Things to see and do - Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Normandy - A Getaway in La Mancha :
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Normandy - A Getaway in La Mancha
Normandy - A Getaway in La ManchaBy car, 260 km, 3 days
Skirting along the coast of Mont-St-Michel to the Normandy landing beaches, not forgetting the Channel Islands, is a real treat!Customise this route and add it to My travel book
This well fortified construction with its blocks of granite coming from Brittany and the Chausey islands is a tour de force. It was begun in the 11C with the building of a Church on the top of the rock. The Gothic abbey was built in the 13C at the same time as the battlements of «The Marvel». The current clock tower dates from 1897. Your visit is carried out in stages and allows you to discover the fortifications of the Abbey, the Church in which the chevet is a masterpiece of grace and lightness, The Marvel, which is the name of given a to Gothic buildings on the north side. This includes the cloister, which seems to be suspended between sea and sky and with its delicately chiselled sculptures it is a little miracle of harmony and the refectory crowned by a wood-panelled vault with diffuse light which never ceases to amaze. The Salle des Hotes (Hosts Room) where the abbots received important visitors is among the most elegant; divided in two by a tapestry, one part (with two large chimneys) served as a kitchen, the other served as a dining room. The vast knights' room, an «old scriptorium» of the monks does not lack attractions. Similarly you'll discover in the cellar, the old Romanesque abbey,(still charming) where a part of the monks dormitory still remains and the big wheel which was driven by prisoners and was used to bring up goods and provisions.
About 100km of coastline border the bay of the Mont-St-Michel. The islands, cliffs, beaches and dunes form a series of ecosystems which are home to many species of flora and fauna. This part of the coast rewards visitors with stunning views of the Mont-St-Michel and walks along pleasant paths between polders and grassy fields. The first thing to do, however, is enquire about tides. Their amplitude in the bay is considerable, and the difference in sea level between high and low tide can be over 14m, which is the record in France. As the sea bed is flat, the sea retreats a long way, leaving 15km of sand exposed, and the incoming tide is very fast. While speeds of up to 25 to 30kph have been recorded, the average speed is about 3.75kph - the speed of a person walking. Quicksand is another important phenomenon in the bay. For decades the Mount has been silting up, and the sea deposits around 1 000 000m3 of sediment in the bay every year. Mankind is partly to be blamed because from the mid-19C to 1969, a certain number of constructions were built that accelerated the formation of polders (channels for navigation of the River Couesnon, a dike and a dam). Do not think of crossing the bay without a guide.
From rue Lecarpentier, one skirts the South rampart to place de l'Isthme. From here, the view extends to the coast of Britanny (viewing table). Lower down lies the former "Englishmen's trench". The upper town is located within the ramparts. The landscape is rather austere; however, there is a fine view out to sea with the Chausey islands in the distance. Further along, rue St-Jean is lined with two ancient houses (numbers 3 and 7). The tour ends with the "montée du parvis " which reveals a half-timbered house.
Begun in 1056, this cathedral is renowned for its elegant proportions, purity of design and profusion of ascending lines, culminating in 78m-high spires. The bold turreted lantern tower, noted for its slender ribbing, stands at a height of 41m at the transept crossing. Pause at the beginning of the nave for a remarkable overall picture of this singular building bathed in light. The upper storeys offer the chance of discovering the Romanesque parts of the edifice. They also command a superb panorama of the coast and the Channel Islands.
Words cannot describe the effect of this embroidered tapestry on a 70 metre band of linen. 58 moving, epic and amusing scenes show stories such as the rivalry between Harold and William, an audience with William, Mont Saint-Michel, the death of Edward the Confessor, the appearance of Halley's Comet, the journey across the Channel and the march to Hastings, the battle and the death of Harold. This marvellous comic strip (mythically attributed to Queen Mathilde but probably made in England by a Saxon workshop) is, apart from its artistic value, an unequalled historical and ethnographical document. It is hangining in the William the Conqueror Centre, in the former great seminary and, before reaching the tapestry itself, you walk through a very useful exhibition giving the historical context of the age - the Viking invasions, military and historical facts, England's political and social organisation after the defeat by William, the why and wherefore of this marvellous work of art which was first and foremost at the time an instrument of propaganda.
Heavily defended by the Germans, this headland was an ideal post from which to survey the whole coast. It was here that the American troops landed on the dawn of 6 June 1944. A memorial in the form of a granite arrow on the edge of the cliff marks the spot and commands excellent views out to sea as far as the Cotentin peninsula.
Tatihou Island is easily accessible by amphibious vehicle. If the tide allows it, it is even possible to reach it on foot! Once there, you will discover the Regional Maritime Museum. Its collections illustrate the island's history as well as fishing techniques in the Channel. The island also boasts a maritime garden (many species of coastal flora) and a protected nature area covering 20ha (heathland, dunes, shores and bird sanctuary). It is possible to climb to the top of the tower of the former Vauban Fort (bookshop, cafeteria) in order to see La Hougue.