Shoe Time at Mont St Michel
On our way we stopped at Rennes, the capital of Brittany. A lively town with many gothic churches, lots of colorful half-timbered buildings, and a striking opera house built in 1836, Rennes also has wonderful parks. The sun came out and the day warmed up. Finally, we were able to leave our coats and extra sweaters behind. I've been wearing two shirts, two sweaters and a coat almost everyday in Brittany. Locals tell us that they had an early summer-from early April to early June (just before we arrived), the temperatures were high and they were in serious drought conditions. Winter, with its high winds, rain and chilly temps, arrived the week before we got here.
At low tide, Mont Saint-Michel rises out of the mudflats like a fairytale castle. It's a marvel of design and engineering-huge and intricate. According to accounts, the Archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert in 708 suggesting he build a chapel in his name. When St. Aubert ignored this proposal, the Archangel put a finger through his skull. That friendly persuasion was all St Aubert needed. The chapel was dedicated in 709. The simple chapel grew through the years an abbey of great significance. Pilgrims came from all Christendom to pray and receive blessings. At the time of the French Revolution, the abbey was closed and the building became a prison for clergy opponents of the republican government.
We got to Mont Saint-Michel mid-day on a weekday. The parking lots were jammed and the single street running through the small village teemed with people from all over the world. It felt like Disneyland. Restaurants and shops selling trinkets, memorabilia, and Normand biscuits line the narrow street. It's quite a hike up to the abbey itself. The further up you walk, the fewer people there are, but it's still crazy. Our suggestion is to be the first one in the parking lot the morning you visit and get into and out of Mont Saint-Michel before the lunchtime crowds arrive.
Saint-Malo, a walled port city about twenty minutes west, struck the right note. Tourists-yes, but also people living here to give it heart. We found our hotel, La Villefromoy, about a block from the beach and a thirty-minute walk from the city center. Fabulous service, good breakfast, and a good-sized room made for a wonderful stay. We highly recommend you stay here next time you visit St-Malo.
For dinner we walked some twenty minutes down the wide concrete path along the sea to the Brasserie du Sillon. It's a tricky call: great ambiance and amazing food almost make up for the really terrible service. I would go back again even knowing that the waiters are distracted, unhappy and inattentive. We loved our wine, a 2009 Sanserre from Domaine Vacheron et fils Figerons-red with good body and flavor yet gentle enough to work with the seafood. And Andria's dessert took the prize-a meringue crumbled in the bottom of a glass with caramel ice cream and chestnut cream. Do try it. Maybe you'll get lucky with service and be able to enjoy this delicious food.