Normandy: A Detour to Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel from the approaching causeway.

WHEN WE WENT TO Omaha Beach, we all learned a little lesson about ocean tides.  Now it seems Camden won’t ever let us forget.

Enter Mont Saint-Michel… This former church, abbey & prison – or maybe better described a small city – is built upon a rock out in the middle of the sea.  Legend has it that the original construction was comissioned as a church by the Archangel Michael himself.

But none of that interested Camden as much as the fact that Mont Saint Michel is located

Sign saying that today, this parking lot is safe. Little consolation to Camden.

in what  is considered to be one of the most dangerous tidal beaches in the world.  When the tide is in, the abbey is surrounded on all sides by sea water and is accessible only by a narrow causeway.  Several of the parking lots get covered by the sea.  When the tide is out, it reveals miles and miles of flat sandy beach.  In the days leading up to our trip Melissa read aloud a few passages from a Rick Steves book that noted that the tide is said to come in with “the speed of a galloping horse” at 2 feet/second (Horizontal speed…OK, faster than a pack mule, maybe) and that in the older times people would make the pilgrimage out to Mont Saint Michel and become lost in the fog and caught up in the tide before reaching the island.  Modern day stories abound of tourists who parked at the wrong place at the wrong time only to come back to a car in a nice salt bath.  So with all that in mind, to Camden visiting this death trap was tantamount to suicide.  We would all probably be sitting in Mont Saint Michel enjoying a pretzel and taking in the views when a tsunami-like wall of water would sweep us out of the abbey (hundreds of feet above sea level) and wash us all out to sea. We were of course in absolutely no danger, but the mind of a 5-year-old just doesn’t always accept that.  Now that we’re back safe and sound, I’m still not sure he believes us.

Despite the scary monster tide, this is really a stunning place to visit.  It almost seemed surreal.  The view of Mont St. Michel from the approaching highway is idyllic, and the panorama from atop the abbey is impressive.  We uploaded a few of the better photos.


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