L'abbaye sits in a vast baie (bay) that stretches from the north(east) end, north of Avranches, to the south(west) end of San Malo. Smack in the middle of this baie is an extraordinary wonder of the world.
Sitting OFF the continent, on an island all its own (actually it’s a rock of granite that’s been defying gravity for a very long time), and with only a handful of permanent residents (between 30-45, a third of which are monks), it caters to over 3 million visitors from around the world annually.
People come for a thousand reasons; some to say they’ve been, others from the UK to have a cheap holiday abroad, groups from far away - India, Asia - those coming to pay homage to the D-Day Beaches who discover it is a mere 1.5-hours away.
All have one thing in common: Destination: Mont St Michel; to see what they’ve only heard about, to affect a spiritual pilgrimage long planned and fulfilled on this sacred site - what draws you?
It is formidable.
Founded over a thousand years ago, by a vision heralding an impossibility; it began to take form. Currently, it houses close to 13 Benedictine monks — in Birkenstocks — who walk invisibly amidst the daily crowds.
I have been given the good graces to live ‘a stone’s throw away’ — truly — a 15-minute drive door-to-door. I go often.
In the lashing rains and storms of winter cold … in the sun’s heat on the stones in the peak of summer … even for a picnic in the baie's polders to witness parachutes falling from the sky, practicing for re-enactments of a D-Day landing - each time it is a different experience — as it will be for you.
For over 10 years, the region was in ‘construction chaos’ — from traffic flows and parking, to digging, to the merchants themselves suffering through the transitions. Much has been said, and the project is well explained in a NYTimes article you can read here:
What it took was no small feat; re-establishing the natural tides in the baie so environmentally it again housed a vast estuary required building a digue (dam) to help channel the flows of the River Couesnon to the sea.
The old causeway was removed, the old parking lots destroyed, and an extraordinary panoramic approach was built.
The result is sublime.
Parking disappears into the environment, and is off to one side. A long, wooden walkway from parking to the Information Center — all which sit on the continent - begin your approach.
Take the time to go into the Information Center and get the lay of the land. Everything is there. The staff speak several languages and you will be well cared for.
Shuttle ride/Ani Moriarty
Adjacent to the center, hop on the navette (small shuttle bus). Your parking fee covers the shuttle that drops you at the gates of the abbey (a 10-minute ride). Voila, you’re there!
Or, promenade from the Information Center on the expansive walkway and be completely in touch with the natural elements around you (+30-minute promenade).
There are a number of hotels on the rock from 2-3 star; campy to luxe.
When you pick what’s right for you, walk out the door and explore. Nooks and crannies, hidden doorways, views that are out of this world, and a permeating rock-silence under a starry night sky invite you to watch the moon rise and fall.
Abbey at Night/Ani Moriarty
There are countless ‘off the rock’ accommodations within 10-15 minutes from L’Abbaye if you want an expanded French countryside experience, whether hotels in the gateway town of Pontorson or chambres d'hotes (BnB) nearby.
I have a list of recommended accommodations and restaurants as part of my Unanchor Tour of Mont St Michel.
- Wear solid grip comfortable walking shoes.
- Travel light (carry-on suitcase — no elevators).
- Be prepared to climb.
Room with a View/Ani Moriarty
Some accommodations have terraces and patios, which is an added bonus for your stay. The stairs to this hotel? 150 of them. And that was with shortcuts!
Local's Tip: Plan ahead. Mont St Michel has some of the highest tides in the world that come rushing into the baie to isolate you on the rock with no way off, until the tides fall away. (For that, book a year ahead.)
From the magical to the mystical, discover Mont St Michel, et bon voyage!
By: Ani Moriarty
Interested in getting more information about Mont St Michel or Chartres Cathedral? Check out Ani's guides: