Posts Tagged ‘kids’

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Mont St-Michel: Our Secret Footpath

April 30, 2012

We made the iconic pilgrimage to Mont St-Michel with the kids last summer and to be frank, the August traffic was so hellishly snail-slow and nose-to-tail that even before we caught sight of the hardcore traffic jam blocking the final 1km-odd stretch of road, we all unanimously agreed that the only way to salvage the trip was dump the car and walk.

Which turned out to be the best decision we ever made: The easy, one-hour walk across flat sheep pastures was idyllic. The contemplative crown of the mount on the horizon teased constantly, like a sweet candy begging to be eaten; and bar a handful of walkers we met at the initial roadside stile, we were alone. Mid-way across the grassy plain specked white with grazing sheep, we stopped for lunch – a stinky gooey round of Camembert spread on baguette and a bottle of local Normandy cider. Bar having to dodge sheep pooh to spread our picnic rug, it was, well, the stuff of French dreams.

Until we hit the concrete causeway linking the mount with the mainland. From then on, it was pure unadulterated August-crowd hell, confirming my suspicion that – as with the best of Provence’s hilltop villages – the true beauty of Mont St-Michel lies in the seductive mirage it proffers from afar.

Shutting the concrete causeway linking Mont St-Michel with the mainland to cars – walkers and cyclists are still welcome – is good news, although it will surely only shift bottleneck a kilometer or so back to before the car parks at La Caserne instead.  No doubt there will also be some pilgrims simply unable to walk the obligatory 800m it is from the car parks to Place des Navettes, departure point for the shiny new shuttle buses. Included in the new €8.50 parking fee, the shuttles cross the causeway in 6 minutes and run non-stop every day between 8am and 1am. Horse-drawn shuttles, evocative of the path blazed by medieval pilgrims in the 11th century, are planned for summer 2012.

The suggested new green walkways from car park to the rather unromantically named Shuttle Square seem pleasant enough. But my hot tip remains with our secret footpath through sheep pastures, flagged by a old wooden stile, next to a roadside farm in La Rive, a tiny hamlet just east of busy La Caserne on the D275.