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July 18, 2015 / Jim Fenton

Europe Day 11: Bayeux and Mont Saint Michel

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nearing the midpoint of our trip, it’s time to do laundry. We found a laundromat downtown and took care of that chore.

L'Aure passing through Bayeux

L’Aure passing through Bayeux

While the laundry was washing, we got a better look at Bayeux. It’s a bigger city than it first appeared last night, but still a very pleasant size. It’s also more tourist-focused than was immediately apparent, largely due to proximity to the D-Day beaches. Still, the tourist focus is well managed, low-key, and doesn’t completely ruin the character of the town as so often happens. The city center is dominated by a huge, attractive cathedral, which we will definitely explore. We walked down the primary shopping street and found a wide variety of small shops, then discovered a “farmers market” a block or so off the street which had a wonderful selection of produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, and some prepared food (particularly paella) as well as clothing and other things. It was the sort of market that you picture when you think of France.

One of the advantages of having a flexible itinerary as we have is the ability to extend the stay at places that are really nice. I inquired and we arranged to stay three rather than the planned two nights in Bayeux, both because the hotel is so nice and because there is so much to do and see.

Cloister and garden at the Mont Saint Michel abbey

Cloister and garden at the Mont Saint Michel abbey

After a quick lunch, we headed off to Mont Saint Michel, about a 1 1/2 hour drive. The car came with a navigation system, and we decided to use it; it sent us down some farm roads and we began to wonder if we were lost, but we were fine. In the process, we got to see the rural life of Normandy. The only hassle with the navigation system was when it tried to route us down a bicycle path as we approached Mont Saint Michel. Later we concluded it was a recently decommissioned street.

Mont Saint Michel is a medieval monastery built on an island (with a land bridge at low tide) just off the coast. Today it is connected by a bridge used mostly by shuttle buses; they’re removing a causeway that had caused the bay to silt up. We parked and took one of the shuttles to the island.

The abbey is in the center, at the top of a steep hill. We walked past many tourist shops and up many steps to get there. The tour takes visitors through much of the abbey, which like many others was built (and rebuilt) over several centuries in a mixture of Roman and Gothic architectural styles. Different rooms held chapels, rooms for the monks to do their work, and a cloister adjoining a small garden. It was a marvel of engineering as well, with impossibly tall stone walls towering over us. We were very fortunate to have small crowds (probably because we were there very late in the day) and clear weather to look out.


Mont Saint Michel

The return trip was uneventful but we returned rather late. There were still a few restaurants open, and we got some pizza before retiring back to our room.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Europe. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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