North to Normandy (Part II)

Though most famous for D-Day, I enjoyed spending more than one day in Normandy to see (almost) all that the region had to offer.

On Sunday, we took a shuttle from Bayeux to Mont Saint Michel. One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting in French class in first grade and watching the Rick Steves documentary on the Normandy region of France. I can still hear the soothing cadence of his voice and picture the larger than life omelets – a Mont Saint Michel specialty. Ever since then, I have wanted to visit Mont Saint Michel and taste one of those incredible omelets. Here’s a little snippet from the documentary, so you know what I’m talking about.

Last weekend (I guess it’s two weekends ago now), I had the chance to do visit the majestical place.

We took a shuttle from Bayeux to Mont Saint Michel, and had a little over three hours of free time on the island before we needed to go back to Bayeux. As soon as we got to the island, we rushed to the abbey at the top of the island, so we could get our tickets and go inside before it got too crowded. I believe Mont Saint Michel is the 2nd most popular tourist destination in France after Paris.

Could not have asked for a prettier day
Could not have asked for a prettier day

I am always skeptical of audio guides because something in the back of my head always screams, “You are about to be ripped off! This is not worth it! You are smarter than wasting money on an audio guide! You look like a tourist!” However, I chose to ignore this voice at Mont Saint Michel, and let me tell you, it was worth it. There aren’t information signs posted in the abbey, so you really don’t have any sort of context for what you are looking at without the audio guide. Each room had an interesting story, and the narrator pointed out interesting bits of architecture in each room as well, which was really cool considering that the abbey itself almost 1,000 years old. In other words, get the audio guide.

The age of the abbey was the most unbelievable part of the whole thing. Although it wasn’t all built at the same time, it is still a really, really old building. It’s astonishing that people were able to build this stone fortress without modern day technology, but I suppose that is part of what makes it so amazing to look at. Just for context, “old” in my head is the Admin building at University of Idaho, built in 1909. The majority of the abbey was built in the 13th century. I took a lot of pictures, but I don’t think that it’s possible for all of its history and grandeur to translate into a picture. A picture doesn’t capture the feel of the 1,000 year old granite and the smell of the dirt and the lichen that have been growing on the outside of the abbey for ages. It was so cool, and it feels awesome to cross something off of my bucket list.

Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
The cloister, designed to be a place for monks to think and meditate
The cloister, designed to be a place for monks to think and meditate
Wrong way
Wrong way
the gardens
the gardens
a watchtower
a watchtower

Although the abbey dominates the island, it just sits on top. The rest of the island is actually a village. I think that Rick Steves described the village best calling it “grotesquely commercial;” however, there are so many different staircases and courtyards and alleyways to explore that you can avoid the main strip for quite a while.

Of course the day would not have been complete without an omelet, so Jackie and I found a nice place for lunch. It was a bit chilly, but we still got to sit outside, which is my favorite thing, especially with the view of the abbey on my left and the ocean on my right. The omelet lived up to expectations. The top tasted like the outside of a croissant, which was strange, but not unpleasant. The middle was perfect and the lightest consistency imaginable, and the edge oozed into some sort of foam that was probably just eggs and butter. Remember the sandwich from Belfast with the pesto and avocado and delicious bread? The omelet was on par with that. Good stuff.

Lunchtime view of the ocean
Lunchtime view of the ocean
Lunchtime view of the abbey
Lunchtime view of the abbey
Your taste buds will be singing
Your taste buds will be singing

I probably could have spent all day walking around the island. There were still some things that I wanted to try, like the barefoot walking tours in the sand around the island at low tide, but we had a shuttle to catch! It ended up being okay leaving the abbey early because there were a couple of things in Bayeux that we wanted to do, but weren’t sure if we would be able to make the time.

The first thing was seeing the Bayeux Tapestry. It displays the story of William, King of England and Duke of Normandy on 230 feet of fabric. Any WeeBee Tunes fans out there? This is the William the Conqueror from Alexander Salamander’s song about England! http://www.weebeetunes.com/newsite/movies/ACityBuiltForKings.mov The tapestry was so intricate, even by today’s standards. I can’t imagine how much patience and precision its artists must have had.

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The final thing on the list was the Bayeux Cathedral. I still can’t believe how old everything is. The town of Bayeux was founded 2,000 years ago, and the Cathedral has been around for over 700 years. It’s just remarkable. The stained glass windows were some of the most amazing that I had ever seen. The colors were unbelievable, especially since we were there on a sunny day, and the pictures were so detailed.

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It was an unforgettable weekend, and I’m enjoying all of the adventures.

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