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Ideas for the Kids in Lower Normandy

There is plenty for the kids to enjoy during your stay at La Merveille. These are just a few of the activities and visits that we can recommend. Click here

Our Guide to the Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches

Visit the Landing Beaches from La Merveille and follow our recommendations.
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Exploring the Mont St-Michel

January 2nd, 2015 by Roger in Local News, Mont St-Michel

Spend a full day exploring The Mount

A trip to Mont St-Michel used to start with driving over the 1km causeway that links the island to mainland. The original thin natural land-bridge used to be covered during high tide, isolating the Mount, and following construction of the causeway you were safely directed to the appropriate car park by the walls, but not any more!

A visit to Mont St Michel starts today from the newly built car parks some 3 kilometres from the Mont. A charge of 12 euros here allows you to travel for ‘free’ on the shuttles (buses) that are parked close by. The shuttles take you along the new causeway (opened December 2014) stopping 300 metres short of the entrance to the Mont. The last stage of your journey involves a short walk across the recently constructed bridge. The end result being that once again the Mont St Michel will appear as an island with just the bridge crossing connecting it to the mainland.

On entering the Mount’s protective walls through the Boulevard Gate, and then the King’s Gate fortified with its portcullis, you continue up the narrow winding Grand Rue (Main Street) which leads up through the medieval 15th and 16th century village. Along both sides are arrayed a variety of boutique and souvenir shops as well as several restaurants including traditional pancake snack-bars right up to 5-star silver service with stunning views overlooking Mont-Saint-Michel bay. There are also a few hotels tucked into the walls if you fancy a truly memorable overnight stay.

Further up you reach the 15th century parish church of St Pierre (the patron saint of fishermen) and then four different museums within the walls of the Mount:

  • Archéoscope – The construction and history of Mont St Michel;
  • Maritime Museum – Discover the 12m tidal range in the bay and the massive works to restore the maritime character of the Mont Saint-Michel;
  • Museum of History – A series of collections of weapons, paintings, sculptures in some of the prisons and dungeons of the Mount;
  • Tiphaine’s house – Furniture’s, paintings and tapestries from the 14th century residence that Bertrand Duguesclin had built for his wife Tiphaine.

Finally you reach the Grande Degre (Grand Staircase) which leads up to the Merveille (literally ‘marvel’) the 3-storey 12th century monastery and abbey that crowns the hilltop. You can walk round the abbey either unaccompanied using the supplied guide booklet, or for a small supplement there’s an audio-guide tour available in English as well as French.

Mont St Michel is open every day of the year apart from the 1st of January, the 1st of May and the 25th of December.

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ALL CHANGE AT MONT-SAINT-MICHEL

January 2nd, 2015 by Roger in Mont St-Michel

 

 

A project has been under way since 2005 to restore the maritime character of Mont St Michel. A completely new discovery route will link the different landscapes that are crossed one after the other. The route begins from a new car park 2.5 kms from the Mont on the continent. With 45,000 trees and shrubs planted, it provides over 4,000 parking spaces that melt into the surrounding landscape.

 

The original plan was for visitors to leave their vehicles before being guided to the tourist information centre then to the pedestrian pathways dotted with information panels on the architectural and historic richness of the site. Each pathway would join the new dam and shuttle departure site located some 750 metres from the car park. Visitors could then choose to travel on foot, by shuttle or horseback along the causeway to access the Mont. The new car park opened on the 28th April 2012.

 

Well the plan just didn’t work. Visitors were often soaking wet or blown to pieces before they even reached the shuttle departure area. There were so many complaints that the designers were obliged to take the shuttle departure area back nearer to the car parks! This means you don’t have to walk passed the cafes and restaurants any more to catch your bus- so the visitors are now happy and the restaurant owners are just a little upset! As a concession, the owners of the site now allow visitors to drive into the restaurant areas for free after 7 o’clock each night.

 

Individual vehicles were originally charged 8.5 euros to park, which included ‘free’ travel on the shuttle bus. It was also possible to pay extra and travel by the Maringote, a double decker vehicle pulled by horses; a specific shuttle, La Montoise, was available for disabled people and to carry those that live and work on the Mont. The final 350 metres of the journey for everyone is across a specially constructed pedestrian bridge to preserve a clear view of the Mont from the bay.

 

With the necessary changes to the shuttle departure area completed, the owners decided to make the public pay for their troubles! They upped the car park charge to 12.5 euros per vehicle. To complete the early disasters, the double-decker vehicles to be pulled by horses proved unstable in the high winds and were withdrawn on the very first day of their use! A smaller horse drawn vehicle now operates if you really feel it’s worth the bother!

 

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Le Mont St-Michel repels the English!

December 27th, 2010 by Roger in Local News, Mont St-Michel

According to a 10th century manuscript the first shrine to Saint Michael was created at what is now Mont Saint-Michel after the Archangel Michael came to Bishop Aubert of Avranches in 708AD and commanded him to build a church on the rock. When the Bishop expressed doubts, the angel pierced a hole in his skull with his finger! 

In the 10th century the Benedictine monks settled in the abbey, constructing the Romanesque abbey church with its high vaulted ceilings and moulded arches, monastery and crypts at the apex of the rock, whilst a village grew up below its walls at the bottom of the mount.

Through successive centuries of the Middle Ages and with increasing numbers of monks and pilgrims both the abbey and village were extended until in the 13th century they stretched down to the foot of the rock.

By the 14th century and the Hundred Years war, the abbey had to be protected behind a massive set of military ramparts, enabling it to hold out successfully through many English sieges lasting over 30 years and in doing so the Mount became a symbol of French national identity.

In 1421 the original Romanesque chancel (choir) of the abbey church collapsed and was replaced in the 15th century by a flamboyant Gothic structure, marking completion of the last major construction works at the mount. The abbey today is thus an exceptional example of the full range of medieval architecture.

 

Over the 16th and 17th centuries religious ideals waned and the number of monks dwindled until by 1790 the monastery was disbanded and the monks left the mount. This paved the way for the fortress to be turned into a prison in 1793, a situation which lasted through the days of the French Revolution and Empire until imperial decree in 1863 finally overturned the sacrilege.

In 1874 Mont Saint-Michel was designated as a French historical monument and major works have continued now for over a century to restore the mount to its former splendour, improving both the abbey interior and exterior. With the celebration of the monastery’s 1000th anniversary in the year 1966, a religious community returned to the mount, perpetuating spiritual prayer and welcoming the mount’s original vocation.

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The Mont St-Michel

December 27th, 2010 by Roger in Mont St-Michel

No visit to Normandy would be complete without a visit to the Mont St Michel. I have been so many times but always manege to  find something new to catch the imagination and make the visit worthwhile. The tourists shops are inevitable but a nuisance. So I often take the second entrance to the Mont and avoid these distractions and arrive at the foot of the Castle and Abbey.

Its only about  25 minutes drive from our B&B. If you take the river road from the A84 you are rewarded with some amazing views of the Mont as it gets ever closer. Le Mont St-Michel towers over the countryside for miles around like a mythical creature rising out of the sea and it is not surprising that there are over three million tourists visiting each year. From my experience about half of them – Japanese!!

Situated one kilometre off the coast of Normandy, the rocky island houses the famous eighth-century Norman Benedictine Abbey of St-Michel  that over the centuries has been both a site of spiritual pilgrimage and battle.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, the island is one of the most exceptional examples of religious and military architecture from the Middle Ages – hardly surprising therefore that Le Mont St-Michel became the inspiration the mystical Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings movies!

During the tourist season try and get there in the early morning if you dont want to queue for hours. The Mont will surely provide you with a unique and memorable experience.

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