Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel at dusk

Mont Saint-Michel at dusk

I recently spent a weekend with friends exploring the French region of Brittany, home to the ancient castle of Mont Saint-Michel. After a leisurely drive through rolling French countryside dotted with sheep and stone farmhouses, the castle loomed abruptly on the horizon, as if dropped out of a fairytale. Dating back to the sixth century, this ancient abbey and fortress is perched atop an island and accessible only by a single road, which winds towards the fortress walls through shifting sandbanks and chilly tide pools.

Town around Mont Saint-Michel at dusk

The winding streets inside the walls of Mont Saint-Michel

You enter through a drawbridge and weave through the narrow streets and steps of the castle’s village. The houses are crooked from having stood so long and every turn offers a damp view of a cobbled alley, tiny window, or thatched roof. Having passed the busy shops and attractions, you climb the last flights of steps to the nave of the castle’s church, where softly tinted windows lend the space a pale glow. You step out onto the abbey’s balcony and are whipped by the strong winds of the Atlantic ocean. Looking out at the awe-inspiring views, you understand why this was once known as the end of the world.

The end of the world: view from Month Saint-Michel

What was once known as the end of the world

As we left, we stopped at the Biscuiterie de la Baie du Mont Saint-Michel to pick up several packets of the cookies for which the region is known. These cookies are crumbly bits of heaven and made from the region’s specialty: salted butter. Because of Normandy and Brittany’s proximity to the sea, the regional cows and sheep graze on salted grass. And unlike many regions in France, these farmers transform this salted milk into butter rather than cheese. A glorious occurrence for all.

La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert, Mont-St-Michel

La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert at Mont Saint-Michel