Mont-Saint-Michel – Haute-Normandie, France

A Gothic Wonder Surrounded by Galloping Tides

Ranking among the wonders of the Western world, the fortified island- village of Mont-Saint-Michel is France’s most-visited site, perched on a giant granite outcropping rising from a flat seabed. Its sheer audacity and engineering amaze those approaching it from the mile-long causeway (soon to be re­placed by a bridge) that links it to the mainland. The perspective changes as one explores the narrow streets lined with souvenir and curio shops on this tiny island of 100 inhabitants.

Much has been made of the dan­gerous “galloping” tides that can vary 50 feet between high and low tide. When the tide is out, 10 miles of sand are laid bare, leaving the Gothic and Romanesque abbey that sits 500 feet above sea level hauntingly isolated against a dramatic sky. Ramparts begun in the 13th century ring the mountain and the Benedictine abbey and gardens that mark the site where Michael the Archangel is said to have appeared in A.D, 708.

In addition to the unique setting, what has drawn tourists over the cen­turies is the ensemble of 13th-century buildings within the abbey called La Merveille (The Marvel), a Gothic masterpiece. The islet’s other masterpiece is La Mere Poulard’s souffle-like omelets, whose “secret recipe” has something to do with cooking in a copper skillet over an open oak fire. Since 1888, this restaurant/inn has been the best place to dine or spend the night. Here you can experience the silent magic of a near deserted Mont-Saint-Michel in the late evening hours.

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