Mont St. Michel to Dinan - Perfect Day!

Trip Start Aug 15, 2014
Trip End Aug 31, 2014

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Where I stayed
Duchesse Anne Hotel

Flag of France  , Brittany,
Saturday, August 23, 2014

After our day at Bayeux and the Normandy beaches, we drove from Bayeux to Mont St. Michel just in time to see the amazing Abbey on the tiny rocky island lit by the last rays of the sun. It came out of nowhere and seemed surreal!

Early the next morning, we woke up and drove to the shuttle stop for Mont St. Michel. We were surrounded by beautiful French farmland and marshland. Considering the surrounding land, your eyes are drawn to the castle looking structure that seems to float on the sea.

We shuttled across a little causeway connecting the island to the mainland and then walked the rest of the way to the base of the little island town. Historically, there was a no causeway so people making a pilgrimage to this famous abbey would have to cross the land at low tide when there was no water surrounding the island. (It was fascinating to visit Mont St. Michel after seeing the ancient Bayeux Tapestry, which depicted William the Conqueror's men passing Mont St. Michel and getting stuck in quick sand).

The town of Mont St. Michel, if you can call it a town, was tiny. We were sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds, but even with few people there, the one main street that led to the abbey at the top of the rocks was already jammed. It’s crazy to think that people actually live there (I think we heard that there are 30 full-time residents on the island).

The abbey is definitely the central focus of the island and was incredible to visit. Because it was built right onto the rocks, it has many different levels and staircases, and the view from the top is spectacular. Sandy low tide land surrounds the entire island, then water reaches out for miles. It was pretty amazing to see. Benedictine monks inhabited the abbey originally, but in its long history, the abbey was also used as a prison. For centuries it has been a pilgrimage site for people all over the world. We felt honored to make our own pilgrimage to the famous spot.

Considering the size of Mont St. Michel, our stay was short, and we made it out of the town successfully avoiding the "tourist trap" of the 50 euro omelet. We decided that even if it was the most delicious omelet we could have tasted, we could google the recipe and buy 50 croissants instead.

Soon we were driving south through the beautiful Brittany region of France. Rolling green hills, spattered here and there with little churches, villages, and farmland, stretched in either direction. We decided that driving was the only way to adequately see and appreciate this beautiful countryside.

We drove into the tiny town of Dinan around 11:00 and to be honest, it looked like just another cute town. We checked into our hotel and started exploring, not knowing then what we’d find. 

We took Rick Steve’s walking tour around the town and were soon in the heart of an amazing old medieval castle town. We had fallen in love with the pictures of Dinan we had seen, but the town was even more picturesque and perfect in person. We felt transported back in time as we walked from one old timbered home to the next. Apparently, in medieval days homes were taxed based on the size of the first level, so the buildings in Dinan are small on the street level but get larger and larger on top. The bigger second levels are supported by wooden support beams of all different sizes (because trees aren’t always the same height—the differences in height of the many support beams is compensated for with big rocks under the shorter beams). The tax-evading construction of these homes makes this town amazing. The buildings are almost all crooked. A few of them almost touched each other on the second or third floor. We’re not sure how they’re all still standing!

As we explored the town, we ended up walking along a castle wall. We learned that Dinan is a little town on a cliff enclosed on three sides by castle/fortress walls. The view from the castle walls was amazing

We kept meandering through the streets and found a steep street that wound down the cliff to the Port of Dinan. Pastry shops (selling the most delicious Kouign Aman!), jewelry shops, and other little boutiques lined the street. Finally we arrived at the tiny port. It was perfect. Unlike Honfleur, the Port of Dinan is on a slow-moving, crystal clear river. Sailboats, cafes, and bike paths line the river, and on one side the cliff leading up to Dinan stretches overhead.

At the river we rented bikes and spent the remainder of the day biking along the river in both directions. Perhaps our favorite was biking along the river to a tiny town, Lehon, a few kilometers south of Dinan. We biked into the town and soon heard church bells ringing. We heard singing from the beautiful cathedral and peeked inside to see a wedding! We stayed long enough to see the bride and groom leaving the chapel as wedding bells rang through the town. It was right out of a book! Honestly, we couldn’t have scripted a more perfect afternoon. 

We coasted back into the Port of Dinan and walked back up the steep street to the old city. We window-shopped and ate at a little café. We both agreed that it was most perfect afternoon we had had yet!
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