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Saturday, 8 November 2014

MONT ST MICHEL

 
On our way home from Caen we stopped for 3 days on a campsite at Pontorson, only 10 kilometres south of Mont St Michel.  It's not a very large one but very popular, especially in the summer as it's right next to the river that runs into the sea at the Mont.  The landscape around is very flat like the Dutch polders, being reclaimed from the sea for agricultural purposes.  The only hill for some distance has this charming little windmill on top which was working hard while I stood to draw it from the cycle path.
 
 
The cycle path goes all the way from Pontorson town to the foot of the Mont following the river.  We were parked barely 50 metres from it in the campsite so it was a delight to set off through the camp gate on a lovely sunny autumn morning to visit this amazing edifice. The Mont gradually came into view and I persuaded Bob to stop for a rest while I captured it shimmering in the distance.
 
 
 
A common feature of the French countryside is the sight of the poplar trees in winter when the mistletoe becomes apparent when the leaves have fallen.  I've always been fascinated by the vision of these great balls of foliage suspended on the delicate seeming branches.  As I drew them one of the fishermen from the riverbank came to see what I was doing so I took the opportunity to ask him for the name in French which is 'gui.'
 
 
As we came closer the river widened out and we could see the new barrage which has been installed to control the waters as the tide rises and falls.  There was a very informative panel explaining how it works and the benefits for the Mont itself. It's also been designed as a work of art with various quotations engraved in the stone work and a large area where people can sit to admire the view unencumbered by the sight of the crowds heading towards it.
 
 
We parked our bikes and crossed the new 2 kilometre long causeway built above the sands which will eventually be the only access to the Mont when the work to clear the old dyke is completed, leaving the Mont as it was before with the water surrounding it at high tide.  We joined the hordes passing through the arch and started to climb the narrow cobbled street looking for somewhere to have a beer and a rest after all our exertions.  How lucky to find a bar with a table looking across the street to this narrow alleyway with a view right up to the pinnacle where St Michael stands sparkling in the sun.
We stayed in the same place for lunch before setting off for the walk around the ramparts and back to our bikes.
 
 
This was our third visit to Mont St Michel, the first being about 35 years ago with the children.  The second visit was in November 2007 when we had just bought the camper car and decided to try some winter camping.  We arrived in the morning and discovered that for only 8 euros we could park right opposite the Mont for 24 hours so we chose an excellent spot with a direct view and set off to explore.  We visited every part from bottom to top including the cathedral itself, which I can honestly say is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  We had the fortune to be in the nave when a monk appeared to ring the midday bell and I have strong memories of him being lifted off his feet as he worked pulling the rope to get it moving before it started to toll very loudly!
 
 
We arrived back at the car by 4pm and I spent a very happy couple of hours drawing and painting the view from our window.  We'll never have such an opportunity again as now all vehicles have to be parked about 2 kilometres away!