Thursday, June 14, 2012
I wake up every morning thinking I should be worrying about something, but we need to rush to breakfast before it closes down and then there is our itinerary to accomplish... Today it was to get to Le Mont-San-Michel, on the Emerald Coast of Brittany. Mont-San-Michel was a sanctuary built by Aubert, Bishop of Avranches in 708, in honor of the Archangel Michael. It soon became a major focus of pilgrimage. In the 10th century the Benedictine monks settled in the abbey, while a village grew up below its walls. The people of the Middle Ages regarded the abbey as a representation of the heavenly Jerusalem on earth, an image of Paradise. By the 14th century it had grown significantly. It was an impregnable stronghold (can you tell I'm referring to literature?) during the Hundred Years War. Its ramparts and fortifications resisted all the English assaults. During the French Revolution the abbey was used as a prison. Turns out all three of us are Irish Catholic girls, some more than others (we thought the word Bapthlics might be more appropriate). So we had deep discussions about how we should climb the steep stairs of the abbey. Barefoot? On our knees? Flagulating ourselves. Some of us needed more penance than the others. But we soon discovered after walking a mile with all the other pilgrims from the parking lot to the walled town, through the narrow, climbing, twisting streets of the medeival city, up the endlessly winding stairs to the abbey with our leg muscles burning, stopping for breath periodically, that we had done enough penance. When we finally reached the abbey around noon, we heard singing from within the sanctuary. We entered the abbey in the midst of a Mass; 4 or 5 monks and 3 or 4 nuns in white robes, facing the altar, their backs to us, were singing the most heavenly, mystical, middle-ages chants. It was breathtaking. We sat for the entire Mass (the first one I've been to in probably 15 years), breath-taken. It was indeed worth the penance. Katie said it was worth the trip. After finishing the tour of the abbey and its grounds, we headed to San Malo, about an hour west. Babette helped us find our B&B (we've named that nice lady with the British accent in the GPS--she was very good today), and crashed onto the beds for 40 winks. We woke up freezing 3 hours later at 9:00 p.m. It was as bright outside as if it had been noon, so we decided to head to old town San Malo, another walled city. But where was it? No map to refer to, but we suspected it had to be a little further west. We drove through the beautiful seaside streets with gorgeous French architecture and eventually spotted a Cathedral spire. Voila! That's where we should go. We've learned that all French towns were built around their Cathedrals (I'm going to read Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth" again). And that's where we found the walled city. We had a lovely dinner of Wok de polet a' l' Indienne. Mmmmmm. And of course une botte du vin rouge. Then home to the B&B, up the three flights of winding stairs (thinking as I'm climbing, "Wasn't I supposed to be worrying about something?"). No need to mention that after dinner we had found ourselves locked outside the parking lot with the car locked in, or what we had to do to extricate the car, because we were feeling pretty durned good and nothing could have bothered us. It's now dark outside, it's past 1:00 a.m. Katie is sleeping (how can she do that after a 3 hour nap? I'm taking a pill), Alice is reading, I'm blogging, and the waves are crashing outside our window. Tomorrow we return to explore old town San Malo. Sorry about the weird formatting here, the ipad seems to eliminate all text formatting and makes my pictures way too big. I'll try to figure this out.
Posted by Margaret Dyer at Thursday, June 14, 2012