I booked a tour to Mont St. Michel. Frankly, when I looked into it, I would’ve had to take two trains and a bus to get there and the price was almost the same as the tour bus so tour bus it was. We had an ungodly call time of 7 AM. Although I usually get up early, even on holiday, I’ve adapted (it’s all just habits – there’s no such thing as ‘morning people’) the Parisian habit of staying up later at night and sleeping in later in the morning. Nothing happens in Paris in the mornings – it’s dead. So 7 AM meant a wake up of 5:45 AM and that felt very early!
After downing an expresso (I was out of milk) I was off to the metro. I saw three people on the block and an half walk. Two were walking dogs but Jemma assures me that they were tourists as “French dogs wait until a reasonable hour to be walked.”
Of course, I got lost. I was on the right street but couldn’t find the place. I now know that the big sign is another company’s name and the name I had is very wee on the corner. Also, it wasn’t open yet at 6:30. After a bit, I stopped at a hotel and asked the clerk behind the desk and showed him the address. He went into a tirade about how stupid that company was and how they are dealing with tourists so they should be more careful and how much he hates them. Then he went off in a huff without telling me where it was. An actual huff. If he was a cartoon character, there would be a puff of steam over his head. I went back out and tried again when this time I saw the wee sign.
So I went in search of coffee. Just down the street was a cafe. I walked to the doors and before I could step inside the man hollered, “Ferme!”
I was confused. The lights were on. Double doors were wide open. The tables and chairs had been put on the street. I could see a tower of mouth-watering croissants on the counter. I could SMELL the coffee?! Closed? Okay, fine.
Down the street further. Another cafe – same scene but here was a tourist family of four, parents drowsily drinking coffee, the two kids chatting and drinking their orange juice and there was one guy reading the paper with his expresso at the bar. Parfait.
I ordered my cafe creme and croissant for take-away as I wanted to have lots of time to get back to the tour company and not have to wait for ‘l’addition’. I gave the guy a 20 Euro note. He gave me back a five. Hmm. I politely said that their must have been an error, I gave him a twenty and I pointed to the five. He glared at me, went the register, slammed my 10 Euro note on the counter and walked to the back.
I went outside and sat with my coffee and breakfast. A waiter came out and said that I’d bought take-away so I couldn’t sit here. If I sat here, everyone else would want to and I ordered take-away. I looked around. Nope, no mad rush of customers since I’d first looked. So, I looked him in the eye and very solemnly said that if anyone else came, I would immediately get up, tell them I’d broken the rules and rush out.
“Five minutes, maximum.” he said and then turned away. Two seconds later, “Shit. Merde. Shit.” (Why is it that we can all swear in five languages?)
A pigeon had pooped on the table he was cleaning. HA! (I know that’s not very nice but Canadian women get cranky in the morning too – especially without enough coffee)
At the tour company they sorted us out and took us to our buses (those women are very patient). The bus was very comfortable and wasn’t at all full so that was nice. After our four hour long ride (ugh). We stopped for lunch which was mediocre but the company was lovely. The tour was split into two – the Japenese guided tour and the English/Italian tour. There were only 11 of us on the English/Italian one so it was nice to chat.
The Abbey is built on the bay and building the abbey is impressive on it’s own becuase they would have to bring over supplies only during low tide. The abbey itself is lovely and has an interesting history. It’s been both a Benedictine monastery and a prison. Also, it’s one of the few places in France that has always been French – never been seized by the British or the Germans. The best part though was the views. Amazing. The ‘village’ is actually one street winding down from the abbey full of tourist shops and restaurants. Very charming however with beautiful landscapes. The next time, I would skip the abbey and take the tour of the bay – you must have an ecological guide to do so as it’s dangerous – not only does the tide come in quickly, there are spots that suddenly sink and some that are like quicksand. There are two parking lots – the close one and the far one. The close one will be completely covered with water by eight tonight!