France is one of the top tourist destinations in the world (France was ranked as the most visited country in the world in 2011 – ) and Mont Saint Michel in Normandy gets its share of tourists, approximately 3 million visitors a year. You will be hard pressed to find a travel brochure which does not feature this UNESCO world heritage site. The little island which sits just off the coast, is dominated by its beautiful Abbey built around the 8th century. The town has narrow windy alleys that lead to the top of Mont Saint Michel, which till the 19th Century was an island. Also known for its huge tides, it is said that the tides move at the speed of a galloping horse.
The first time Mr. Techno and I visited the site it was winter 1994 ( which is when we took this photo) we took a train from Paris and bunked down in a hostel nearby before catching a bus to visit the site. It was cold and grey but Mont Saint Michel was serene, quiet and we had all the time in the world to walk around it and enjoy the views. We made the mistake of returning to Mont Saint Michel on our last European trip, this time along with the kiddies and my nephew – in peak tourist season – what a mistake that was. The area had a purpose-built parking lot filled to the max with huge coaches and us, the tourists, were there to see this amazing site. It was horrendous, you could barely move to get to the Abbey. – The kids were not enjoying themselves either, so we left and explored the coast back to Brittany instead.
It is understandable that any visit to France should include Mont Saint Michel, but if you are able to visit during the off-season your experience will be so much better – sometimes mass tourism takes away from what is so special about a place. If you have to visit during July and August, see if you can arrive early and late evening when the main tourist buses have left for the day which is what we should have done.
There are times I wonder if it is ever a good idea to return to the same place twice, what do you think? Have you ever done so and regretted it.