1990-04-19: Le Mont St Michel

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Mike1:

19 April, 1942, St Omer

On Tues, went to Nantes for a “light day”. Shopped at Carrefour. On way into bldg, smelled something good, so looked around & saw sign (and open back door) for “Crep’n Pizz” restaurant. S had a copy of the gite’s key made for C, then we ate: this was one of 6 franchises (I guess) in this area, and was excellent (I was tempted to take menu for ‘recipes’). Probably will be all over France in a couple of years. Bought curtains & stuff from Carrefour, then drove to Gulf of Morbihan.
The day was like most have been here: windy & scattered showers – great cloudscapes. We all liked the peninsula, but S especially. Saw a new “chateau” that was worthy of a picture, but when we turned around in driveway, the owner drove up! We stopped at a tumulus & walked around & to top, started to hail & rain hard as we came down & we all got drenched, but the view from top was worth it.

Drove to tip of eastern peninsula around gulf & walked along edge, then bought little stuff, & frites & drinks, and started home. C bought the frites & drinks; she likes to buy things. On the way home, stopped at suspension bridge we have crossed several times, and had ice cream overlooking.
Wed drove through Rennes (which took a while) to Mont St Michel. This was much as described in guidebooks: souvenir shops on street leading to abbey, which is very impressive. There was no danger of parking lot flooding in tide this day. Bought ticket for tour ~1140 & were able to catch up to English tour guide that started ~1130. She was excellent, prob former teacher, controlled audience, educated & entertained, & earned tip, cleverly reminding us of it.

After MSM, stopped briefly in Dinan, but not very impressed with the artist/tourist colony. Perhaps the state of bladders had something to do with impatience. We had good meal at MSM. Also saw a lot of windmills along coast before we turned inland to Dinan.

Today was really a light day. Up late went to Blain to cash T.C. & buy flowers for farmer’s wife who helped us Sat. Tried to call UTA to confirm reservation Tues, but girl hung up when asked about English. Unable to reach Peugeot agent in Nantes, but one in Paris said “no problem” & that they would answer later. Came home & ate, totalled customs & packed a suitcase not to be opened til USA. S & C have gone out to call Florence.

Mike2:

19 April, 1942, St Omer

We had such good success shopping at the Carrefour hypermarche chain all over France, that it was one of our favorite things to do. We were really excited when we found out a Carrefour had opened in Philadelphia. We rushed there as soon as possible, hoping to find some French things, but were mostly disappointed. Later a Leedmark (part of French LeClerc chain) opened in Glen Burnie, and we occasionally go there, but they also don’t have many French items. Mainly these stores are pushing the hypermarket format, not the French connection.

In addition to the hypermarket, there are usually several small stores in the same building, like a mall. In Nantes, one of these was the “Crep’n Pizz” restaurant. This was a two-level semi-fast food. You could order at a counter and take food to a table, or could sit upstairs at a table with waitress service. Since we were in no hurry, and didn’t like the pressure of trying to read menus on walls behind counters, we sat upstairs. The menu had glossy pictures and descriptions of pizza, steak & frites, and other things. Susan and I ordered a mushroom pizza with cream sauce over it: fantastic! The menu listed six locations, and it seemed obvious to us that was bound to become a big deal. We subsequently went to others, and were always sorely tempted to take a menu, with the pictures and descriptions.

The Morbihan peninsula in southern Brittany was very appealing to Susan and me. The ocean and sky combination give a wide-open feeling that I really like. It is probably bound to be overrun by pleasure-boating people, with marinas everywhere (there are already quite a few). The weather in the spring was very dramatic, with clouds sweeping in from the sea, small thundershowers building up, and sudden, brief showers. We heard thunder, but seldom saw lightning. The net effect was a rain-washed sky a lot of the time, much nicer than the hazy skies in Alsace, or the dusty skies of Provence.

The tumulus was well-marked, right by the road. It was probably about 40-50 feet high, nearly conical. A path went around it, and one went to the top. Although there were showers around, we climbed to the top for the view, which was worth it, and even worth the drenching we got when we came down. When we came running to our car, soaked to the skin, there were a couple of people sitting in a car waiting for the rain to stop before they got out. We must have been quite a spectacle to them; it was terrific fun.

The trip to Le Mont St Michel had been near the top of Susan’s list since the start of our planning, and it didn’t disappoint. The guidebooks warn about the highly commercialized street leading up to the abbey, but also point out that it has been like that for centuries. From the parking area, we walked up to the mount, which gave us a good general view, including the ramp over which supplies and building materials were hauled up to the abbey. The crowd in the street was thick, but in a generally good mood; the shops were crowded.

The tour was the best we had; the guide was very polished. Her English was excellent, with just enough accent to be authentic, but no hindrance to understanding. She commanded the group, holding attention the entire time, with great presence. Near the end of the tour, she cleverly contrived to elicit applause from some of the crowd (I can’t recall how), and then stopped it with upheld hand, reminding everyone that there was a better way to express their appreciation. At the bottom of the last spiral staircase, she received fistfuls of appreciation, including ours. It was a terrific performance.

After the tour, we debated whether to eat on Le Mont St Michel, figuring the restaurants would be more expensive, or to drive on and look for someplace less expensive to eat. But since we didn’t know of any place specific, and we were hungry and thirsty, we ate on MSM. This was very good, in an upstairs dining room with windows looking out over the water (behind us). The waiters, waitresses and busboys were dressed in costume, and the decor evoked the period. (1991-08-13)

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