Introducing Mont St-Michel
The slender towers and sky-scraping turrets of the abbey of Mont St-Michel are one of the classic images of northern France. Rising from flat white sands, the abbey sits atop a small island encircled by stout ramparts and battlements, connected to the mainland by an old causeway. Legend has it that the abbey was founded in the 8th century, when Aubert, the bishop of Avranches, was visited by the Archangel Michael in a dream; to this day the abbey is still crowned by a gilded copper statue of Michael slaying a dragon, symbolising the triumph of good over evil.
The bay around Mont St-Michel is famed for its extraordinary tides. Depending on the season and the gravitational pull of the moon, the difference between low and high tides can reach 15m, although the Mont is only completely surrounded by the sea during seasonal equinoxes. Regardless of the time of year, the waters sweep in at an astonishing rate; at low tide the Mont can be surrounded by bare sand for miles around, but at high tide, barely six hours later, the whole bay is often entirely submerged by the sea.
There are a few expensive hotels around the base of the Mont itself, but most people choose to stay at Beauvoir, right opposite the Mont, or Pontorson, about 5 miles inland from the bay. Unsurprisingly, for one of France’s top tourist attractions, the Mont is always packed with coach tours and bellowing kids at the start of the day – you’ll enjoy a much quieter visit if you turn up in late afternoon.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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