Le Mont Saint Michel is 202 miles ( 325 km) from Paris. Wrought by nature and centuries of tireless human toil, this sea-surrounded mass of granite adorned with the soul lifting silhouette of the Abbaye du Mont St-Michel may well be the last image of Normandy. The abbey is perched on a 264-foot-high rock just a few hundred yards off the coast. It is surrounded by water during the year's highest tides and by desolate sand flats the rest of the time. Warning!: tides are dangerously unpredictable. The sea can rise up to 45 feet high and rushes at in at incredible speed - More than a few ill-prepared tourists have drowned and also there are patches of very dangerous quicksand. A causeway - to be replaced in time by a bridge, allowing the bay waters to circulate freely - links Mont Saint Michel to the mainland. If you plan on staying the night on Mont St-Michel, take what you need in a small suitcase and leave your car in the parking lot.
All year long, the hour-long guided tour in English and French takes you through the very impressive Romanesque and Gothic abbey and the very spectacular Eglise Abbiatiale, the abbaye church which crowns the rock, as well as the Merveille, a 13th- century, three-story collection of rooms and passage-ways. There is also another tour , which also includes the celebrated Escalier de Dentelle ( Lace staircase), and the pre-Roman and exquisitely evocative Notre-Dame- sous- terre is a longer tour and a higher ticket price, and is only given in French. After visiting the arcaded cloisters alongside, which offer vertiginous views of the bay. Scattered through the Mont are four museums, the Logis Tiphaine ( 02-33-60-23-34), The Musee Historique ( 02-33-60-07-01), The Musee Maritime ( 02-33-60-14-09) and the Archeoscope ( 02-33-60-14-09), this is a must stop because this museum explores the myths and legends of the Mont through a sound and light show.
The island village , with its steep, narrow streets is best visited off season, from September to June. When day-trippers leave peace and quiet return to the Mont and you can really appreciate its frightening grandeur. You should make it a stay, whatever the price . Time your visit a couple of days after the full moon to soak up sunsets over the Bay that touch lows of prestellar beauty. The Mont is illuminated every night from dusk till midnight.
Where to stay and eat while visiting the Mont.
La Mere Poulard. This legendary hotel consists of adjoining houses with three steep flights of narrow stairs. The restaurant's reputation derives partly from Mere Poulard's famous souffle like omelets cooked in the fireplace. If you book a room there you are requested to book two meals with the room. ( 02-33-89-68-68) http://www.mere-poulard.com
Manoir de La Roche Torin. Run by the Barraux family, this stone-walled manor set in 4 acres of parkland is a delightful alternative to the high cost of staying on Mont-St-Michel. Rooms are pleasantly old-fashioned , and the bathrooms modern. With walls Normand stonework and its open fireplace,( the restaurant closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday lunch) has superb seafood and chard-grilled pre-sale ( salt-meadow lamb). In the summer aperitifs are served in the garden, with a great view of the Mont-St-Michel. 34 rte , de la-roche-Torin, 5 miles ( 9km) from Mont-St-Michel, 50220 Courtils. http://www.manoir-rochetorin.com
Les Terrasses Poulard. Run by the folks who own the famous hotel Mere Poulard, this ensemble of buildings is clustered around a small garden in the middle of the Mont. Rooms at this hotel are some of the best - with views of the bay and rustic-style furnishings - and most spacious on the Mont. http://www.terrasses-poulard.com
Du Guesclin. The courtesy of the staff, the comfy and clean guest rooms, and a choice of two restaurants make this well-maintained hotel a very pleasant option. Downstairs , the brasserie for salads sandwiches , upstairs the panoramic full-service restaurant has a very nice view of the bay. Grande-Rue, 50170 . Closed Wednesday and November to March. ( 02-33-60-14-10).
L'Auberge Saint- Pierre. This inn is a popular spot thanks to the fact that it's in a half -timber 15th-century building adjacent to the ramparts and has its own garden restaurant that offers seasonal specialties and very interesting half-board rates. Room # 6 has a view of the abbey. http://www.auberge-saint-pierre.fr . The hotel annex, La Croix Blanche, has another 9 rooms ( shower only). ( 02-33-60-14-03).
Luxury Travel Consultant2 is planning a trip for the fall of 2013 to Normandy and Le Mont St-Michel. We offer a free tour to anyone coming up with a group of 10 guests. Contact us at email@example.com