Ever dream of escaping your everyday life?
Would you like to escape to your own Magical Faraway Kingdom? Wand and princess outfit not required (although you can bring them if you wish).
Do you ever imagine yourself, swept away off on a medieval pilgrimage – such as the tales of old:
“In a faraway kingdom, in a mythical age – you arrive at the doors of the fort as the sun sets off in the distance. Your horses’ pace is ever steady, yet you know that he’s tired after a long days ride. You’ve arrived at the right time of the day, as the tide is out and you are able to cross the causeway to the Monastery. Where you leave your horse at the stable and find yourself a suitable room above the inn.”
*sigh, dream*, what one wouldn’t give for a horse and room at the inn…
Have you envisioned checking out of your life for a few days to escape to a place so far from your everyday reality? It’s just the break you need to give your mind, spirit, and soul a well-deserved break that it needs.
You might be asking yourself if places like this still exist, and if so where.
Let’s uncover where you can find the keys to this faraway kingdom and unravel some of its mystery, that magical kingdom is ‘Mont St. Michel’ in Brittany, France.
The Pilgrimage of Getting to Mont St Michel by Horse, Carriage or Magic Wand
The mini fairy tale above did happen, albeit without the horse, and it’s not as far away or impossible as you might think. Although it is a bit of an adventure to get there. So, be sure to bring a travelers knapsack in which you keep a good book and a jar of patience.
I brought a very special book on this journey, one that I’d been waiting to read till I was on a real pilgrimage of my own Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred. This book was a perfect inspiration and gave me endless food for thought on my adventures during my stay at the Island.
The best route, depending on where you are coming from is via Paris , by air or over land. Ideally, if you are able to hire a car or drive – as it’s a bit out of the way and a car gives you the extra freedom.
If, however, you are like me – the French and their style of driving are likely to have you in a panic – never fear, there are other options.
There is a train from Paris, to Rennes and from there you can catch the bus or shuttle. Please find the most up-to-date options, and bus times here on Rome2Rio.
Do take heed: it is best that you are in time for the last bus, if the tide comes up you may otherwise find yourself stranded in Rennes for the night.
Or, if you are determined to get there as I was, it’ll cost you a small fortune for a taxi.
Is there a bed fit for a Princess above the Inn?
Perhaps you have a secret inkling that you too were once a prince or princess. Wishing that you could spend your time trekking across many lands on horseback – full of adventure, dwarfs, and elves…
You’ve seen the Hobbit, or read Sci-Fantasy books and there is always a wondrous room above the Inn. These Inns do exist and there are a few of them located in Mont Saint Michel for you to stay in.
These are magical places to stay, firstly due to the fact that they are so quaint, that you half expect a Hobbit or Aragon to come walking in through the door. Secondly, most tourists come in during the day on a tour, if you are staying on the isle itself you’ll have the village streets to yourself in the evening and first thing in the morning.
I stayed at Le Mouton Blanc, which has since my stay been refurbished. The real experience is the view outside, the partly lit and magical windy paths upon which the tourists slowly exit the fortress.
Before you know it, it is evening and the streets have become quiet, the medieval shop fronts glisten and twinkle with mystery. The aromas from the Inns restaurant downstairs starts to travel up to your room. You can be lazy and glad to be able to eat downstairs at the Inns Resturant.
Like most restaurants on the island, it’s French – from the open fire to the wine, bread, and candles – it creates an atmosphere from times gone by. I tried the hearty French soup, that tasted as good today as it would’ve if you’d stopped at the Inn 500 years ago.
What’s a Princess to do, once she reaches the Fort
Sadly, Mont St. Michel doesn’t have dwarfs or elves. Better yet, it has a dragon!
St Michel, of course, was the angel who slew the dragon, so you’ll spot signs of their presence everywhere.
In the statues, shops, and artwork around the Abbey.
A word of wisdom on getting the best photos is set the alarm clock and get up early.
At the crack of dawn, there will be no tourists, and you’ll have the whole magical place to yourself. You can meander down the cobblestoned streets, enjoy taking endless photos without anyone in them.
You may with a bit of imagination even envision King Arthur and his men riding out of the mists at any given moment.
Free Sunday Morning Recital in the church
The Abbey on Mont St Michel is a working one, Monks and Nuns still live there as the did once upon a time. It means you’ll share the space with them, as well as the ringing bells that calls them to service.
If you are lucky enough to be there on a Sunday be sure to catch the mass, held at the main chapel at around 10 am. The soft singing and chants of the choir ring out through the towers of the monastery and will leave you in tears and the purest state of bliss.
It will leave you with goosebumps and a peace in your heart that is not comparable with anything else. While I didn’t intend to sit in on the mass, I am incredibly grateful that I did.
Tricks for avoiding the crowds without the Cloak of Invisibility
While Mont St. Michel is magical, the place is quickly overrun with hoards of people as soon as the morning tours start arriving. It’s like a real-world Disney with real-world magic and that is something that everyone wants to come and experience.
If you’d rather not hang out with the masses – then this is the perfect time to head off and explore the rest of the area. You can walk across the causeway and visit shops on the mainland, go hiking in the Dunes or visit other nearby historic villages such as Dinan.
The outer edges along the shoreline if the tide is out is also a great spot to wander and take photos of the iconic island rising up over the causeway.
The true Magic of Mont St Michel
The most enchanting aspect of Mont St Michel is simply Mont St Michel, whether it is strolling down its characterful alleys. Peering into the small shops selling trinkets and religious paraphernalia. The old-fashioned cafes serving delicious French pastries and restaurants lit with candle-light. The magic hangs in the air and sweeps you away to a simpler era when like you, many pilgrims came by here looking to experience the magic and get a warm place to sleep.
Spending a few days is enough, especially when you sleeping on the island itself. You can make the most of the varies tides, the local wildlife and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Abbey.
The trick is to enjoy a touch of slow travel, let yourself be swept away to a place where little has been touched by the hand of time.
My last tip is to leave the real world at the threshold as you enter this enchanted place, and let the grace and magic in.
p.s. If you do see a dragon, Aragon or a hobbit, please be sure to let me know.