Friday, 14 November 2014

Next stop on our European Journey - Mont Saint-Michel



I was in high school, taking the required two years of French when, in my text
Mont St. Michel
Mont Saint Michel
book, I first came across a photograph of Mont Saint Michel. It looked like a Disney castle only better, rising from the mists, surrounded by water. I knew then I would have to see it someday. I plowed through the French text enough to know that Mont St. Michel was both an abbey and a fortress, built in the eighth century. But most intriguing thing about it to me was that twice a day, it was completely cut off from the mainland by in-rushing tides. It is an island half of every day, and even when the tide recedes, it is connected to land only by a narrow causeway. An excellent position both for the isolation of the religious order and for the defence of the community around it. Mont Saint Michel gives a whole new meaning to the words “getting away from it all”.


Mont Saint Michel encapsulates the feudal society in which it was created—with God represented at the peak of the incredible structure by the abbey and monastery, the supporting great halls just below, and then clustered at the foot of the whole, a small town with stores and housing necessary to the  support of the religious structure. Outside the heavily fortified walls were the houses of the fishermen and farmers. Those are largely gone now.

We planned to visit this incredible UNESCO World Heritage site from the earliest planning stages of our trip. I thought I knew what we would encounter, so I didn’t do my usual pre-trip research. This was a mistake. I had no idea we couldn’t simple drive to the base of the Mont, or at least to the dry side of the channel. I had somehow missed the fact that Mont Saint Michel now has millions upon millions of visitors every year and it was necessary for the government of France to plan for this daily invasion. Clearly, the tides are not enough to prevent the hordes of tourists the Mont now receives every day.

We found we had to park in one of several designated parking lots, in marshland, at least a mile from the site. (By the way, perhaps the best views of the site are from this distance.) After paying and parking, a short walk took us to a bus depot. The bus drove us on a narrow road through the marshlands and across the now cemented causeway to the foot of the forbidding stone walls of the Mont. To the credit of the French, the bus service is constant. One does not stand around waiting. One bus arrives as another leaves. Still, a crowded bus was not the approach I had envisioned. 

Crowded streets inside the walls
Walking through the great gate, we were cast into that much earlier time. The stone structures, the archways, the narrow cobblestone lanes. But, alas, also the crowds, the wonderful old buildings housing shops full of tawdry tourist junk, the overpriced restaurants…

We had lunch in the most elegant restaurant in the lower town, La Mere Poulard. (Chicken Mother?) We both had the featured sweet souffl├ęd omelet. I’ve had this confection in other places, by other names, notably in Salzburg, where it’s called Salzburger Nockerl.  I also know how to make it. I will say only that Mere Poulard’s was disappointing.  An eighty dollar lunch consisting of six eggs (for two of us) not very well prepared? Still I suppose we were paying for the show—the chef, a woman
Making omelets at La Mere Poulard
dressed in period clothing, pushed the omelets, six at a time, into an open fire oven where everyone could watch.  The black suited very formal waiters then served them with something approaching awe. Autographed photos of the rich and famous who had previously enjoyed these same omelets, stared at us from the surrounding walls. It was good theater, even if it was not a very good meal.

This is not what I wanted of Saint Michel back when I was fourteen. I wanted to climb the Mont, and to visit the Abbey. Alas my climbing days are over. The best part of Mt. St. Michel for me on this trip was the sight of it from a distance. There it looked exactly as it was in my memory, in a text book from which I must admit I remember little else.

One more sight checked off my bucket list!
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Following are my own published novels. For further details about my books and to read my reviews of books I have read, go to my Goodreads page.
 
To purchase one of my books, just click on the book cover below and select the vendor of your choice.
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COMING SOON!  Romantic Road, is a romantic thriller set in Europe.  It is due for release in late 2014 by Wild Rose Press!  Stay tuned.


Romantic Road ~ Takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour








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The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality
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Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
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Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find that a robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame.  She also has a new stepmother with a charming brother who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

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Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
"Abigail’s Christmas is a sweet and special story that honors both love and the holidays."  -- Sizzling Hot Books  





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Blair McDowell