Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mont Saint Michel

(image from wikimedia commons)

Paris, Paris, Paris...that's all I can think of when I plan a trip to France. But, my virtual travels have taken me beyond the City of Lights to Mont St. Michel and the experience has put this new (to me) destination on my list for my next visit to France.

(image from

I am sure many of you have already discovered this ancient oasis, since it is over a thousand years old, but for those of you unfamiliar with Mont St. Michel, let me share what I learned about this special place. Geographically, this mountain (a big rock) juts out and up from the tidal waters and is an island during high tide.

(image from David Pekmez)

Monks built an abbey on the rock to get closer to heaven. The original abbey has changed forms over the years. In 1421, a partial collapse of its underground crypt took down part of the church. It was rebuilt to endure, however, the structure was again altered when the atheistic government of the French Revolution used the abbey as a prison from 1793 to 1863. In this picture you can see the causeway that is built on a land bridge. This is currently being replaced by an elevated bridge so that waters can flow freely underneath. This bridge, along with a newly constructed hydraulic dam will help with reduction of deposited silt so that the island remains an island during high tide. Visitors will be able to bike, walk or take a shuttle across the bridge to visit Mont St. Michel.

(image from wikimedia commons)

During that time, original windows were destroyed and carvings of the saints on the columns were defaced. Despite these insults, the Abbey remains and Mont St. Michel is an outstanding example of a 15th Century fortification. This defense structure served Mont St. Michel well as it was the only area of Normandy the English were unable to conquer during the Hundred Years War.
(image from wikimedia commons)

No longer a Benedictine Abbey (the Benedict Monks left in 2001 after more than 1000 years!), nowadays Mont St. Michel is a major tourist destination. The island has several boutique shops, restaurants,outdoor markets and even 5 small hotels inside its walls. The last official census in 2006 indicated that 41 full time residents live on the rock.

(image from Don Crawford)

(image from

I know I will be drawn to Paris again, and when I am, I will take a few days to explore Mont St. Michel.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Versailles Takes On A New Role: Luxury Hotel

(From NPR's Morning Edition)

If you've ever dreamed of spending the night at the Palace of Versailles, you might get your chance. A building at France's cherished cultural landmark will soon be turned into a luxury hotel.