Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mont Saint Michel = Fab!

I had a wonderful time on my trip this past weekend. First of all, it was amazing to be in a car! I didn't realize that it was possible to miss being in a car, but the minute I got in I just felt so at home. Cue jokes about me being from Michigan. I road-tripped it out there with three assistants from another town in my académie, about five hours each way. Not bad at all, considering the fact that it was 14 hours to drive to my college!

On the way up we stopped to see the falaises (cliffs) at Etretat. Here's a picture from the web:

The weather was kind of ridic. It started off nice enough, and I was wearing a light jacket. Then it got cold and the wind became insanely strong, like I feltI was going to be blown off the top of the cliffs! The highlight of the visit was stopping to dip our toes in Le Manche (the English Channel) after coming back down. The beach was rocky and hurt our feet, the water was freeeeezing, and the rapidly rising tide ended up soaking my shoes! Luckily I had brought another pair, and some extra socks. Beaucoup de fun, quand meme!

We arrived at Mont Saint Michel late in the afternoon, in time to walk on the mud flats/sand around the island itself and hike around a little bit in the city on the way to the abbey. Mont Saint Michel is built on a big rock that is an island at high tide and surrounded by sand at low tide. An abbey was built there, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, and not only is a beautiful site, it also served as a symbol of French independence and nationalism during the Hundred Years War when a large chunk of France was conquered by the English. We got dinner at a cheaper version of the famous Mère Poulard restaurant, so I did get to have the weird omelette. Really, it's weird. It's cooked egg around a bunch of foam. Our waiter was a kind of funny, flirty guy. He gave us a hard time when we asked for things like ketchup or more water, shoved plates in front of my face as he was walking by, played "guess who?" with me, and, highlight of dinner, poked me in the ribs from behind. Now, I'm not only very ticklish, but I have a very strong startle reflex. So what did I do? I shrieked. In a restaurant. Full of people. I don't remember the last time I was that embarrassed. I really just wanted to crawl under the table. Word to the wise: don't ever go anywhere with me!

Anyway, the next day we actually visited the abbey itself. It was pouring rain, but inside the abbey it was nice and dry. We did the 2 hour visite conferencier, which I highly, highly recommend, especially if you are interested in history and art history, but also because you get to see all the crypts and Notre Dame sous Terre that you can't see on the normal tour or walking around by yourself. Our guide was great. He was obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject matter, to the point that our tour ran over by about 45 minutes! The "merveille," the cloister area, really is a marvel. It's just superbly, beautifully done. The cloister itself, for example:

This picture doesn't really do it justice. I'm not on wireless, so I can't upload my own pictures yet. The guided tour was entirely in French, and I was surprised and really happy to find that I understood just about everything! The guide was speaking very quickly and using lots of dates, and even so I could follow along really well. I was really proud of myself, and it was nice to see how far my French has come in the past few months. All in all, a very successful trip. I highly recommend visiting Mont Saint Michel if you get a chance!

Weird French teaching thing for the day: we had a birthday party in one of my classes before English today (the monster class, of course). The teacher yelled at the kids to stop making so much noise. During a birthday party!!!!!! They weren't even being that loud!


Andromeda said...

I went in high school but remember it being so cool, you make me want to go back now! I feel like this year I've been going to every other country except the one I've decided to live in, lol, it's time to explore France more. And hurray for understanding!! That's always the best feeling, realizing you have all this knowledge inside you, even if you don't know how it happened!

Jennie said...

I totally miss long car trips too. I was always driving in Michigan, to go to work or up north... but here it's not the same. Driving is super stressful and expensive and I don't like it at all. :/

Au Soleil Levant said...

Andromeda - I definitely have a problem choosing between where to travel, France or Europe. If I get to stay another year, less of a conflict...

Jennie, the whole time I was in the car I was also thinking "I am so glad I don't have to drive!" I feel like the French secretly long for the old days when they drove around carts attached to donkeys. They certainly drive like it!