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Mont St. Michel  

 

 

We arranged to take a day trip through Brittany with LinkParis, ending up at Mont St. Michel.  First (at Oh:dark thirty) we took the Metro to Gare Montparnasse, then the TGV “bullet train” to Rennes, where we were met by a guide who would drive our van of 8 (?) people throughout the day.   A charming young man, one of the co-owners of the tour company, he told us many stories about the history and the places.   Mom and I inveigled our way into the front seats, where we had a great view for the rest of the trip.   (Practicing to be pushy on the Metro paid off!)  The TGV was a great way to go …  instead of 10 hours on a bus, we spent a few hours on a fast, quiet train (with bathrooms!) – and we got to stop at Dinan and Saint-Malo with the extra time.

The (ancestors of) the Brits and the French have waged many bloody battles over Brittany for more than 1500 years …  The area shows both influences – not exactly British but not entirely French either.  There is even a unique Breton language.  Over the centuries, a defensive ring of castles was constructed.  Along the entire coastline, old maritime fortresses are witness to the eventful centuries when Brittany was forced to protect itself from attack by the English Navy. The Fort National at Saint-Malo is one such coastal fortification.

Map of Brittany

TGV Bullet Train

Map of Brittany

TGV high speed bullet train at Gare Montparnasse

 

Dinan

Dinan is a quaint old medieval town – one of the oldest in Brittany.  The narrow, pedestrian-only cobblestone streets wind up the hill overlooking the Rance river.   The “tour” dropped us off at the river (i.e., the bottom of the hill) where we could see an old Roman aqueduct entering the city.  We strolled up through the quaint streets and shops until we reached the cathedral and ultimately part of the medieval wall (and the new city square) at the top.

Mom and I could have easily spent a few more hours in Dinan.

Dinan Map

 

The town of Dinan (pop. 14,500), still surrounded by its old walls, lies on a hill far above the left bank of the Rance.  The old town with its 15th and 16th century houses and the 14th century castle of Anne de Bretagne preserve something of Dinan's medieval atmosphere.

River in Dinan Mom and Chris
The river in Dinan Mom and Chris by the river
Pedestrian street Pedestrian street Pedestrian street
Pedestrian street, entering Dinan Walking uphill And more uphill ...
Cathedral Stained glass Stained glass
Cathedral in Dinan Stained glass in the Cathedral Stained glass in the Cathedral
Mom Overlook Aqueduct
Mom behind the Cathedral Behind the cathedral, overlooking the river shown in the first picture

(yes, we walked up this far)

Ancient Aqueduct below on the river
(just barely visible
at the bottom of the picture on the left)
Chris Mom Dinan Wall
Chris at the river overlook Mom in front of the river overlook Medieval wall at Dinan

 

Saint Malo

The Breton port of Saint-Malo (săN-mälō') has a magnificent location on a former island on the English Channel, now joined to mainland France at the mouth of the river Rance. Still surrounded by its old walls, it preserves the aspect of a fortified coastal town of the Middle Ages.  A Welsh monk built a monastery nearby in the 6th cent., and in the 9th century refugees fleeing Norman raids on nearby Saint-Servan settled at the site of the present-day Saint-Malo.  During the Second World War the old town was largely destroyed, with the exception of the walls, but was rebuilt after the war in its original style, with narrow little streets and tall granite houses.

Our stop in Saint-Malo was short.  We opted to catch a quick sandwich at a Boulangerie so we could do a little sight-seeing.  It was an interesting town, but I think we both liked Dinan better.

St. Malo map

 

Saint Malo wall Saint Malo wall Saint Malo streets
Entrance in the wall at Saint Malo The wall Town streets
Inside the wall Seagulls Mom
Inside the wall Atop the wall  Mom on the streets

 

Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel was our final stop on our grand day trip out of Paris.  After the opulent churches of Paris, it was quite an austere experience.  Everything was barren and huge and imposing.  For example, the cooking "stove" (fireplace) had a pit 8 feet high.

Mont-Saint-Michel (môN-săN-mēshĕl'), is a rocky isle in the Gulf of Saint-Malo, an arm of the English Channel. The isle, accessible by land at low tide, is also linked with the mainland by a causeway.

Classified a World Heritage Area by UNESCO, the bay of Mont- Saint- Michel boasts the strongest tides in Europe. The “Wonder of the Western World” stands proudly in the middle of the vast mud-flats.

Map of Mont-St-Michel
The famous Benedictine abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel was founded in 708 by Saint Aubert, bishop of Avranches. A gigantic group of buildings, rising three stories high, serves, with the summit of the cone-shaped rock, as a base for the great abbey church.  Six of these structures on the side facing the sea form the unit called La Merveille (the marvel), constructed from 1203 to 1228.

 

Mont St Michel Mom and Chris Mont St Michel
Approaching from a distance Mom and Chris View from afar

View of the Mont

Low tide Mom
View of the Mont View of the Mont, at low tide Cooking fireplace
Town Abbey Abbey
In the town (just a few crowds!) In the abbey In the abbey
Abbey The cloisters Mom
In the abbey (basement) The cloisters Mom in the cloisters
At the end of the day, with multiple stops (waiting for the other few people on the tour), the delays were built up into one mad rush for the train station.  We dashed back to Rennes, bought sandwiches in the train station, and rode the quiet and smooth TGV train back to Paris, savoring the memories of our adventure. 

(We didn't realize how quiet and smooth it was until we went to Barcelona!)

 

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