Making our way in my father-in-law’s Renault, the five of us start our pilgrimage to France’s most visited site outside of Paris. Upon approach on the winding road that leads to the abbey we could smell the clean salt air and catch quick glimpses of it at every turn.
Majestically rising up out of the sea, Mont St. Michel is a Benedictine abbey of the Middle Ages on a rocky island off the Norman coast of France. The isolation of this island attracted many pilgrims in its day where one could pray to God and His archangel St. Michel. Nowadays, because of a causeway to allow easy access for tourists and increased sheep farming, Le Mont has lost some of this isolation. Lorraine, my mother-in-law (a.k.a. the Martha Stewart of France) informs me the sheep that graze on the salty marshes have a special flavor to them.
Culinary references aside, once inside the ramparts there is a well-preserved town with many shops and restaurants in the nooks and crannies. My nephew, Robert, had fun making his way with us in tow and our brisk climb was rewarded by the abbey itself.
Inside the gates to the abbey we were able to meander in and out of the fortress on a self-guided tour enjoying breezy views of the sea contrasted with the quiet solitude inside. The change in architecture over the ages was perceptible as we made our way from Romanesque to Gothic ending in a peaceful and serene cloister where the monks would exercise, converse and meditate. We were grateful to have such a place to sit and meditate on our tired feet while watching Robert turn cartwheels on the lawn with the other children.
Touristy? You bet! But I wouldn’t change that day for anything.