Mont-Saint-Michel

Once again this magical place call it self an island again, the holy mount that has been one of Europe’s major pilgrim destinations, one of France’s most recognizable landmarks and one of UNESCOs world heritage site has had undergone a facelift. A major campaign has ensured that the Mont-Saint-Michel preserves its maritime character and remain an island.

Mont Saint Michel, Medieval, analizagonzales.com, Normandy, France

It was a dream come true when I visited this island, this was a place I have only previously seen in movies, on tv or seen and read about in books. I have been fascinated about its location, its history and architecture and now I finally got to see it.

Since ancient times this place has held a strategic fortification and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name.

Steep and narrow streets, buildings clinging to the rocks surface describes this place, the architectural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers. The buildings that went up along the steep village street, is now converted into museums, hotels, restaurants and boutiques for today’s tourists.

I wanted to visit one of these converted places, La Mère Poulard, as a foodie this place was a must visit. You can read about what happened HERE

Mont Saint Michel, Medieval, analizagonzales.com, Normandy, France

Situated only 600 meters from the mainland, made this place accessible tho the countless of pilgrims that has visited this islands abbey throughout history, at the same time this place was defensible as incoming tide stranded, drove off, or drowned, would-be assailants.

The Bay of the Mont Saint-Michel is subject to the largest tidal range in Europe during spring tides. The waters can withdraw as far as 25km from the shore. After low tide, the local saying goes that the seawater rush back in to the bay ‘at the pace of a galloping horse’. The waters come in fast, so if you do not have local knowledge of the area and the tide, do not venture out on the sand.

  1. The rising tide might get you.

2. Quicksand surrounding the mount might get you.

Mont Saint Michel, Medieval, analizagonzales.com, Normandy, France

For centuries this island was a place of God and learning. The Mont even remained unconquered during the Hundred Years’ War, when a small garrison fended off a full attack by the English in 1433. Unfortunately the benefits of its natural defence were not lost on Louis XI, who turned the Mont into a prison. After that the abbey was used as a jail during the Ancien Régime.

From a great distance the island silhouette draws your eyes towards it and as you get closer it looms in the distance. I can imagine the excitement of the pilgrims as they got closer, closer to their God and absolution. I can also imagine the prisoners that saw their future home in a distance, dark, barren and gloomy.

The staggering location has long inspired awe and the imagination. The story of how the mount turned into a great place of Christian pilgrimage is colourful. Aubert, bishop of the nearby hilltop town of Avranches early in the 8th century, claimed that the Archangel Michael himself pressured him into having a church built atop the island just out to sea.

The Bay that Mont Saint-Michel is situated has been prone to silting up in the last couple of centuries. Farming and the building of a causeway to the island did not help the problem. A major campaign and massive work has ensured that the Mont-Saint-Michel preserves its maritime character and remains an island. The Couesnon river that flows into the bay, is ow being left to flow freely so that sediments are washed out to sea.

For more information on this project, please click here

To lighten the load of the sediment build up a new causeway has been built, the car park relocated from the shoreline. The new car parks is about 1,5 miles away from the island. In order to get to the island you have to take a shuttle bus that take you from the mainland to the mount. These busses operate daily, at very regular intervals, from 7.30am to midnight. Other alternatives is to take a stroll or you can book a special horse-drawn carriage.

Mère Poullard omelette

On the island of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy there is a little restaurant called La Mère Poulard, a place that serve lofty and fluffy omelets.

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Anne Poulard and her husband Victor founded the Hostellerie de la Tête d’Or, but found that their customers came and went as quickly as the tide as most of them where pilgrims visiting the church on top of the rock. They came up with the idea of cooking giant omelets in their wooden hearth to entice the visitors to stay.

The restaurant founded in 1879 has since then become quite famous for their egg dish, they are several inches thick, beaten in hand-hammered copper bowls, and cooked over an open fire.  The omelets resemble a soufflé more than a traditional one. In the early days when catering to the pilgrims the omelets were free, but when I was there in May 2015 a 250 gram omelette cost €49 and if you wanted the decadent one with lobster and truffle potatoes the price was €79.

To my dismay I was not able to sample this dish on my visit to the island. I was on a guided tour and managed to sneak away 20 minutes earlier and thought I had enough time to get a taste of this omelette. I ran from the cathedral as if I had stolen the Holy Grail it self turning a few heads as I passed, but alas the restaurant did not open until 11:30 and I had to meet up with the rest of the group at 11:20 for departure.

When I got home from my trip I googled and this is my interpretation of the omelette, but since  I made it on a conventional oven it probably did not taste the same as the one the pilgrims got, I imagine the omelette having a light smokey flavour since it is cooked over burning wood on a open hearth.

For this fluffy omelette i used

3 eggs

2 tbs creme fraishe

salt og pepper

oil and a little butter for cooking

Beat the eggs until pale and fluffy, fold in the creme fraishe, salt and pepper.

Pour the eggs into a preheated pan with a little oil and lett it cook gently on medium to low heat for about 5 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes .
Put the pan back on the heat and gently lift it up and add some butter to give it a little crisper crust. Let the omelette cook for about 5 more minutes on medium to low heat, you do not want it to be cooked all the way to the top.
Slide the omelette on to a serving plate and fold.
Bon Appetitte.