St Malo Was The Base For Our View Of Mystical Mont St Michel
Our visit to northern France started in the small port town of Honfleur. It was a lovely little town to walk around. The next port was St Malo. From the port we headed off for a view of mystical Mont St Michel. This loverly hilltop abbey was on our wish list for a long time. We were so happy we finally saw it!
Our Oceania Cruises ship was anchored in the bay off of St Malo. From there, guests were tendered to shore in small boats. There were some great things to do out of St Malo. And it seemed like everyone wanted off the ship at the same time. Tendering made unloading almost 1,000 people a challenge. When one of the tenders had mechanical problems, unloading backed up for several hours. So we were very happy we got off the ship early!
From the ship, the town of St Malo looked like a charming fairy tale city. We saw a little of the town of St Malo from the bus on our return trip. But we had no time to explore the city on this trip. We knew we would be back one day.
The bus was loaded and we set off for our first view of mystical Mont St Michel.
Our First View of Mystical Mont St Michel
Our bus took the faster highway route to Mont St Michel. At one point our guide pointed out the window at the first view of mystical Mont St Michel. The building of mystical Mont St Michel began around 708AD. In the 10th century it became a major pilgrimage site and the village grew. By the 14th century, it was expanded down to the base of the rock that the abbey was built on.
Mont St Michel was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. When we went inside the abbey we saw a series of models that showed how the site had grown.
The bus parked in a parking lot located quite a distance from the base of Mont St Michel. We hiked from the bus to the shuttle stop and loaded into a small shuttle bus. The shuttle took us through the modern town and stopped at several points. We were then let off on the causeway that led to mystical Mont St Michel.
At this point we got our first really good look at the fairy tale abbey on the hill. The tide was out and all around the base was a sea of glistening mud.
It would have been amazing to see Mont St Michel standing like an island with water around it. But the wet mud beside the causeway meant that it was just a matter of hours before it would again look like an island.
Walk Up To The Abbey
We entered through the main gate. The was our meeting point after our tour. Some people felt they could not make the 300+ feet climb so they stayed and enjoyed a visit to the small town. Our guide spent so much time getting us to and through the abbey that we ended up with little time to wander in the small town.
We started up on a steep set of stairs. Every now and then our guide stopped for the group to all get to the same point. As we climbed we got a great view up the steep sides of Mont St Michel. While mystical Mont St Michel was certainly a religious site, it was also a strategic stronghold. Its ramparts and fortifications have withstood all attacks.
At one point the guide stopped at a large stone with seams of graphite. She said this was a magical rock and that we should feel electricity if we touched these seams. Nobody who touched the rock felt anything. There was also a small natural reservoir in the top of the rock. The water that collected in that area was also said to have magic properties. Maybe that is why this was typically called mystical Mont St Michel?
Views As We Climbed Higher
At several points we stopped and looked out at the view. The first stops gave us a good look out over the small town inside the walls.
The higher stops let us view the vast field of mud that surrounded mystical Mont St Michel. We saw the causeway that led back to the parking lot. We also saw the small river and the dam.
Even if you never made it all the way up for an Abbey visit, climb up to the higher viewpoints. We were rewarded with great views.
A Visit To The Abbey
The abbey at St Michel was unique in its design since it was built around the large pyramid shape of the rock it sat on. The abbey church sat at the top. The weight of much of the building was taken by crypts that created a platform underneath the church and were anchored into the rock.
When we hit the final stop on our climb, we looked up and saw the abbey church at the top. At the top of the 100 foot spire was St Michael looking out over the entirety of mystical Mont St Michel. We also saw a statue of St Micheal as a warlike angel with a sword and scales as we left the abbey.
We entered the church and began a long trek up and down through the various buildings that made up the abbey. In the large open church we saw small alcoves with side altars and the remains of the organ.
We were lucky we found the main structure devoid of scaffolding for renovations. The cloister was the only part of mystical Mont St Michel where work was in progress when we visited.
Inside Rooms In The Abbey
The rooms in the abbey were all empty. The high inside walls were make of large stones. In places the ceilings were made of what looked like cedar shingles. In other places, stone arches rose to the roof.
The windows were varied. Many were leaded and simple in design. Yet other had coloured glass and were quite decorative. But they were not the beautiful stained glass works of art we saw on our visit to the Canterbury Cathedral.
Every now and then we saw wall carvings and statues that were still in good shape. We also found metal statues modern art statues on display.
In one room we saw a large wooden wheel that used to be powered by prisoners. That walked around inside the giant wheel that turned the pulley was used to set supplies up from lower ground.
It was a long way up to the abbey on a visit to mystical Mont St Michel. But it was definitely worth the walk up!
An Easier Path Back Down
After our tour, we exited at the back of the Abbey. We got a great view back at the Abbey and up the steep walls.
