There’s nothing quite like Mont Saint Michel. Actually, there is. Disneyland. Both have a castle, both have huge crowds, and both have far-removed parking lots (although Disneyland has got a much-better shuttle system for tired legs).
On the other hand, Mont Saint Michel is quite literally larger-than-life. You see it from 30 miles away. Seriously! It’s that big. And when you consider that the Abbey (the Cathedral up on top) was built in the 11th & 12th centuries, you start wondering about all that “modern” building techniques have really accomplished. However, once you understand that, at its core, Mont Saint Michel is basically one huge granite rock and that everything has been built around that rock more than on top of it, you start worrying a bit less about whether a 1000-year-old building can support so much weight.
If you go, best to get there early. Anything up to 9am will avoid the heavy crowds as you climb to the top, although you’ll see them swarming in as you leave. Make sure you’ve got too hiking shoes, because the walk from where you park your car to the shuttle is easily half a mile, and that’s assuming you parked close-in by getting there early! And when the shuttle drops you off, you have yet another long hike to the rock itself.
There are lots of places “inside” for food & drink, and, unlike what some of the guidebooks say, they’re not all outrageous. However, your best bet is to get something at the Brioche Doree you’ll pass on your way to the shuttle.
And finally, the parking ticket payment machines, which you have to deal with when you leave, don’t take anything but chipped-style credit cards. The type used in Europe but not issued by banks for US customers. They do take bills, however. Half a day of parking ran 8.50 euros.
More soon; time to get to sleep. About 12:20am Thursday here, and if I get off this soon, I might get 7 hours of sleep. Radical! Fill you in on the details regarding the longer-than-should-have-been drive later on, but will let you know that I now know where my son gets his navigational skills from. –Mike–