Saturday, April 25, 2009
LE MONT SAINT MICHEL & DINAN
Thursday, April 23, 2009 traveling west to Le Mont Saint Michel
This morning we took the autoroute west out of Caen, but unlike the rest of France, there are no tolls to be paid for using the autoroutes in Brittany. A little benefit in the Brittany area of France (the north west corner); a right given to this area for “free roads” was gained in 1491 when the French King Charles VIII forced the fourteen year old Duchess Anne to marry him. This union made Brittany a part of France and the Queen compensated her subjects with a few special bonuses!
After we passed Avranches we veered off the highway unto the country roads…and I’m talking country…one of those roads where you have to pull over when passing an oncoming vehicle! Fortunately the traffic was nearly non existence and we had the road pretty much to ourselves.
Located not far from the renowned Le Mont Saint Michel, near the tiny village of Huisnes-sur-Mer; the German War Graves Commission commenced work in 1956 to bring the fallen German soldiers together from small plots throughout Normandy into six cemeteries. This one is designed as a circular crypt with two layers that house the remains of nearly twelve thousand German soldiers. At the end of the second level there is a viewing area of Le Mont Saint Michel in the distance. There is a photo in the slideshow that is hazy but taken from the German Cemetery.
Back on the country road to look for the American Cemetery but without any luck and suddenly we were at the causeway leading towards Le Mont Saint Michel. The sun is shining and we enjoyed the view all along the route that connects the mainland with the “island”. Today the tide was extremely low and people were enjoying the opportunity to walk far and wide on the marshy sand for unusual views of St. Michel.
We were able to park very near the entrance to the village at the base of the Abbey; this was great as I had secretly planned to get Mary to walk all the way up and actually tour the Abbey at the top! Many, many steps later, she was so glad I hadn’t told her just how many steps, we walked into the Chapel of the Abbey during our tour and found that Mass had just begun. Of course, we stayed for the whole Mass and it was a chilling experience in more ways than one. I was probably the only one there without a jacket and it was very cool in the old stone building. But, with four monks and half a dozen nuns, the music made the chills worthwhile! The Mass was definitely an unexpected added experience.
We decided to stop at one of the little Crepiere Shops and purchased a ham and cheese crepe to eat for a late lunch as we continued our walk back to the car. We were long gone before the tide came in but we did so enjoyed our three hour adventure at Le Mont Saint Michel!
Back on the highway; the big two lane one with restricted entrance made the next fifty miles fly as we headed towards our Formule One Hotel between Dinard and Saint Malo. The hotel is very nice and only a block from the supermarket so we’re set for the next three nights. And so ends another day that began in Normandy and ended in Brittany.
Friday, April 24, 2009 Dinan and English Channel Mudflats
Sun was out early when we awoke about eight; it’s amazing how late the sun is out in the evening, at nine o’clock last night it was still daylight. But then I remember when I was here in 2004 in July, it didn’t get dark until nearly midnight! Something about the northern equinox I think.
Around nine we headed out to the main highway towards Dinan; a city that is caught in the middle ages. Since there was little or no damage to it during the war, you know that what you are seeing is original! The town dates back to medieval times in the ninth century give or take a century. There is a city wall complete with ramparts connecting the different towers that divide the old town with the port town. The old town inside of the ramparts was always safe but the port town was the victim of many invasions over the centuries.
There is a long, narrow and very steep street that connects the two parts of town; dangerous to walk when raining and treacherous for old ladies who tend to trip on the cobblestones. So locked arm in arm, we slowly descended all the way to the port from the old town above. With one photo opportunity after another it was easy to go slowly and then Mary spotted a B&B that looked perfect for her plan to exchange novels as we’d finished reading both of our books; I didn’t think she’d find someone exchange books.
Well…at the very first stop they were very happy to help us once she understood what we wanted to do. Mary again, with no French language skills, had managed to convey what we wanted. We walked away with photos, new novels to read; she actually gave us three for two, and a promise to put her B&B on our blogspot for being so nice. It was at the Le Logis du Jerzual, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and their site is: www.logis-du-jerzual.com . Highly recommend them if you’re ever in the area.
Soon we were at the Port on the river and stopped to enjoy a cup of coffee before we elected to walk along the river from the port until we reached a switch back trail that took us up to a road from where we walked back into the old town at the top. After visiting the Church of St. Sauveur, dated back to the year 1000 or so, we found our car and headed back towards Dinard and our hotel.
Along the way we decided to head towards the English Channel and see what we could see. What we did see were vast mud flats as the tide was out, many small villages, and passed many tractors going between their fields. Brittany is known for the influence of their Irish heritage; Mary commented that all we needed to see was a thatched roof to feel like we were in Ireland. You guessed it; we saw two houses with thatched roofs before we arrived back in Dinard.
In Dinard we also stopped along a beach, the sun was shining brightly; the tide was still out so the water was at least six blocks away from the beach with many boats sitting on the mud flats in between Dinard and St.Malo across the bay. And, on the beach a bikini! There were about a few people taking advantage of the warm weather for some sun bathing on the sand. We came back to the same beach about three hours later and the water was lapping the sandy beach and dozen of people were enjoying the sun. The tide had come in and filled the bay!
In our photos today we’ve included a sign about the “round-de-rounds”…very few stop signs as they use round circles at almost all of the intersections. Just go around until you find the directional sign you need; it’s ok to go round more than once! But, no right turns on the red lights. Also, because of the small cars every stoplight has a miniature light low on the pole so that you can see them from your car. Also, crosswalks are not at the corner but about six feet from the corner; actually much safer for both the car and the pedestrian. Probably more information than you need!