Mont St Michel and Saint Nazaire

Although we’ve both been to Mont St Michel before, each in the early 1990s, we figured it was a must-see for this trip.

There have been huge changes. Rather than finding a spot to park along the causeway and walking across, you’re now directed to one of a plethora of car parks a good way away (we were in car park 8). In an arrangement similar to that at Stonehenge, there is a modern visitor centre near the car parks and buses to whisk you from there off to the main attraction. The old causeway has been replaced by a roadway on stilts. The rationale for the changes became clear in a video presentation at the visitor centre – it’s a major project to stop the silting up of the bay, involving not only the removal of the old causeway and construction of the new access road but also extensive dredging of the tidal river that flows into the bay and the construction of a dam to hold back the water in the river at high tide and give it more “oomph” to wash the sediment out to sea.

A further point of similarity to Stonehenge soon became apparent – the expense. All that construction costs money, and it looks like the punters are to do their bit. Our parking cost was a fixed rate of €20.80, and that’s before we’d even caught a glimpse of Mont St Michel…… After a deep gulp, we headed off to the very swish double-ended bus (much more convenient to have a steering wheel at each end… saves a lot of manoevering at each end of the journey…..).

I should mention at this point that we had a bit of trouble with some of the aires in Normandy. The local councils seem to have taken to the idea of replacing service posts (from which you get water) taking coins or tokens with posts that only take cards. We can see the logic, but unfortunately they don’t seem to accept foreign cards. As a result we are forced to avail ourselves of the free facilities still offered in many places, and now instantly recognise the hated symbol for card payments……

I was therefore perplexed on walking off the end of the causeway to be greeted by the following sign. Surely this was taking the money-grabbing a bit too far???

Further investigation revealed that there was an ATM machine in the loos, rather than a credit card slot on each of the doors!

We had a good wander round every alleyway on Mont St Michel then ate our butties (so at least we spared ourselves the pain of the food prices) before heading into the Abbey (for which there was, of course, a separate charge).

The last picture is of the monks’ dining hall for Roger. It may be bigger than Bedern Hall but they do seem to be rather short of chairs……

All in all we had a good day out, and at €40 all-in it wasn’t nearly as costly as we’d feared when we first arrived and saw the car parking charges.

In addition to tourist activities, we’ve spent some time over the last couple of days doing general day-to-day “when in France” activities – food shopping, visiting the launderette, and fixing that leak from the bathroom wash basin…..

Our route South skirted the edge of Brittany and brought us back to the coast at St Nazaire, where we today visited the old World War 2 submarine pens. This was on the list for our homeward journey in February, but was just edged out in favour of the 24h museum at Le Mans. I’m not sure quite what I’d expected, but I certainly didn’t expect them to be quite so intact in their prominent position on the dockside; the only thing missing really was the submarines.

From here we’ll probably move a bit more quickly South towards Spain. We’re planning an anti-clockwise circuit of the peninsula this year, and hoping to see some of the sights of Northern Spain (which we missed out on our return trip in February as the weather in the North at that point was truly terrible).

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