The path up was mostly steep and uneven stairs. The path back down had some stairs but they were longer shallower steps. Along the way we found many things to see and observation points to stop.
When we reached the small town, we saw a small church. The brilliant colours of the stained glass window drew us into Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre. We were on a fast march to our meeting point but took time for a quick look inside.
We rushed back down to the meeting point. The small shops sold everything from tourist trinkets to food. But we did not have time to shop.
A Return Trip Along The Coast
Our trip to visit mystical Mont St Michel was pretty direct. On the return trip, we followed the bay road. We went through many small quaint villages.
It was low tide and we saw long stretches of sand. Inlets contained small boats on their keels. This reminded us very much of visiting the Bay of Fundy at low tide. As we drove along we saw the oyster farms along the shore. With the tide low, we saw the fortress out on a spit of land.
We lazily watched the landscape roll by as we headed back to St Malo after our busy day.
A Quick Drive Through St Malo
On our way back to the ship, we drove through the older part of St Malo known as Parame. It was a richer area of town and had many beautiful houses.
The heart of St Malo came into view. St Malo was one of the big tourist spots on the northern shore. It had a long history of being home to nautical explorers, traders and pirates. It was from this port that Jacques Cartier sailed and discovered Canada.
The old part of St Malo was a walled fortress. Inside the walls there was a small beautiful town built in solid grey granite with black slate roofs. We only saw parts of the wall as we drove around the fort on our way back to the tender dock.
We passed several of the small gates into this walled city. It reminded us of the challenges of staying inside the town of Obidos in Portugal with a car!
The next time we visit northern France, we will definitely spend more time in St Malo.
We Were Glad To Visit Mystical Mont St Michel
We all have a list of things that we really want to see. Mystical Mont St Michel was on our list for some time. We were glad we got the chance and saw the great abbey as it rose up from the sea bed. A great stop as we cruised along the western coast of France.
The walk up to the abbey was a bit challenging. But we were happy we got the great views and saw the abbey. It was well worth a few aches the next day.
From St Malo we moved to Brest. We planned a much easier day as we explored the sights in the town of Brest.
Did you visit mystical Mont St Michel? Did you climb all the way to the abbey?
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I think seeing this castle is one of my biggest dreams. It’s like moving to a fairy-tale land. Mont St. Michel is certainly one of the most beautiful castles in the world. It’s good to know that there is a 300+ feet climb to Abbey.
We were glad to finally get to Mont St Michel and do the climb to the top. Well worth it to see the abbey and the views. It is a spot that will definitely stay in our memories.
It looks like your tour guides wisely avoided the cacophony of souvenir stands leading up to the Abbey that most people are subjected to on their way there. Or are they all gone now? Your pictures of all the nooks and crannies and gorgeous windows are beautiful. Thank you for letting me re-see it after many decades.
There were still lots of street sellers around. Our guide offered people the choice to stay in town or fast walk up to the abbey. We were glad we chose to bypass the town and climb. Always happy to refresh your memories.
Beautiful photos. I always love looking at the stained glass in cathedrals. I am pinning this for future reference.
I hope you get to visit Mont St Michel and visit the Abbey. A great reason to make the climb up.
This is one site in France that I was so annoyed I didn’t get to see on my last trip. I am loving your photos of Mont St Michel – can’t wait to go!
This was high on our list for France so we were so glad we got to visit Mont St Michel. Hope you see it the next time you visit Northern France.
Thank you for such a comprehensive and descriptive post. The complex was either well built, or it has benefitted from major restoration efforts, or both. Very interesting indeed.
It was amazing to see how well preserved it was. But I think that is a continual effort. But beautiful to see.
I’ve been living in France for a few years now and this is still on my bucket list. Your pictures are really beautiful! You’ve really captured everything and I can’t wait to go! 🙂
Mont St Michel was on our list for a long time. So glad we got to visit. I am sure you will get there one day. Glad to have been a good tease.
Mint St Michel is such an icon! What a beautiful Abbey.
We were so glad we got to this iconic site on this visit to France. Good to finally check this one off.
I loved your photos, thanks so much for including all of them! Mont Saint Michel is high on our list, but we haven’t been yet. I appreciate your detailed description of your very special visit!
I am glad you liked the photos and going with us on our tour of Mont St Michel and the abbey. There was so much more to see than I imagined before we visited. Hope you get to visit one day.
We did a day trip from Paris but it took us 3 times to finally get there! An incredible place 🙂
I am glad you finally made it to see Mont St Michel. I never thought of doing a day trip from Paris! But a great option.
Reason number 1 million and 3 as to why we NEED to get back to FRANCE ASAP!! Also, good to know the amount of walking to be expected, with that said ill leave my cute heels at home and stick to my walking shoes!
I would definitely stick to walking shoes when you visit Mont Saint Michel. It was worth the trek up to the top.
