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Guest Post By @501Places: Mont St Michel

Driving through the flat landscape of western Normandy, one prominent feature that rises above the misty horizon can be seen from several kilometres away. Mont St Michel, the rocky outcrop which is topped by the famous monastery and the medieval city that was built around its base, is visible from afar and the approaching road is equipped with viewpoints where eager photographers can snap their first shots of this stunning sight.

Mont St Michel is France’s most visited attraction and receives around 3 million annual visitors. Although most are domestic tourists, we saw large contingents from Japan during our stay in the area and suspect that in the summer this area is a magnet for visitors from around the world. Accessed by a narrow man-made causeway, visitors can drive up to the base of the mount and park on the tidal sands. A new access road under construction will keep traffic to the landside of the mount, with only pedestrians and electric shuttles able to use the stilted 2km road connecting Mont St Michel with the mainland.

A visit to the Mont is best arranged without too many advanced plans. The narrow lanes and stairways are made for getting lost and just peering through the doorways and alleys, wandering what secrets these corners have held over the centuries. Atop the rock is the abbey of St Michel itself, with the golden statue of the archangel perched on the top of the tower and staring out to sea. Visiting the abbey will cost €8.50 per head, but is worth the admission for the impressive stonework of the abbey, as well as the superb views across the bay.

Be warned though. Mont St Michel is an A list tourist hotspot, and the narrow alleys soon get gridlocked with slow walkers and over-zealous photographers. If you can’t stand being herded along overcrowded streets by the sheer swell of people that come to this little rock, you should visit Mont St Michel first thing in the morning, or better still linger after 6pm when the tour buses have left and you can enjoy the streets in relative solitude.

Eating options on the mount are limited. There are many places that served over-priced mediocre food to the mass tourist market, and be prepared to be stung for the price of an ice-cream or a drink. There are decent options though. A couple of hundred yards from the start of the causeway is La Ferme St Michel, where superb locally sourced food is served with great attention to detail and in delightful surroundings. It’s not cheap, although we enjoyed a four course set meal for €24, which was excellent value and offered a great selection of dishes to choose from.
Mont St Michel is probably the single most impressive attraction in France, and must rank in the top 5 in Europe. It can be done as an overnight from Paris, although if time permits the surrounding areas offer rural and coastal places that will appeal to those with an interest in history, or who just enjoy wonderful scenery. If you’re planning a trip to France, be sure to include a visit to this special spot on the north-west coast.
All Photo Credit: Andy Jarosz, 501 Places.--

The article above was written by Andy Jarosz from 501 Places. Andy has traveled to over 70 countries and utilizes his blog as a place of reflection from his adventures abroad. Whether you're an amateur traveler or experienced jetsetter, be sure to check out Andy's blog . You can also find him inspiring fellow travelers on Twitter!

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Guest Post By @501Places: Mont St Michel + trip