June 12, Saint-Malo -- Mont-Saint-Michel

We left Saint-Malo early, intending to follow the coast most of the way to Mont-Saint- Michel. Not far from Saint-Malo we came upon the home of Jacque Cartier, famous explorer of the Saint Laurence river, the man who claimed Canada for France (in front of and to the consternation of the local Iroquois) and according to some historians began the history of Canada. We were allowed to visit only on a guided tour (French only) and so with some disappointment, we moved on. We soon came upon a side road with a sign pointing to “the dunes” and followed it to a lovely beach bounded by sand dunes and rocky headlands. Sheila walked the beach, and I climbed a rocky headland for an overview of the coast. The wind raised goose bumps as I crossed the headland but the radiant warmth of the sun would fade them as soon as I found shelter from the wind.  I could see Sheila collecting shells and photographing, so absorbed that she was missing the action on the beach. Couples arrived carrying beach chairs and umbrellas, a walking club in animated conversation descended from the knoll and spread across the sands, couples walked their dogs, others walked their children, a young couple oblivious to the world sat entwined at the edge of the dune grass. The sun was warm on our skins, the breeze cool and refreshing and we hesitated to leave but Mont-Saint-Michel beckoned and the morning was gone. We left the coast and drove inland, past wheat fields, woodlots, vegetable plots and through small villages arriving at our campsite in time to check-in and head off to the causeway that connects Mont-Saint-Michele to the mainland. Prior to 1879 Mont-Saint-Michel was a magnificent fortress/monastery honouring Saint Michael (leader of the Heavenly Militia, slayer of the devil/dragon in Revelations), seeming to grow from solid rock, rising to the heavens, a pilgrim’s view of the new Jerusalem, surrounded by water at high tide or endless sand at low, connected to the mainland only by a long, thin, fragile tidal-causeway, undefeated by the British in the 100 years war, an enduring symbol of French national identity. This was the image I held in my mind’s eye as we approached. We were greeted by the construction of a new elevated causeway with heavy equipment, trucks, tractors, bulldozers, cranes, berms, and protective dikes flanking the old causeway. The roar of diesel engines overpowering even the sound of the wind and the sea, their fumes masking the tang of fresh salt air. The architects drawings presenting a futuristic bridge seeming to float above the tides and sands, appeared a dramatic improvement over the existing causeway. The drawings however, gave the appearance of  a futuristic, sci-fi fantasy movie set. Inside the gates, tourists crowded the souvenir shop, snack bar, and restaurant lined streets. Hordes of school children, clip-boards in hand, rushed to record answers to the questions on their handouts but were still able to create a small din of chatter and laughter as they moved through the once solemn and silent rooms of the monastery. Adult singles took selfies, couples did the same or asked others to photograph them, groups took turns photographing each other in front of some gate, statue, or arch. And yet, if I stood in one place for while, it would empty, however briefly, and I could hear the silence of the meditation, of breathing, imagine the burden of the monk's commitment to silence, poverty, celibacy, and complete obedience to the abbot. I could stand alone, in one of three large stone arches, centimetres from a 20 meter vertical drop to the west terrace, itself 80 meters above the sea and imagine the protective plexiglass gone, open to the buffeting wind and spray of a stormy day, and I felt a strong sense not just of vertigo but of history and mortality. The moments were brief, soon overwhelmed by the chatter and noise of another crowd but they redeemed my visit. Back on the mainland we explored possible vantage points for a more distant view of the island and then returned to camp for dinner before driving off to photograph at sunset. From a distance, the causeway construction was less intrusive and the isolation of the monastery more evident. From our vantage point west of the island, it appeared surrounded by the sedges of the adjacent salt marsh rather than sand or water, not the image I had imagined, but impressive none-the-less.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.

June 12, Saint-Malo -- Mont-Saint-

Michel

We left Saint-Malo early, intending to follow the coast most of the way to Mont-Saint- Michel. Not far from Saint-Malo we came upon the home of Jacque Cartier, famous explorer of the Saint Laurence river, the man who claimed Canada for France (in front of and to the consternation of the local Iroquois) and according to some historians began the history of Canada. We were allowed to visit only on a guided tour (French only) and so with some disappointment, we moved on. We soon came upon a side road with a sign pointing to “the dunes” and followed it to a lovely beach bounded by sand dunes and rocky headlands. Sheila walked the beach, and I climbed a rocky headland for an overview of the coast. The wind raised goose bumps as I crossed the headland but the radiant warmth of the sun would fade them as soon as I found shelter from the wind.  I could see Sheila collecting shells and photo- graphing, so absorbed that she was missing the action on the beach. Couples arrived carrying beach chairs and umbrel- las, a walking club in anim- ated conver- sation des- cended from the knoll and spread across the sands, couples walked their dogs, others walked their chil- dren, a young couple oblivious to the world sat entwined at the edge of the dune grass. The sun was warm on our skins, the breeze cool and refreshing and we hesitated to leave but Mont-Saint-Michel beckoned and the morning was gone. We left the coast and drove inland, past wheat fields, woodlots, veget- able plots and through small vil- lages arriving at our campsite in time to check-in and head off to the causeway that connects Mont- Saint-Michele to the mainland. Prior to 1879 Mont-Saint-Michel was a magni- ficent fortress/monastery honouring Saint Michael (leader of the Heavenly Militia, slayer of the devil/dragon in Revelations), seeming to grow from solid rock, rising to the heavens, a pilgrim’s view of the new Jerusalem, surroun- ded by water at high tide or endless sand at low, connected to the mainland only by a long, thin, fragile tidal-causeway, undefeated by the British in the 100 years war, an enduring sym- bol of French national identity. This was the image I held in my mind’s eye as we approached. We were greeted by the construction of a new elevated causeway with heavy equipment, trucks, tractors, bulldozers, cranes, berms, and protective dikes flanking the old causeway. The roar of diesel engines overpowering even the sound of the wind and the sea, their fumes masking the tang of fresh salt air. The architects drawings presenting a futuristic bridge seeming to float above the tides and sands, appeared a dramatic improvement over the existing causeway. The drawings however, gave the appearance of  a futuristic, sci-fi fantasy movie set. Inside the gates, tourists crowded the souvenir shop, snack bar, and restaurant lined streets. Hordes of school children, clip-boards in hand, rushed to record answers to the questions on their handouts but were still able to create a small din of chatter and laughter as they moved through the once solemn and silent rooms of the monastery. Adult singles took selfies, couples did the same or asked others to photograph them, groups took turns photo- graphing each other in front of some gate, statue, or arch. And yet, if I stood in one place for while, it would empty, however briefly, and I could hear the silence of the meditation, of breathing, ima- gine the burden of the monk's commitment to silence, poverty, celibacy, and complete obedi- ence to the abbot. I could stand alone, in one of three large stone arches, centimetres from a 20 meter vertical drop to the west terrace, itself 80 meters above the sea and imagine the protective plexiglass gone, open to the buffeting wind and spray of a stormy day, and I felt a strong sense not just of vertigo but of history and mortality. The moments were brief, soon overwhelmed by the chatter and noise of another crowd but they redeemed my visit. Back on the mainland we explored possible vantage points for a more distant view of the island and then returned to camp for dinner before driving off to photograph at sunset. From a distance, the causeway construction was less intrusive and the isolation of the mon- astery more evident. From our vantage point west of the island, it appeared surrounded by the sedges of the adjacent salt marsh rather than sand or water, not the image I had ima- gined, but impressive none-the-less.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Route Map Route Map Slideshow Slideshow
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.