How weird, I have just been watching a programme about Mont St Michel and then I see your post! I remember visiting as a teenager, but didn’t really appreciate it then. I will have to go back and have a wander around. You really brought it back to life for me, thank you
I am glad to have brought back good memories of Mont St Michel and hope you do get back for a visit. We were surprised at how much there was to see.
The abbey is stunning. I love the high ceilings and stained glass. I haven’t heard of the city but now I have a reason to go!
I am glad to have introduced you to Mont St Michel. It was a lovely spot to visit and one that was on our list for a long time.
Mont St Michel has always fascinated me. I love how people have used the natural geographic features for fortification and protection. Perhaps one day, I will get to this region of France.
It was indeed to see how the structures were built into the rock structure of Mont St Michel. A great one for your travel wish list.
I love visiting UNESCO sites and will definitely visit Mont St Michel. It would be lovely to see a structure that is that old and also I guess all these places do require a lot of walking which I am used to. I have never been to France till date. I was supposed to go there a few years ago but unfortunately had to cancel it.
We were prepared for the walk up to the top at Mont St Michel. And it was certainly worth it. Hope you visit one day.
Beautiful pictures! Visiting St Malon and Mont St Michel is a childhood dream since I saw pictures in a magazine. Actually we planned a long cycling tour along the french coast last year. And then we found out that it is not possible to take bikes on french highspeed trains. So Mont St Michel had to wait again! But I am sure I will make it in the not so distant future.
Cycling in Northern France sounds lovely. But good tip that you can’t take bikes on the high speed trains. Hope you get back to this region one day to see this lovely spot.
I really enjoyed this post, a trip down memory lane for me. We visited this place in 2019, on our first motorhome/RV tour of Europe. Your writing is very comprehensive and a great guide for anyone visiting this beautiful place.
Thank you so very much ? We love to share our travel memories and prepare people for the visit. Always happy to bring back great travel memories.
That sounds like quite a climb! But still worth it, the abbey is so beautiful! I would love to visit some day. Definitely adding it to my itinerary for whenever I visit France next.
I am glad to have added Mont St Michel to your France travel wish list. Definitely a beautiful spot to visit. And well worth the climb.
I’ve never been, but would love to visit if I ever find myself in France. The 300 stairs sounds a bit daunting (especially on a hot day), but I’m sure it’s well worth the views!
The stairs indeed are daunting. But there were lots of places to stop for views along the way. Well worth a climb to see the abbey and the views from Mont St Michel.
There’s so much to see in these beautiful old buildings and you have captured them beautifully with your photos.
We were so happy we finally made it to Mont St Michel. So much more to see than we expected.
Mont St Michel has also been on my list for a long time! And I even had a trip planned to Northern France…but that was supposed to be in March 2020, so you can probably guess what happened ha….But it looks so beautiful! I’ve never seen that many pictures of the inside of the abbey before.
I hope that the blog and pictures convinced you that you need to put Mont St Michel back on the travel plans. We were so glad we did not miss this.
Your article and awesome photos bring me back nice memories of my visit to St.Michel and St Malo. I would recommend to stay overnight at St.Michel if possible.
We will definitely plan to stay longer on a return visit. This whole region of northern France needs more time!
Mont St Michel is absolutely on my bucketlist. It just looks so magical, straight out of a fairy tale. I would have climbed the 300 ft climb too. If I’m going all the way to St. Michel you bet I am going to do it right! Are there people that still live in the surrounding town?
I think there are still people who live in the town. I agree with the choice to make the climb. So much to see if you do it.
Mont St Michel is beautiful, from afar and up close! I also love the stained glass windows inside the church, your photos do them justice. I haven’t yet been here, but it’s definitely on my list now.
We had wanted to visit Mont St Michel for so long we were happy it was not a disappointment. And well worth a visit to the Abbey.
Man, I have been seeing photos of this sweet place for years now. Thanks for taking me there. One thought…i know the cruise ship brought you there…but it sounds like you felt a bit rushed and you missed out on things you wish you could have seen/explored/shopped. Would you rather have spent a few days in that region that just half a day? Or was that enough time in the end?
One day was enough to visit Mont St Michel. But we want to go back and explore more of this region. The cruise trip was a great way to give us an overview. And make us know we want to come back and explore at our leisure. Part of how we use cruising to just taste test areas.
I love the sight of Castles as they tend to take you back in history. Except Paris I am yet to really experience France and some day I hope to visit this beautiful Mont St. Michel castle. And spend a day getting lost in the beauty of the place. It looks amazing.
I do hope you get to visit Mont St Michel. Well worth a day to take it all in!
I have always been mystified by Mont St. Michel, especially with the photos from the water. I didn’t know you can walk up to it and that you can stay at a village…St. Malo!
We were excited with our first visit to Mont St Michel. A lovely gem for sure.