Normandy With Kids Part II: Mont Saint Michel

by farrah on May 14, 2014 · 14 comments

About an hour west of Bayeux you’ll find something pretty incredible on the horizon. To be honest, I didn’t even know Mont Saint Michel existed before sitting down with some YouTube videos prior to the Normandy trip. I couldn’t believe that the abbey on the rock/island could possibly be real. I had to see it for myself. Saturday (the last full day of our excursion) we trekked the two hours from the cottage to see what all the fuss was about.

Mont Saint Michel

It was worth it. Historically, we learned that Mont Saint Michel was basically founded according to tradition after three dreams the bishop of Avranches had in the year 708. From the beginning it became a major pilgrimage center. The pre-Romanesque abbey church was built before the year one thousand. For more information on the history of Mont Saint Michel, I encourage to read about it here.

Mont Saint Michel

We took the advice of our D-Day tour guide (post coming soon) and found the main parking lot to take the shuttle bus over to Mont Saint Michel. You have the option of walking 40 minutes from the parking lot as well, but with the boys and no stroller it wasn’t going to happen. The shuttle busses run constantly and drop you just a short hike to the entrance.

Once inside, the tourism office is immediately up a few stairs to your left. Go inside and ask for a map- this will help you understand the layout of the village and where to go. Once you’re in, take it all in. There will be people bustling everywhere and cafes galore in case you need some refreshment right away.

Mont Saint Michel

There are shops of all kinds- and although I understand that touristy trinket stalls are everywhere, I did like the idea that shopkeepers have been selling their wares to pilgrims for hundreds of years in this fashion, so even though they might be considered cheap and tacky- it’s the tradition that I appreciated.

Mont Saint Michel

The narrow street will have small alleys on each side- and you will see many small hotels where you can actually stay on the island. I didn’t know you could do that, what fun it would be!

Mont Saint Michel

Be prepared for it to be a very narrow walk uphill- but still even with my father and the boys on foot we managed it. There will be museums here and there of all kinds (medieval history, etc) but it’s further up the top of the hill where you will find the entrance to the abbey itself. We did not go on a tour there- but still managed to walk up rather far and see the view and the outer rings of the abbey. Spectacular, all around.

Mont Saint Michel

It was rather windy and chilly that day- but once you start the climb and if the sun is shining you will warm up quickly! We all removed our coats once we started the walk down- and found a friendly little brassiere where we popped in for some ice cream and cider. The cider is a big deal in this area- I’m sure some are stronger than others, but the one I tried was a 4% alcohol content. Note- this is not cider for kids 🙂

Mont Saint Michel

Overall, we had a wonderful time- and if you don’t go into the abbey or other museums, all you have to pay for is parking. There is no additional admission fee to explore the island. Upon leaving, I had to laugh when we saw this gentleman, as he has a striking resemblance to a certain George R.R. Martin. Considering the location, I imagined it was really him scouting out the location for a setting in the next book. A girl can dream, can’t she?

We took a shuttle back to the parking lot and then drove over to a regional roadside stand to bring home a bottle of cider for ourselves. If you find yourself in the Normandy region- it really is worth the trip to go and see Mont Saint Michel.

Tips:

  • Dress in layers
  • I’d advise against dragging a stroller along. I saw one couple with a double wide and it looked nearly impossible to lug up the steps. There are many places to take breaks, so if you can avoid doing so- don’t bring it.
  • Watch your pockets! With such thick crowds and such a narrow walkway- it is easy picking for a pickpocket.
  • Personally I do not feel it is very wheelchair accessible, but I could be wrong.
  • There are pay-to-use public restrooms right at the entry.
  • Plan to visit for a few hours. For our group of 6, two hours seemed to be just enough without going to a museum.
  • You can also hire a guide to walk barefoot (or in mud shoes) in the footsteps of the pilgrims around area. Look here for details.

Mont Saint Michel

At the end of the day, fun was had by all and we’re still smiling!

Have you ever been? Tell me about your experience.

All photos taken by me.

This is part two in a three part series on Normandy With Kids. You can find Part I here

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeni May 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

I’ve seen Normandy recently in “Band of Brothers” series and your photo depicts another story. Awesome place to be.

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2 farrah May 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

I really want to watch that now that we’ve been there. I also need to watch Saving Private Ryan as well- your comment is making me glad that I am saving our D-Day tour and the American Cemetery part for last. It’s what everyone associates with ‘Normandy’ in general- however there is so much more as well. The juxtaposition of what happened there- to what it is now is truly incredible.

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3 Keren May 14, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I loved Mount St Michel when my husband and I went a few years ago. We were there at the exact same time of year.

Our favorite part was listening to monks since in a chapel in the Abbey. It was otherworldly.

I will say that it was not wheel chair or handicap assessable. My husband re-blew out his knees (old college athletic injury) right before we left. Not wanting to delay our honeymoon my husband decided to travel with a wheelchair and a cane. We had to leave to wheel chair in the car and he depended heavily on the cane. Luckily their are a lot of places to take breaks and rest. He was a trooper and made it all the way to the top and did the abbey tour.

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4 farrah May 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Ah, thank you for that. I really didn’t see how it would be possible considering all of the steps and lack of a ramp. Glad you had a wonderful experience as well!

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5 Caitlyn May 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm

It looks wonderful! Really enjoying your posts on Normandy – we had a trip planned for there in early March but we had to cancel as I’d just started a new job. Planning it all was making me anxious – I didn’t know where to stay and how far everything of interest was to each other, so thankyou!

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6 farrah May 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm

So glad you’ve found them useful! I am really excited and proud of this trip- it meant so much to my family, and in particular my father. I hope you can get there!

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7 Ann May 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm

This place is one of my dream destinations. I can’t wait to go someday. Just need to wait a few more months or so until the baby can keep up!

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8 farrah May 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm

That sounds like a great idea. It’s doable with a wearable baby for sure- but the ones that can’t yet walk so deftly it would indeed be a challenge 🙂

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9 Cindy Brooks May 15, 2014 at 1:59 am

Of all the places we’ve been in the world, Mount St Michel is one of my favorites. I’m sorry you weren’t able to visit the abbey, it is amazing!

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10 farrah May 15, 2014 at 7:16 am

Oh I’m so glad to hear that you liked it 🙂 I know- I was disappointed, but I felt like we just wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate it or take it in with the boys. I’m equally sad that I didn’t see the Bayeux Tapestry, so maybe (maybe?) we’ll have to return to the region someday and I’ll see both 🙂

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11 Chamisa May 15, 2014 at 11:28 am

Wow, this is definitely being added to our must-do list! Our boys would love exploring the island. And I second the other comment – must watch Band of Brothers now that you’ve been to Normandy.

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12 farrah May 15, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Last night I watched Saving Private Ryan for the first time since I saw it in the theater like 10+ years ago. I am torn between if I wish I watched it before we went, or glad that I watched it after. Either way- it has given me so much to think about. I’m waiting for my husband to come home and watch Band of Brothers with me after his work trip.

And you totally have to go here! If you go when it’s warm I think they’d love the ‘mud trek’ too 🙂

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13 Christie May 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I love Mont St. Michel! This brought back so many memories. Thank you for the post and the great pictures!

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14 Corinne May 17, 2014 at 7:08 am

Farrah, I’m practically chomping at the bit. Mont St. Michel is on our itinerary for August! It seems so far away. I can’t wait to go. It looks like it will be crowded…oh well.

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