A Night Inside the Magical Walled City of Mont Saint-Michel

A Night Inside the Magical Walled City of Mont Saint-Michel

I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never heard oft the walled city or Mont Saint-Michel before doing research for my trip to Normandy this summer. It’s the #3 most visited destination in France after the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Who knew? Not me, and I’ve traveled around France quite a bit without hearing it mentioned. Yet, I’d also never traveled to the Normandy or Brittany regions of France.

I chose to spend time in Normandy on my most recent trip to France due to the very affordable French language lessons that it offered, which also included lodging. (Paris, by the way, is extremely expensive as is my favorite area of France, Provence, for this type of thing).

There is also something deliciously thrilling about running around an ancient walled city at night, as if it’s your own personal playground.

During the day, and up until dinner time, there are so many people crowded into the narrow little streets of Mont Saint-Michel that you can barely move above a snail’s pace. There is no place that is not crowded. People shuffle along behind one another, brushing up against one another and sweating in the heat that feels hotter once inside the walls of this tiny island.  Is it worth it to brave the crowds to see this natural and architectural wonder? I’d say yes.  However, I (and my amazing travel partner) chose to do it in a way that would allow us to enjoy the Mound (as it’s called) in a much more leisurely and enjoyable way–at night, after the tens of thousands of people have gone home.

Not only do I love avoiding insane crowds (and I’ll often skip tourist destinations all together just to avoid them), but there is also something deliciously thrilling about running around an ancient walled city at night, as if it’s your own personal playground. So, when my travel partner, a huge sweetheart named Aaron, who I’d met on a recent trip to London (when we both stayed at the same Airbnb) suggested that we grab a hotel room within the walls and return later in the evening, I jumped at the idea. Who even knew that there would be a hotel on the island?

A Night Inside the Magical Walled City of Mont Saint-Michel

Five minutes later, Aaron emerged from the nearest hotel with a room for the night (and for only $120) and we gratefully escaped the island to grab a leisurely lunch and walk in the nearby sailing town of St. Malo (Brittany Crepes with Normandy Cider: my favorite French meal).

We returned 15 minutes before 6 so we could get into the famous Abbey at the top of Mont St. Michel (they stop letting people in at 6 and close it at 7) and spent an hour perusing the great halls and gorgeous inner gardens, admiring the grand arches and the view of the bay below from various vantage points.

Then we had dinner at an average place–one of the few restaurants still open (pretty much everything shuts down by 7 other than a few restaurants, which serve dinner until 9).

After dinner, the real fun started. We roamed the island, bottle of Muscadet in tote, running down every tiny street, up every staircase, and along every rampart oohing and ahhing at pretty much everything we saw. Aaron had never seen European castles or ruins or old towns up close, and was excited that it exceeded his expectations.

We ran up and down, here and there, toasted our glasses of muscadet over a cannon overlooking the bay, and under an arch that was carved in the 12th century.

I, having been to many medieval towns, and even a few other similarly walled villages, was equally impressed. It felt magical to be able to take our time and see everything we wanted, without the crowds. Plus, everything was lit up at night.  I felt like a kid in a candy shop.  We ran up and down, here and there, toasted our glasses of muscadet over a cannon overlooking the bay, and under an arch that was carved in the 12th century.

We exhausted ourselves by exploring until 2am (easy to do when it stays light until 11:30) and then awoke in the morning to the seagulls cawing outside our window while we hastily packed for our drive back to Rouen.

I’m not sure my particular experience wasn’t colored with the glow of a budding romance. But I can say with certainty that I would still have found a night inside the walls of the island of Mont Saint-Michel utterly magical, regardless of the company. I just happened to have the most magical of all nights, thanks to the perfect companion.

 

A Night Inside the Magical Walled City of Mont Saint-Michel

About Brooke Herron

Brooke HerronAfter 14 years in the wine industry working in sales, events, and marketing management Brooke has moved onto a new phase of life as an entrepreneur, aspiring author, and global citizen. When she’s not consulting with small businesses about their marketing/copy-writing and social media needs, you can find her on the road in Europe experiencing beautiful places and writing about it at A Different Kind of Travel.

3 thoughts on “A Night Inside the Magical Walled City of Mont Saint-Michel

  1. Brooke Herron
    August 15, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks Christophe! Yes, it’s the way I like to see most touristy walled cities (like Carcasonne!)-by night when you get the place to yourself 🙂

  2. Avatar
    April 2, 2016
    Reply

    Great tip! Hate the crowds there…

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