Beautiful Bayeux

Trip Start Aug 20, 2011
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14
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Trip End Sep 27, 2011


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Where I stayed
The Relais Roy - Le Mont San Michel
What I did
Saw the Bayeux Tapestry

Flag of France  , Normandy,
Sunday, September 18, 2011

Today we were going to take in two completely different historical places, Bayeux and Le Mont San Michel or St. Michael's Mount, a big day ahead.

We arrived in Bayeux only to find all the inner city roads closed and poor old Tom Tom couldn't handle it. We finally parked the car and walked to the centre of the old town with its cobble stone streets and very old buildings all very beautiful. Signs led us to the famous Bayeux Tapestry and we just beat the tour buses and soon discovered that it was Patriots Day all over France and all museums were free, and many town centres made car free. The seventy metre long tapestry created just after William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, depicts more than 600 embroidered people, 200 horses, over 40 ships and hundreds of animals and has been preserved amazingly for over 900 years. It is housed in a special gallery and we were guided along it and all its features by a personal audio guide, after which we watched a ten minute film describing features of the tapestry and the invasion itself.

Nearby was the Bayeux Cathedral completed in 1077 by Bishop Odo, the brother of William the Conqueror and is a huge Norman structure and the crypt contained many famous people including Bishop Odo himself. We struggled to find our way out of Bayeux because of the closed roads and one way streets, but after again negotiating many narrow lanes and small villages we got to the main freeway and headed towards Mont Saint Michel.

The rain was relentless but an hour later we spotted the outline of the Abbey on the horizon and knew Mont Saint Michel was near. Tom led us to the small township which was lined with hotels and little else apart from the tourist buses. Checking into our hotel, the Le Relais du Roy to find a smallish room by if you leaned out over the balcony there was a glimpse of the Mount. After settling in it was three o’clock so we made a quick decision to head for the mount as tomorrow's weather will be even worse than today.

Our hotel was as close as you could get to the Mount and we drove the two kilometres over the causeway to the parking area, and then walked a few hundred metres in the howling wind. The lower parking area had a sign on it saying, "Drivers, today the sea will not cover the parking". Nice to know!

According to legend the Monastery was founded after the appearance of the Arc Angel St. Michael. It grew from the 10th to the 15th centuries and dominates the bay. All the rooms related to Monastic life are stacked above one another on top of the rock. The spire of the Abbey stands between sky and sea and the whole complex is recognised as the premier historical French site. We joined the throngs of people as we entered the Mount and walked up the winding little street crammed with tiny shops selling all manner of souvenirs and food. Somehow it seemed to fit. Then at the end of the steep street the signs directed us on a course through the Abbey itself. Everything was on a huge scale but at the same time very Spartan in appearance though there is still a small group of present day monks living within the Abbey. The way weaved and turned through many rooms and levels and came out at a cloistered courtyard with amazing views over the bay. Eventually the one way tour brought us out where we started and back down through the street. A truly amazing place which has stood on its lofty perch for many centuries as the tide comes in around it every day. We had visited St. Michael’s Mount in England modelled on its French counterpart but now we have seen the real thing and it blew us away. On the walk back to our car we were literally blown away as the winds reached gale force! Our car was still above water too!
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