… this is rather late being posted, but better late than never and if a thing is good it’s worth waiting for. And so is this
In fact I’ve been out and about today and didn’t return home until after midnight, when I would let it all hang out.
So while you admire a couple of photos of Mont St Michel in the darkness, I shall tell you all about my busy day.
As usual, the alarm went off at 07:30 and after the medication etc I set about tidying up because I was going to have some visitors today. I seem to be in demand just now
And it’s a good job that I’d started early because they came early too and I wasn’t ready. I had a few things that I hadn’t done so I had to to finish off while I was chatting.
That’s rather an uncomfortable situation to be in but at least having visitors around means that I have to keep the place looking something like tidy.
There was such a lot of things to say so we had a coffee and spent quite a while chatting, but it was such a nice day yesterday that it was a shame to waste it.
When they had been here the other day i’d mentioned about the beautiful views along the coast so I reckoned that that would be quite a nice drive today, and so we hit the road, Jack, or Jacques seeing as we are where we are.
The obvious place to go to in this nice weather is the viewpoint up on the Pointe de Carolles where there is the Cabanon Vauban. We’ve been here several times before but my visitors haven’t so off we went. I couldn’t actually remember where the turning was so we almost drove past it
It was something of a long slow path across the fields once we’d parked the car, but the view from the end was worth it.
It’s one of the best views of Mont St Michel from up here, with the island of Tombelaine over to the left.
The tide is well out as you can see, and in certain conditions it’s possible to walk from the coast at Genets over to Tombelaine and Mont St Michel and it’s quite a popular thing to do. But you need a guide who knows the way because it’s not an easy trip and there’s no marked path.
There was plenty of marine traffic down there in the bay too, including a trawler that was having a go with its nets out to see what it could pull up.
But also over on the brittany side there was a fire in one of the small towns.
It’s not possible to say what it was at this distance – whether it was a bonfire or a house fire, but it looked as if it had been burning for a while.
We went for a walk along the clifftop but we couldn’t see very much else – I’m not up for clambering over the rocks these days – so in the end we headed for the car, once I remembered the correct trail. I seem to be forgetting everything.
And then we went back to the main road to carry on southwards.
There’s another viewpoint further along the road at Champeaux and I couldn’t remember where that was for a moment either.
The view from here is even better so when we eventually reached it we stopped here as well
Tombelaine was at one time the site of a monastic cell where in the 11th Century two monks from Mont St Michel came to live the life of hermit. The place was fortified in 1204 after the English had been expelled from Normandy and then by the English during the Hundred Years War.
There were various plans, such as to create a mini-Mont-St Michel here or, to turn it into a tourist destination but in the end it’s become a site for birdwatching (but not the kind of birds that I would be interested in watching) and is owned by the State and classed as a National Treasure.
There’s also a good view from up here down onto the town of St Jean le Thomas.
The town was gifted by “William of the Long Sword” to the monks of Mont St Michel in 917AD but there was some conflict 200 years later between the monks and another “Lord of the Manor” about wood-cutting rights so it seems that the gift wasn’t as complete as it might otherwise have been.
There was a castle there at one time but Philippe-Augustus, King of France 1180-1223 ordered the castle to be surrendered to the monks and destroyed. At the turn of the 20th Century all of the remains of the castle had gone.
The narrow-gauge tacot railway line from Granville ran through here between 1908 and 1935. I’m not sure what there is that remains of the railway network in the town today. I suppose that one of these days I ought to go and have a look.
By now we were hungry so we headed into Avranches for a snack.
We parked up the car and headed into town on foot. And as we did so we were overflown by a helicopter.
It’s not the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter that we usually see but one that belongs to the SAMU – the Service D’aide Medicale Urgente or “Emergency Medical Services” so I suppose that it’s the local air ambulance.
She’s an Airbus H145 T2 and we’ve seen a few of those flying around here. It’s the later version of the Air-Sea Rescue’s Eurocopter EC 145.
Once again we had to struggle to find something to eat but finally a little café came up trumps with some sandwiches.
We could sit outside in the sun where there was a really good view of the castle at Avranches.
Shame as it is to say it, I’d forgotten all about this castle. Its origins date from the middle of the 10th Century and was one of the earlies recorded stone castles. However there is no trace of that construction remaining. What we see dates to the time of William the Conqueror.
It’s actually built by the Dukes of Normandy on a promontory overlooking the baie de Mont St Michel on a site that was known to have been occupied by the Celts and then by the Romans.
From its position it could obstruct the passage of Breton forces in the days before both Brittany and Normandy were part of the Kingdom of France.
The castle was surrendered to the French in 1203 and was fought over on many subsequent occasions, including in 1944 when considerable damage was caused to the fabric of the building.
Back to the car after a very long chat and we headed off for our final destination.
As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, parking at Mont St Michel costs an arm and a leg and we were only going to be here for a couple of hours.
However a friendly café owner, having served us a couple of coffees, informed us that as we were now customers of hers, we could leave the car on her car park. She told us how to unhitch the barrier later and we expressed our gratitude in monetary terms.
There was a 15-minute walk to the shuttle terminus and a 15-minute wait for a bus to arrive, and then we were off.
My friends were quite impressed with the push-me-pull-you nature of the bus and, as they had never been here before, with the view that we had of the Mont as we approached it.
And as I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … it’s all changed considerably since I first came here 40 or so years ago. The causeway was different and there was no official car park either. You drove down here and parked where you could.
In those days I’ve seen more than a few cars have to be winched out from the rapidly-approaching tide.
And as we alighted from the bus, we had one of our old friends come to visit us.
When we’ve been wandering around the clifftops back at home we’ve seen the powered hang-gliders dozens of times coming back from the head of the bay and I’ve often speculated that they have been for a look at what’s going on down here.
