[highlight color=”black”]WEDNESDAY WANDERLUST[/highlight]

Close your eyes and imagine an island destination. What do you see? If you’re a normal person, I bet you’re looking at the warm sun beating down on your perfectly bronzed skin, palm fronds rustling in the gentle sea breeze, and bottomless margarita glasses that make you feel like it’s Spring Break ’97 again. I, apparently, am not a normal person because the island I’m envisioning — Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of northern France — is a secluded fortress surrounded by an unforgiving sea.

There may not be any margaritas or bikini-baring opportunities there, but hear me out.

According to Catholic myth, the archangel Michael came to St. Aubert of Avranches in the year 708 and commanded him to build a church on this island situated in the marshes of Normandy. St. Aubert did not take his task very seriously at first, failing to comply with the demand until Big Mike took his angelic finger and burned a hole in the poor guy’s head. Skull allegedly agape, St. Aubert built a small place of worship, and over the next several centuries his abbey was built up into the towering structure you see today.

During this period of growth a small village sprouted up around the base of the abbey, and during the Hundred Years War the whole island was surrounded by the characteristic stone fortifications. The result is and impressive structure jutting out from the sea, as seen below:

One of the most interesting aspects of Mont Saint-Michel is actually outside of its daunting walls. Because it is a tidal island, the silty meadow surrounding its base is completely submerged in sea water at certain times of the day, resulting in a drastically different view from the top of the abbey depending on the moon’s influence on the tide. This sounds pretty whimsical, however before a permanent causeway was constructed, the island was completely cut off from the mainland during high tides.

Despite the abbey’s daunting height, Mont Saint-Michel itself is very small and thus the best way to experience the island is to simply wander around. As to be expected in a location so old, all of the streets are narrow, winding, and perfect for exploration. Depending on which way you turn, you could wind up in a packed commercial road jammed with visitors or a mountain-hugging path overlooking hidden cemeteries and the homes of some of the island’s 50 or so permanent inhabitants.

Feeling up for a visit? Take note: as amazing as Mont Saint-Michel is, there really is no reason to plan anything longer than a day trip. Sure, it could take days to wander around all of the medieval pathways, but the inhabited part of the island is highly geared toward tourists and can get annoying during an extended stay. We recommend to get in, experience the awesomeness for a few hours, then get out before you get swarmed by tourists, swept away by high tide, or scorched in the face by Archangel Michael’s molten index finger.

Photos courtesy of Pépé Ciseaux via Flickr (CC BY 3.0)

Steven tried out for The Amazing Race one time and was denied. We're not saying this is why he started this site, but it may have been a contributing factor in his decision to explore the world online and share his travel inspiration with others.


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