What is the connection between Mont Saint Michel, 2 Greeks, a car, another couple of Greeks in London and a turn of luck? You will find out in this series of articles which are part of a multifold 8 day trip in Europe. By car.
On a tight budget. With a simple CoPilot GPS guiding software on a Samsung DUOS phone.
With a VW Polo that had to be returned in Greece. But most of all… with an amazing appetite for having lots of fun and explore culture in France and Italy.
The luck part of the trip
Along with Maria (the other half of my life and the co-agreekadventure teammate) we were trying to find a place to spend a few days at holiday season. We were mostly looking for in Greece, although Istanbul was trying to sneak in (with no luck).
We couldn’t decide at all when -through Facebook- I read that a friend moved along with his fiance in London. As I was talking with him about this and his trip there by car (since I have done this in the past) he mentioned that he was looking for someone to return their car to Greece. At first I was not sparked by the idea but Maria popped in the idea asking “Hey, why don’t we do it”?
And there it began… We managed to book everything for the trip in an amazing set of prices (very good for the season) and the decision was made. We were to drive around 2500 km from London to Athens, Greece.
Along the way we managed to book a very pleasant and reasonable accommodation in various places. The driving part was huge but it was split in almost 8 days. I (Chris) was the driver while Maria was the navigator, organizer of things, finances controller and -as always- an amazing companion.
Landing to Calais on our way to Mont Saint Michel
We started from London (driving at the left side very very carefully) and crossed the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. Thus, at almost 2,5 hours we were in France.
We landed on Calais and although we thought that it was not worth passing through that small city we changed our mind and went for a quick tour. The city is quite nice and picturesque with some very nice buildings (by the way, you will see lots of buildings in these articles since we are fascinated by old times architecture and churches). So we stayed there for around 30 mins so here are some pictures from a central square in Calais.
On the road towards Mont Saint Michel
After leaving Calais we had to drive around 5 hours to get to Pontorson (next to Mont Saint Michel) village in order to leave our luggage and check for our accommodation. Have you ever driven through the French country side? I can say it is really amazing. It’s a sense of openness and largeness along with calmness. A very pleasant drive indeed.
The roads in France and Italy allow you to run at a higher speed than Greece. They are better constructed, have huge parts of straight road without many turns. The roads are mostly controlled with traffic cameras. We met no police in our trip. We used the Copilot software with our GPS which has all the camera control points… Very useful… and amazingly accurate. This was the 2nd time I tested it at a Europe road trip. Still great!
On our way was also the city of Rouen. Well since that city was on our path (ok… you got it) we also made a stop there. Check these amazing photos. Rouen is a very nice city to visit with astounding buildings.
Arriving at Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is an island commune in Normandy. It is located approximately one kilometre (0.6 miles) off the country’s northwestern coast, near Avranches.
Mont Saint Michel has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1971. The abbey of Mont Saint Michel is a unique building: its plan is unlike that of any other monastery. Constrained by the pyramidal shape of the Mount, its medieval builders wrapped the buildings around the granite rock.
The main top building known as the Merveille, often regarded as the jewel of the abbey’s architecture, is evidence of the architectural mastery of its 13th century builders who succeeded in perching two blocks of 3-storey buildings on a steep rocky slope.
We arrived in Mont Saint Michel at night time (1/1/2015) and we were very tired since with all the stops we drove for around 9 to 10 hours. However, Maria insisted on seeing Mont Saint Michel at night. Couldn’t stop her or didn’t want to (also didn’t have the courage to do so), so we went back to the car and drove around 10 minutes from Pontorson to Mont Saint Michel. Now, the Mont Saint Michel used to be an island where the access was easy or not depending on the tide. Yep, that’s right. You had to calculate the tide in order to find out when you could visit it or be transferred there. However, at the summer of 2014 a bridge was made connecting the land with Mont Saint Michel.
The access to Mont Saint Michel is very well organized. You leave your car to a parking lot and take a free bus to the location as other than buses are not allowed. Bus is free, parking is not.
As you approach it at night -and from far- the whole spectacle is… well, its spectacular (can’t find a better word). It’s like a fairy tale castle city which is not huge in dimensions, or better, it looks like it is not as it has many different buildings and areas when you enter inside it. You will definitely spend many hours in there.
We spend half an hour and went back to our room to have some rest and wake up early to visit Mont Saint Michel properly at the next morning.
Maria was almost jumping up and down from her excitement since -for same strange reason- it was one of her dreams to visit Mont Saint Michel. Almost kind of a persisting thought.
We stayed at L’Âme du Gourmand hotel. Had only 6 rooms but each one was decorated according to the old French style. Our room (besides the great price, including a huge breakfast with local goods) was very cosy and the hotel owner was a guy carrying a huge smile. Very friendly and giving. We ate a very big and healthy breakfast and prepared to explore Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel at daylight
At the entrance of this castle city you meet the famous La Mere Poulard restaurant which is famous for the Mere Poulard omelettes. You will also find La Mere Poulard biscuites at most of the service stations in France. Prices are relatively good but I think a bit high as… I mean… its an omelette. Well, not like that.. It’s a Le Mont Saint Michel – La Mere Poulard omelette. And if you think it like that it’s not an omelette but an experience!
A good number of little souvenir stores exist at the entrance of this castle city which provide from local souvenirs and medieval artifacts, to Japanese Samurai swords. For the latter one.. we still have no idea why. Perhaps due to the fact that many of the visitors were Japanese and Chinese and I think a small portion were Koreans (but even that doesn’t make sense).
We moved up to the Abbey in order to explore this castle city. Thus the photos that follow.
We saw and studied some quite interesting architecture and sculptures and learned about the usage of the different (many, many…) rooms of the castle. Still, we wonder, why an Abbey needed so many different rooms.
But all good things have an end. The time was getting late. So, we saluted Mont Saint Michel and went back to the car in order to continue our road trip towards our next stop: Lyon.