Mont Saint-Michel and St. Malo

Friday, October 3, 2014

If you follow me on instagram, you might have noticed last week that I posted a few pictures of this cool looking church/stone fortress/awesome castle thing on top of a rock with a crazy blue sky. 

Yep, this is said church/stone fortress/awesome castle (except it's not actually a castle. Sorry.).

This is none other than Mont Saint-Michel, fortified island, beautiful, inspiring, historical, and important, as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's pretty hyped up.

The hype is totally deserved.

This is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited in Europe. I'm not religious at all, but I have such an appreciation for the architectural, artistic, cultural, and historical prestige that many of these important sites are imbued with. 

Mont Saint Michel is very much a part of Normandy's heritage and identity, alongside D-Day, the Bayeux Tapestry (another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place I'm going to visit in a week!), and camembert (only the best. cheese. ever). Like most things in this place, I'm learning, Mont Saint-Michel has survived hundreds (literally) years of war, famine, devastation, political turmoil, etc. It is certainly as resilient as it is beautiful.

I went with the university I'm studying at, along with other International and Erasmus students. While I liked the fact that I didn't have to plan anything besides appearing at a room in the international building to sign up and find my way to the university at 8 am on Sunday, it was hard to hear on the tour and I ended up just wandering by myself and with my friends, which was still amazing, but I've done a lot of research about Mont Saint-Michel since then and it would have been nice to hear that information when I was actually there. 

The inside is just as beautiful. You climb up through a little town that looks like it was literally built from the details in various fairytales, complete with about a thousand stairs, and you arrive at the base of the actual abbey.

Climb more stairs, and wind your way through large, empty stone rooms to find yourself overlooking the sea on one side, a river on the other, and the border between Normandy and Brittany (or Normandie and Bretagne). I just about cried from overlooking everything from this vantage point.

Normandy is on the left, Brittany is on the right.

It's actually really an island. The tides are so dramatic, that at low tide you can easily walk on solid land from the town not too far from Mont Saint Michel to the actual island. However, during high tide, the sea rushes in and the island is secluded once again. We went during the low tide, but it would have been so awesome to see Mont Saint Michel as an actual island! 

My favorite part, however, were the cloisters in a small garden in the abbey. At this point, I was so lost so I can't tell you how to get there. Bring a map when you go. 

In all, I would wholeheartedly demand recommend that you go visit Mont Saint-Michel. It's one of my favorite places in Europe. 

Which leads me to the other part of my excursion last week,  Saint Malo, a little town in the Brittany (Bretagne) region of France. I am so in love with this little town, and I'm trying to figure out a way to go back. We only got 2 hours to explore the city, which is never enough time (and my friends and I may or may not have been on the search for some food...), so I really want to return. So here, I give you my favorite beach in France. 

Endless sand... vibrant blue sky that I can barely distinguish from the water... some very important looking building that I didn't catch the purpose of... so many things to do and explore! 

Have you ever visited either of these places? What's your favorite? 

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