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Friday, January 21, 2011

France 2010 - Day 9, Part 1 - Normandy: Mont-St-Michel

"It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact." - Edmund Burke

***

France 2010
Day 9 - 11th October - Normandy: Mont-St-Michel
(Part 1)

Today we visited the gothic abbey of Mont-St-Michel, dedicated to the archangel Michael.

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Mont-St-Michel and Wheat Fields

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The desolate road we were stranded on the previous night when the car broke down. It arouded more consternation at night.

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Causeway to Mont-St-Michel, and Mont-St-Michel. In the past MSM was really an island but now it's permanently joined to the mainland with this causeway.

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Walking on the causeway to Mont-St-Michel. Notice the crowd at 9:13am. Consider that opening time of the complex-proper was 9:30am.

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Notice the supplementary parking where the high tide is

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UNESCO plaque. I'm guessing this was before they developed their symbol (MSM was the eighty-first place to be inscribed)

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"Porte et logis du roi" (Gate and home [?] of the King)
Drawbridge - entrance to the gauntlet of shopping, restaurants and hotels, in what was formerly the village at the foot of the abbey. I'm amazed they squeezed so many inside.

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The gauntlet

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They have an ATM and post office there

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The way got narrower, but there were still as many commercial outlets

Surprisingly, the restaurants were not as expensive as I expected.

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Plaque to Franco-Canadian unity: the abbot of Mont-St-Michel had presented Jacques Cartier - a Breton who claimed Quebec for France - to Francis I

There were some shops with what looked like mannequins and animatronic displays, trying to con tourists into believing that they were important attractions. There was a church which looked more interesting: Eglise Paroissiale St-Pierre (Parish Church of St-Peter)

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This should be St Michael and the Dragon

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Strangely, there was a service in English going on, with a Filipino priest. The start of one hymn sounded like the Village People's "Go West", but went "Give thanks, with a grateful heart".

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Church door. I'm not sure what Joan of Arc is doing here - perhaps both she and Mont-St-Michel (which the English never captured) are symbols of French power

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Mont-St-Michel from below. In middle photo my camera screwed up again, but in this case the effect is not unpleasant

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Staircase to get up to the ticket booth. Mont-St-Michel was free for the disabled and a companion of theirs. My theory is that they wouldn't be able to get up this flight of stairs anyway, so there was no harm giving them a free pass. It was also free for the unemployed. IIRC France is the only place I know of where the unemployed get this kind of benefits.

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Soaring Stone

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"Ne pas jeter les chewing-gum dans l'urinoir" ("Don't throw chewing gum into the urinal")

There were French tours at 10:15 and 1:15pm, and at 10:30 there was a 2 hour tour which cost a whopping 13€ (admission was only 8,5€). At 11 there was a tour in English, but I was "strongly encouraged" to take the French tour to save time, so I didn't learn that much.

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The Causeway viewed from the top


Causeway and Bay

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Causeway and Bay. The Bay is rich with wildlife.

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Angel on top

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Angel

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"NO COMMENTS in this room. THANK YOU"
They mean "commentary"

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Abbey church

The interior of Mont-St-Michel was totally empty - it must be the barest intact historical site I've ever been to. At first I blamed the Revolution, but I think it's more because it was a prison (even before the upheaval).

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Nave of Abbey church

I wasn't feeling very well, but I did catch a few things. Among which: St Michael protects the fleur de lys (an important symbol of France). They were also proud that the English had built a fort 3km away but never captured the abbey - because St Michael was the guardian of the flower. In 1887 the statue of St Michael fell (?). Later a helicopter put it back, but it fell in the direction of England (I think).

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Ceiling of Abbey church. It looks like wood (?!)

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Coat of arms in wall

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Pillars of abbey church. I like the stunned woman.

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Cloisters


Cloisters

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Carvings

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Side of cloisters

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Looking out of plastic pane in cloisters

I didn't catch the significance of the direction [statues, I think] faced, but Christ facing in cardinal directions had a meaning. North was the crucifixion and south was the virgin (?).

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The spider web did not come out

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Refrectory

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Coloured glass on a stone ledge

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"The archangel Michael appears to Aubert, bishop of Avranches"

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Guests' Hall

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This was another chimney in the Guests' Hall

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Kitchen shaft, with sun at the top. My camera wasn't good enough to capture the shaft properly.

I was feeling a bit sick, so I didn't really understand the tour, especially as it progressed. Worse, there were no chairs.
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