What is the magic of Mont Saint-Michel?
I have a flashback to my high-school French class. A poster of this French island hung on the wall near my desk, inspiring my first dreams of France. Even then, when travel to France was just still far in my future, I longed to visit Mont Saint-Michel.
I finally made it to Mont Saint-Michel about 30 years later. Our family spent a week in Normandy in mid-June 2006, based about two hours away in the pretty town of Honfleur, and we made my long-awaited day trip to Mont Saint-Michel.
Sadly, the only magical moment was when we first spotted the island, topped by its abbey, from a vantage point along the coast. Once we arrived at the base of the island and began our climb up the crowded street lined with tourist shops and eating places, there was no magic at all. Our timing was all wrong! We had arrived at the same time as all the other day trippers. There was a wait of more than an hour to enter the abbey, so we didn’t even try.
The Magical Allure of Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island, just 17 acres, located about half a mile off the coast of northwest France. A monastery was founded here in the 8th century and the abbey church constructed at the top of the island beginning in the 11th century. Mont Saint-Michel became a major pilgrimage site and centuries later, a tourist destination. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay were named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
In the mid 1800’s over 1,000 people lived on the island, but today the population is less than 30. A small community of monks and nuns now live at the abbey.
About three million people a year visit Mont Saint-Michel, drawn to the magic from all over the world, most coming just for the day.
Experiencing the Magic at Mont Saint-Michel
But now flash forward to 2023 and our newest European Experience: The Normandy Experience. Our groups base for seven nights in the medieval town of Bayeux and either start or end with a night at Mont St. Michel.
We stay on the mainland, just across the causeway, where we can savor the views.
We visit the island in the late afternoon, when most of the day-trippers have left for the day. Last week the nuns and monks were gathering for evening vespers as we admired the ancient church. As we passed through the abbey, the staff closed each set of doors behind us for the night.
After dinner many of us stayed out to watch the sunset over the bay.
And others were up early the next day to see the morning skies.
The early-risers enjoyed a special morning walk on the sandy paths in the salt marsh meadows. It was a quiet time at Mont Saint-Michel, just a few other people out, walking or on bikes.
We appreciated the wildflowers, the sea birds, the sheep who grazed freely on the salty grasses, and of course the views.
This is the magic of Mont Saint-Michel… this is what I dreamed of experiencing all those years ago! And what a joy now to share this experience with others.
We’re here in Normandy with our first of two groups in 2023. We’ll return with two groups in 2024: April 30 – May 8 (first night at Mont Saint-Michel) and May 8 – 16 (last night at Mont Saint-Michel). This is a trip with many special moments in historic and beautiful Normandy, including the magic of Mont Saint-Michel.
Learn more about our Normandy Experience trip here… we’d love to share the magic with you!
Read about other magical moments on European Experiences trips:
Kathy and Charley Wood founded European Experiences in 2006, offering week-long “slow tours” in some of the most beautiful areas of Europe. Their trips include The Luberon Experience in Provence, France, named one of the top 50 tours in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Kathy has personally organized and hosted over 150 Experience groups. She hosts Experience weeks in the Luberon, the Chianti region of Tuscany, Puglia, Alsace, the Dordogne, the Cotswolds, and Normandy. Charley is now mostly retired but continues to co-host The Cornwall Experience and our Christmas trips with Kathy every year.
Kathy has been traveling in Europe for 30+ years and loves sharing her special places in Europe with other travelers. The Woods have a second home in their beloved village of Bonnieux in the Luberon. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.