Why You Should Visit Mont St Michel - Al Fresco Holidays
Few places in France can set the imagination on fire quite like Mont St Michel. Indeed, it remains one of the country’s most enduring iconic sights, succeeded only by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The lofty arches, towering spires and soaring flying buttresses, all clinging precariously to the craggy rock of the island below, make the Abbey a truly unforgettable place to visit.
If you’re planning a family holiday to the northern coast of France this year, then make sure to incorporate a visit to Mont St Michel in your trip itinerary. Children and adults alike will be fascinated by the narrow, winding streets surrounding the abbey, not to mention the ancient building itself, which is regarded as one of the most significant Christian sites in the world. Quite simply, the place has atmosphere, and plenty of it!
Reasons to Visit the Ancient Abbey of Mont St Michel
Cycle in, and enjoy the view
If you enjoy cycling through scenic surroundings, then few locations come more scenic than the approach to Mont St Michel. Better still, cycling across to the island makes life considerably easier when you get there, as bicycle parking is plentiful, and close to the Mount itself.
The local food
If you’re concerned that the meals during the day will be of poor quality and at exorbitant ‘tourist’ prices, then now is the time to breathe a sigh of relief. Admittedly, prices are a little steeper than in other locations, but whilst on the Mont, you can enjoy locally sourced lamb, fresh seafood and the traditional omelettes for which the area is best known. Restaurant Le Mere Poulard offers a particularly fun ambiance, with a ‘theatre kitchen’, where kids will enjoy watching chefs in traditional costume, whipping eggs with great gusto (and noise!).
Of course, the main reason to go to the island is to visit the Abbey. According to legend, the Archangel Michael asked the local Bishop to build the abbey, insisting that it must be ‘built high’. By the look of the building, it would seem that the Bishop listened. Towering gothic turrets take up the skyline (even more ominously imposing on a cloudy day) and inside, the atmosphere is no less dramatic, with high, arched ceilings, beautiful cloisters and suitably damp and dark foundations. When in the Abbey, it is all too easy for children and grown ups alike to lose themselves in the atmosphere and imagine what life was like for an 8th century monk, within those walls.
The Église Abbatiale
The Abbey’s accompanying church is similarly impressive, and of particular interest to those who are interested in architecture. Inside, it is a strange and intriguing mix of austere Romanesque design, and the more flamboyant, bold gothic style.
The Human Hamster Wheel
It is as dreadful as its sounds, and as a result, children are bound to be thrilled when they face this diabolical relic from the French Revolution. During the Revolution, the Abbey was used as a prison, and the unfortunate inmates were forced to run four hours on end in the wheel, to lift supplies to and from the Mont.
Enjoy the bustle of the crowded streets
The narrow streets that surround the Abbey are always filled to the brim with visitors, but rather than avoiding the throngs, try to embrace them. The streets were always the centre of trade and bustling commerce, and wandering through them, it is easy to imagine how life might have been, for those who lived and worked beneath the shadow of the Abbey. There are also many souvenir shops and eateries to enjoy, whilst you explore.
Take a guided tour
As a general rule, when exploring somewhere with a rich and fascinating history, it helps to be in the company of someone that really knows what they are talking about. Thankfully, there are a number of excellent tour companies in the area, some of them specifically family friendly, who will happily take you around the Abbey and the surrounding streets, telling you the ancient tales and secrets of this mysterious island.
Mont St Michel is a spectacular place to visit, and even better, it is located close to some of northern France’s finest holiday hotspots. If you’re considering a holiday in France, and want the chance to incorporate a day trip to Mont St Michel as part of your experience, then a great location to head towards is the St Malo area, with its long, wind-swept beaches and vibrant seaside towns.
Looking for somewhere child-friendly to stay? A great option is Château des Ormes campsite, which has plenty of entertainment for the kids, whilst being within easy reach of the mystical Abbey of Mont St Michel.