Sunday, October 2, 2011

Across the bay to the Mont St. Michel

Take any road around the Bay of Mont Saint Michel  and it won't be longs before you catch a glimpse of the iconic outline of Mont St Michel, a rocky island that rises from the waters like a granite wedding cake. 
Tucked in the angle between Brittany and Normandy, the Mount is officially part of the Manche department - or county - and therefore Norman, although most Bretons will put forward a strong case for ownership. I have crossed the bay many times to visit the beautiful Mont- each time under different light and weather conditions- its simply stunning and its no wonder its Frances second most visited site.
 With more than 3 million visitors a year, this UNESCO World Heritage site comes second only to Paris in the visitor popularity stakes, which means you need to visit early or late to avoid the bulk of the tourists. 
 Walkers are strongly advised not to attempt the crossing without an experienced guide and there are plenty to choose from. I booked with Chemins de la Baie who offer a choice of walks, the daily calendar depending on the timing of the tides which are second highest in the world after Canada's Bay of Fundy.
 We chose the 7km Chemin du Marquis circuit starting from the car park at Mont St Michel and skirting the Mount to the smaller island of Tomberlaine.  Today Tomberlaine is a protected nesting site for seabirds.
 The round trip takes 3.5 hours and is a good choice for first-time bay walkers.  From April to October, walkers are advised to do the crossing barefoot and in shorts - with top layers appropriate to the weather conditions. From November to March, you need long rubber boots and warm clothing. I have yet to do a winter crossing but its on my to do list!

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