainly so I can remember it for later. All told, I traveled over 500 miles round trip for this weekend excursion. I started out Saturday morning at 8:00 am.
8:00 am – leave my dorm, walk to the bus stop. Take bus to the train station
9:00 am – board the train, travel two hours to Gare du Nord in Paris
11:00 am – arrive at Gare du Nord, buy Metro ticket, take Metro across Paris to Montparnasse. Walk two blocks from Metro stop to the train station
11:45 am – wolf down a sandwich I brought along while waiting to see which track my train to Rennes leaves on. Hint: they helpfully post this information about 10 minutes before the train leaves.
Noon – board train for Rennes
2:00 pm – arrive in Rennes. Met by my friend (did I mention before that it pays to have friends in France? Yes it does!)
2:00-5:00 pm – walk around the city of Rennes. The BIG city of Rennes! For hours!
5:00 – take the Metro/car to my friend’s house. Go out to dinner. Crash.
9:00 am – leave for Mont St. Michel in the car. (10:00 am, stop the car and let me out of the backseat because I am CARSICK!)
10:30 am – arrive at Mont St. Michel. Spend a couple of hours walking up about 9 million steep stone stairs then back to the car.
1:00 pm – Leave Mont St. Michel, head for St. Malo. Stop for a picnic lunch along the way.
3:00 pm – arrive in St. Malo. Walk around THE ENTIRE CITY. Yes, the rampart really does encircle the city and I think we walked the entire thing. Anyway, we walked for miles and miles.
6:00 pm – leave St. Malo
7:00 pm – arrive back at my friend’s house. Eat a light dinner. Crash.
7:30 am – leave my friend’s house and walk to the bus stop after gulping down half a cup of coffee
7:45 am – take bus to downtown Rennes
8:15 am – get on the Rennes Metro and go across town to the train station.
9:00 am – board train back to Paris Montparnasse
11:30 am – arrive at Montparnasse one hour before my train for Amiens is due to leave from Gare du Nord. This isn’t as much time as it sounds because I had to wait 10 minutes in line to get a Metro ticket, sprint to the Metro (a good 8-10 minute walk), take the Metro ten stops to Gare du Nord, then find the platform for my train. Board train with minutes to spare.
(At this point I will comment that I don’t know how anyone who is elderly or physically disabled can possibly hope to accomplish this. I spent the better part of an hour racing across train and Metro stations, dragging my bag UP the stairs and DOWN the stairs. At some points there would be a down escalator and when you reached the bottom you would immediately be facing a set of stairs going up. I didn’t have time to ponder the logistics of this paradox, I just kept following the signs until I got where I was going.)
12:30 pm – train leaves for Amiens
1:45 pm – arrive in Amiens
2:00 pm – get on bus headed to campus
2:30 pm – walk from bus stop to my dorm, I arrive “home” seven hours after I walked out the door this morning.
Did you happen to notice that I didn’t mention eating or drinking or visiting les toilettes during this entire trip on Monday? Well the reason is because I didn’t do any of those things! This entire trip was fueled on half a cup of instant coffee. I actually did see a vending machine just before I boarded my train at Gare du Nord and I was dying of thirst – about to buy a drink and discovered I had no change. 😦 Next time, plan ahead…
PS… I’m Tired!