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The day we raced to the top of Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel

FRANCE | Thursday, 21 May 2015 | Views [104] | Scholarship Entry

My brother, marathon runner, raced to the top of Mont St Michel. I barely made it up the first steep winding alleyway before I had to stop and lean on an old stone wall, completely out of breath. We had found Mont St Michel very much by accident. My family was on a road trip through France and we were exploring the Normandy coast, when I looked out the window and saw this magical abbey perched upon a rocky outcrop out in the middle of a large bay. ‘Wow, look at that! What is that place! Can we go there!?’ And so we went and had a look, and discovered Mont St Michel. Described as “A magical island topped by a gravity-defying medieval monastery” it was every bit as fantastical as you could imagine. The island, this small rocky outcrop, was home to a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey that was surrounded by a village that hugged to the side of the rocks. Inside the huge walls was a multitude of steep winding paths and stair ways going off in every which direction, either side of the paths crowded with tiny houses joined head to toe, packed into the nooks and cranny’s. Through many of the small doors we passed were surprising finds; hotels, restaurants and shops, with addresses like ‘On the ramparts’, and selling things like ‘calvados, pommeau, gargoyles, rosaries, berets and tapestries’. While we wandered around this wondrous village, we noticed hundreds of people crowded around all the outer walls. At that time we had no idea what everyone was looking at (woo, mud flats!) but after talking to a couple of people and learning what everyone was there to see we were astounded. They were all there to witness the tide coming in. It turns out that Mont St Michel is famous for the tides that come sweeping in to the bay at a rate of knots; they bay is so flat and the water moves so fast that a helicopter sweeps over the bay ahead of each incoming tide to make sure no-one is still out on the expansive flat sea bed, because if they are, they couldn’t outrun the water. Every 18 years or so there is a super tide that briefly turns Mont St Michel into an island. Tens of thousands of people flock to Mont St Michel to witness this phenomenon. Tidal experts say that during peak tides, the sea goes out 15 kilometers, and when it comes in, the water can get as high as 46 feet and moves faster than a running man! This was one of the most memorable gems of our trip through France and I highly recommend visiting this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site if you ever go to France.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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