Yes! Today is the day to finally go to Le Mont Saint Michel! I was so excited, I almost peed myself. Just kidding... but really. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies.. not a cloud in sight. Bert and I drove from Cancale to the parking outside (12 euros fixed rate for 24 hours), which is 2.5 km away to the island. There is a free shuttle that leaves directly from the car park and drops you off about a quarter mile away from the main entrance. The whole bus ride, I could not contain my excitement. I was so excited to see this magical island up close and personal. As I got off the bus, there were just swarms of people everywhere... Hundreds... thousands... CHINESE PEOPLE... EVERYWHERE!!!! I am sort of joking, but I am actually 100% serious. From the initial look of the island, I was really disappointed. There were just so many people to the point where you cannot even get a decent photo without a nose, an arm, a leg, a full body all from different people getting into your photo (reminiscent of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. OMG hate that place). There was mad construction not only on the island, but along the road leading to the island. It looked like they were building a tram track from main land to the city... what a shame! It really made me disappointed and the charm of the island started to fade from my mind. Something that did help to make me feel a little bit better was a group of old Asian women that took me and Bert's photo. They all shouted in a synchronized manner with spirit hands and fingers waving, "ONE... TWO... TREE... SMIL-EULLLLL!!!" It was so cute that even Bert had to smile. He always makes fun of me for being "Chinese" when I'm actually Korean... but deep down inside, he loves Chinese people... and Koreans. ;-)
Within the city, there are extremely narrow streets lined with tourist shop after tourist shop filled with Le Mont Saint Michel merchandise (probably all made in China. That's how I feel about all tourist gifts... My friends get mad at me for ruining it by saying "Oh you want to buy that? It's probably made in China anyway" haha). It was packed, shoulder to shoulder and there was literally no way to get past anyone through the main entrance street. This also upset me... I guess I wanted a fairy tale castle where I can freely prance around laughing and giggling with magical birds flying around my head and singing my own theme song (like in Disney movies), but there was definitely no room for that here.
Once you pass through the main street, there are so many little alleys that you can take that turn and wind into other alleys. You can get lost walking around this little island. I actually was trying to find a spot on this island with some sort of awesome view to redeem the magical image I initially thought Mont St Michel had... but MSM had failed me. I ended up at the wrong corner of the island as all I could see was the view in front with all the Chinese tourists and construction. I was literally disgusted at how much construction there was. It truly destroyed my conception of this alluring place. Before this trip, I have been drooling over the online images of this place for years, which was why I had it on my life bucket list of places to go see. Thus seeing these roads, train tracks, and scaffolding really shattered what I have been imagining in my head.
I tried to stay positive and keep an open mind, so I forced Bert to go into the Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel with me. For Europeans under 26, it is free entrance, but for a foreigner, it costs an affordable 5,50EU which also included a self guided tour headset (very nice!). It was very beautiful inside, but what I thought was the the true beauty was when you went outside. The view was phenomenal. It was a blur as to where the water and sky met along the horizon. Just like all the other cities I visited in Normandie, the tide was slowly creeping back so it looked like the sky was coming closer and closer to you, engulfing you. This, right here, is where the magic of Le Mont Michel was saved for me.
Bert and I enjoyed our last meal together inside the Mont Saint Michel. He really wanted me to try the traditional French omelette, but I was really wanting to eat French mussels again, so we got both... so I can eat both :). I know I'm a fatty... DON'T JUDGE ME. Just an FYI, if you are planning on eating inside the island, it will be a pricey (I think about 50-60 euros for two meals), but it is definitely worth it. Who eats a meal inside the MSM?! NO ONE. Well, lots of Chinese tourists, but you get the gist.
I was really sad to leave as I was trying to grasp the little magic that had been restored with the view from the top of the abbey... trying to savor that feeling... I was desperately trying to get a photo of the island just like the ones I've seen on google search and all over the postcards in the tourist shops so I could leave this place with the same feeling as I had when I first saw it with the sheep pasture yesterday. But with the time restraints, Bert was pushing to go, and I was a sad Chinese girl. On the way out, he knew I was disappointed, so he brought me back to the same sheep pasture to get a photo from there. This was when I remembered a lecture I had in college from Larry. Larry Speck, a renown architect and speaker most famously known by UT students for teaching Architecture and Society, discussed what was so magnificent about this island.
"That part of the coast of France is flat and out of that is this enormous building growing out of the natural order. It is all about rusting out of the flat plane and reaching out and up into the sky. When you reach the top, you're at the top of the world. You can see forever. It's this connectivity with this broad horizon of this huge sky is what this architecture is about."
Larry, you are always right. Thank you for being awesome and lecturing in such a nice, soft voice to put me to sleep in class. Just kidding. But seriously, Larry Speck, you are so wise. This was exactly how I felt. For me, the enchantment inside this place was being able to reach the top and seeing forever, beauty was found by viewing from a distance. Maybe it's not what's literally inside the island that gives it this dreamy aura, but the whole image is what elicits the feeling of wonder. Could this possibly be a reflection on my life as well? Maybe there are some things in life that look great and alluring from a far or looking out, but not the same when actually in it? It really got me thinking and reflecting on my life.
This 3 day long journey to Le Mont Saint Michel was remarkable and unforgettable. I can truly say that I appreciate more of this country and my love for France has grown immensely (especially since I know about Bordeaux wine now ;) ). I really enjoyed me and Bert's adventure, driving through the countryside, playing on the beach, drinking wine, and eating delectable French cuisine. This trip was filled with smiles, laughter, and no stress and this is all thanks to my amazing private local French tour guide, Bertrand. This trip had been significant in that I was able to add another check on my life bucket list and experience French life outside of Paris, but what was most significant was the company I was with. Thank you so much Bertrand for all the efforts and time you took to show me the "real" France through the food, the sights you took me to see, for helping me accomplish one more check, and for spending this magical moment with me... Wouldn't have had it any other way :)