Monday, May 17, 2010

Adventures #21 & #22: Mont St. Michel and St. Malo

Brittany was one of the last areas I hadn’t seen of France and even though I just saw a speck of it, I can now leave the country feeling as thought I saw all of it, more or less. A change of plans left me plan-less so I decided to go solo. Never having travelled alone before, save a weekend in Boston to look at Emerson or that day by myself in New York, I was a bit apprehensive but it couldn’t have turned out better and it’s a life experience I’m glad to have under my belt.

Visiting Mont St. Michel technically brought me back to Normandy, but I couldn’t pass it up since we didn’t get the opportunity last time. I remember a poster of Mont St. Michel in Madame Davis’ French III class. Never dreamed that when I did visit it, it’d be after living in the country for seven months. Built over the centuries on a rock ff the coast, Mont St. Michel is a hodge-podge of architecture, stairs, and windows built on top of each other, crowned with an abbey St. Michael apparently told some monk to build a million years ago. I pretended to be British to get in for free, but when it worked I felt guilty about lying to enter a religious building so I bought the audio guide to even things out. Nice views from the Abbey, really nice cloister. Cloisters are the little interior courtyards in abbeys or monasteries that the monks or miscellaneous religious would use to walk or gather thoughts, and so far, I’ve yet to see a cloister I haven’t liked. Something about the columns and the green space appeal to me. Another highlight of the day were these shortbread cookies that are apparently famous coming from the island. Every store seemed to give out free samples, of which I happily took advantage, nibbling my way up and down the mont. Pictures? Here!

When I first got off the train at St. Malo, the true Brittany of my trip, the sky struck me. It seemed bigger here, perhaps this is the Montana of France? And the WIND! Made the huge clouds move crazy fast across the sky. The old city center is surrounded by ramparts that make a nice walking track, I took a few laps enjoying the views of the architecture and the water. Food-wise, St. Malo, and Brittany in general are all about the crepe and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that caramel made with the local sea salt is also a delicacy. Again I’m not the hugest art museum fan but history is something I can get behind, it was one of my minors after all. The Musee d’Histoire in St. Malo is especially enjoyable since the area’s history includes so much nautical! I went in near closing time and practically had the place to myself, was a bit creepy but pretty cool wandering around an old chateau, even climbing up tiny stone spiral staircases to the watch tower. Click here to see my pictures of St. Malo.

General side note: The French use the word “chateau” liberally, nearly every town seems to possess one (along with a carousel and a fountains) but though the English translation is “castle” I find that to be a bit too liberal. I wouldn’t call just every big house a castle. It’s either due to the lack of a proper translation in my native language, or the possibility that my American idea of castles, largely shaped by Disney, is too limited. To be fair, the chateau of St. Malo did have turrets and arches and seems to be a castle by any definition.

To travel to a nearby town I opted for a bike instead of a boat (shocking). For 12 euros at the hostel I got a cute little red cruiser for the day. Wanting to make it worth the money, I biked to the nearby St. Severan and Cité Alet. Rewarded with nice views of St. Malo, a WWII memorial and a rose garden. Spent a lot of time sitting and watching the tides, by which a lot of the area seems to keep time. A fitting end to my time in France.

No comments:

Post a Comment