Sure enough, one of them, the red one, flew past overhead as we walked the rest of the way towards the walls so we all said “hello” and continued on our respective ways.
bathed in the glorious early evening sunset is the entry, the Porte de L’Avancée.
Although there is, officially at any rate, only one way in, changes in technology over the past have meant that the original entrance, buit shortly after the Fall of Normandy when the inhabitants were massacred by Breton soldiers, was insufficient to defend the mount from invasion.
And this although the Porte de L’Avancée is the first part of the entrance that you encounter, it was actually almost the last part of the fortifications to be built, as far as I can tell, and dates from 1530.
Over to the left is the Tour Gabriel or “Gabriel’s Tower”.
This was perhaps the last part of the fortifications to be built and dates from 1534. It was built on the orders of Gabriel du Puy who was in charge of the mount at the time. Because it’s round, it has a really good field of fire that can defend the entrance from attack by sea in this direction.
There was a windmill built on the tower in 1627 and the tower even served as a lighthouse.
The building in front of it is more modern although I’ve not been able to find out the date on which it was built. But it’s outside the walls so it presumably dates from a period when the military funnction of the mount ceased.
Over on the right are the ramparts, the Tour du Roy, the “King’s Tower”, and theTour de la Liberté, “Liberty Tower”.
The Tour du Roy and the little Tour de l’Arcade that you can just about make out to its right date from the improvements of 1417 at the height of the Hundred Years War, presumably after Henry V of England landed in Normandy on 1st August and laid siege to Caen, which he captured on the 17th.
The Tour de la Liberté used to be known until 1789 as the Tour Beatrix and although I found the plans for it, I’ve not been able to find the date of its construction. It was certainly here in 1434 as it was reported as damaged by cannon fire in a siege by the English, and was repaired in 1441 and reconstructed in 1479.
There were important building works to strengthen the fortifications between 1389 and 1410 and it’s likely that it dates from that period.
As for the abbey itself, this is what everyone comes to see, although I’m not going to see it as I’d never get up the hill.
The village itself is known to have existed in 709 but before that, as a result of several alleged miracles, it was a site of pilgrimage and the Abbots of the cathedral at Avranches promoted the site in various written tracts. Some kind of church was erected in the village and was gradually expanded.
Some monks came here to seek sanctuary but their church was sacked by the Vikings in 847.
It was re-established later but in 965 the construction of the Abbey began. In 1022 Richard Duke of Normandy gave to the monks the Ile de Chausey who then used rock from the islands to expand the Abbey.
However by the mid-18th Century the place was starting to fall into ruins and the French Revolution finished it off.
It was declared a “national Monument” as early as 1862 and restoration began shortly afterwards.
This is the Maison De L’artichaut, so-called because its decorations on the spire are said to resemble artichokes.
It was actually created as part of the Hotellerie de la Licorne – the “Hostel of the Unicorn” which dates from the 15th Century.
It was declared a “Historic Monument” in 1918 and the upper part in 1936, however it’s not stated in the Formal Notice when it was actually built. One can only assume that it was built either at the same time or shortly after the Hotellerie de la Licorne.
On the right just here are the steps that lead up to the ramparts but I wasn’t going for a stroll up there.
This here is the Porte du Roy – the “King’s Gate”.
This is another addition from the work of 1417. With no ditch here at the time, the mount was easy to attack and difficult to defend so a ditch was dug and the gate was built, with a drawbridge to protect the entrance.
There was also a metal portcullis here to defend the entrance.
Nevertheless all of this was still insufficient so another entrance was built in 1440, part of which you can see through the arch, because of the advances in artillery that rendered the gate obsolete.
The final entrance that we saw earlier in was added in 1530 following further advances in artillery and offensive techniques..
You can see all of the steps up to the ramparts again on the left of the photo.
This is the Grande Rue or “High Street”. I reckon that just about every building in here is a listed National Monument.
And it was here that I abandoned my friends for a while and let them carry on up the hill. It had defeated me so I wandered back outside to wait for them and to have a look around while they carried on trudging up the hill.
And while I was waiting outside I took many of the photos that you saw just now.
When they returned we had a very leisurely walk back to the bus stop, and then an even more leisurely wait for a bus to arrive. There are only two running right now so it was a very long wait.
At least, the wait meant that we had a good opportunity to see the sun setting. That was quite beautiful.
Back at the shuttle terminal we walked back to the café, rescued the car and I took the photos of Mont St Michel in the darkness as the lights came on.
We had a good drive back to Granville and I invited them to a restaurant where I treated them to a meal to thank them for a wonderful day out. And as a result it was after midnight when I returned home.
No time to write up my notes so I’ll do that tomorrow. which I did, hence the amended page.
And I also transcribed the dictaphone notes too. There was a trawler whose registration number was something like KVKLNO something or other. We’d been to a football match watching Morton. people were saying about how poor the side was these days. I was thinking that it’s not a case of how poor the side was, it’s a case of the money becoming tight everywhere and they are suffering. A subject came up that involved trawlers. One of the group said that thanks to someone else but I can’t remember who, they were saved from certain events that might have happened invloving this trawler because that particular person made them aware of things but I can’t remember what that was.
There was something going on last night with my beige Cortina. I was at home and talking to my sister. She was cleaning the house really deeply but we didn’t have all that long to wait before we had to go out so I couldn’t understand why she had suddenly started on this plan. One of the topics of conversation was the local councillor when we lived in Shavington. He was my age and had been on a student exchange with me. On one particular coach trip coming back from somewhere there had been a few shenanigans as you would expect with a bunch of teenagers. He’d been a part of all of this yet here he was 30 years later being all “Holier Than Thou”. Of course everyone remembered him and we made our best to make sure that everyone knew exactly what had been happening back in those days.
Wonders will never cease.