Our third day in Normandy we drove from our hotel at Gold Beach to the medieval island abbey of Mont Saint Michel.
Pretty much it’s just a small island, that is completely covered by the labyrinth of a walled-town that is draped over the hill of the island. It’s narrow streets, stairs, stone walls, and ancient buildings no matter where you look.
I remember being surprised years ago when I learned that it was the second most visited tourist site in France (after le Tour Eiffel). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and receives 3.5 million visitors to its tiny island home every year.
There has been a church here since the year 709, with major additions in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. It was given military fortifications in the 14th century, had Romanesque parts replaced by Gothic in the 15th, was used as a prison during the French Revolution, then finally restored in the 1800’s.
So yeah – it’s been there for a while – and yeah – even my renovation projects are quicker than that!
On our way back from Mont Saint Michel, we drove through Bayeux, so we stopped in to look at the Commonwealth Cemetery, took a better look at the Cathedral and had a nice traditional crêpes for supper.
The next morning we had to get the car back to Caen, stopping at a Canadian war cemetery on the way.
We looked around Caen, saw the cathedral that still stands in spite of the damage it took from Allied bombing, and a Chateau that was built by William the Conqueror.
Strange place Caen, when you stand atop the walls of the chateau and look out, you can see just a hand-full of buildings that predate the war. This city which was built up in the middle-ages, was levelled by Allied bombing and the subsequent battle. It strangely doesn’t really look like a French city, there are just no old buildings except for the few churches that seemed to have survived.
Basically this city was beaten down with an amazing force – essentially levelling a city that had been a local, regional and even national seat of power for centuries.
As we wondered back towards the train station, we got caught in a downpour – but it was the only rain we had the whole time, so we were quite fortunate.
Then back onto our train to Paris, and a TGV home.