The hotel was located on an island in the middle of Saumur. It was dark by the time we found it and got settled so there wasn’t time for sightseeing. (Andrew and I have added ‘visit Saumur and the Loire Valley’ to our to-do list) We did have an ‘interesting’ dining experience at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. The food was down home French (and nothing to write home about) but the décor was Wild West, Cowboys and Indians… very strange indeed.
The next morning we hit the local bakery and butcher for some picnic supplies and headed for Mont-St-Michel. Despite the convoy of tour buses and the signage for chambers d’Hôtes as far as the eye can see, there’s no doubt that the approach to the Mont is impressive.Mont-St-Michel is basically a rock, called Mont Tomb, which juts out of the sea at the mouth of the river Couesnon, in Normandy. In the 8th century, someone decided this was a great place to build an abbey. Over the centuries, the monastery grew and eventually a medieval town emerged from the rock. After the revolution, the abbey became a prison. These days it is a national monument visited by millions of tourists each year, via a causeway in the bay. The Mont takes its name from its patron saint whose gold statue now adorns the church steeple.
It is easy to see why enemies would be intimidated by this huge rock emerging from the mists of the bay. Crowned with the abbey, it looks like a dark, foreboding pyramid in the water. Surrounded by a walled fortress, the inhabitants were protected from any intruders, who they would have been able to see coming for miles, from the lookouts at the abbey.
We spent the better part of an afternoon, wandering through the narrow streets, now home only to souvenir shops and restaurants. We made our way through the abbey and tried to imagine what life would have been like here – cold and lonely would be my first guess.
Overall, Mont-St-Michel has rightfully earned its place on the list of France’s top tourist destinations. It was a truly spectacular sight.
Much less spectacular was the hotel that we stayed in that evening and the supper that we ate there. I would highly recommend staying and eating outside the village closest to the Mont, as things seem to be over-priced and bland.
The following morning we were up before the sun. As we were leaving town we were stopped by an early morning traffic jam – caused by the local shepherd.
We made our way north again to the D-Day beaches. It is difficult to imagine the devastation that occurred here as you wander through the prosperous little villages. But as you stand looking at the bombed out German bunkers and out over the coast-line, the near impossibility of the mission becomes clear.
We visited several sites that were of particular interest as Canadians. As I’m not the war buff of the family I’ll leave the details to Andrew. However we did spend an afternoon at the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer. This is a new museum, opened in 2003, which presents the war effort made by all Canadians, civilian and military alike, both at home and on the various fronts during the Second World War, as well as the manifold faces of contemporary Canadian society.
It was a well presented museum that really brought to life the challenges faced by not only the soldiers but Canada as a new nation. (I was even surprised to see a photograph taken at the fish plant in Maces Bay, outside my hometown of Saint John.)
That evening we stayed in another lovely little B&B called Les Granges, in Menilles. We were given a suite for 4 people that was two levels. The top floor had exposed wooden beams and a beautifully tiled bathroom. Our hostess was very friendly and helpful and booked us a table at a fantastic restaurant for supper.
At the Auberge des Roy we feasted on their specialty, foie gras, and regional cuisine, not to mention some stunning wine. It was a cozy place with a roaring fire, a resident dog and a chef that came to see that our meal was alright – It was definitely more than alright!
The following morning was, for me, one of the highlights of our trip. But you’ll just have to wait to read about it next time.
- Tour Daze France Part 1 – Avignon and the South of France
- Tour Daze France Part 2 – The Costa Brava, Spain
- Tour Daze France Part 3 – Barcelona, Spain
- Tour Daze France Part 4 – The Pyrenees to Pau, France
- Tour Daze France Part 5 – Mont-St-Michel and Normandy
- Tour Daze France Part 6 – Giverny & Versailles
- Tour Daze France Part 7 – Paris
- Tour Daze France Part 8 – Paris-Amsterdam
- Tour Daze France Part 9 – Final Days