ABOUT 400 kilometers (and an easy day-trip) from Paris is a stunning island commune known as Mont Saint-Michel.
Located in Normandy, it is one kilometer off the north-western coast, at the Couesnon River mouth near Avranches and is home to a population of less than 50.
The island was home to strategic fortifications since antiquity, and since 709 AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it gets its’ name.
Named in honor of St Michael, legend has it that on the island the Archangel Michael did battle with Satan himself in the guise of a dragon.
The island gained fame thanks to the abbey, built between the 11 and 14 centuries. With striking grace and grandeur the walls of the castle of Mont-Saint-Michel monastery blend in almost perfect harmony with the rock – rising pyramid-like from the water.
An interesting fact is that twice a year, during the autumn and spring tides, Mont Saint-Michel is a real island. Then it can be reached only by boat, and at low tide by the causeway linking it to the mainland.
It is also noteworthy that it is sometimes called the “provincial Bastille” and like the Parisian jail, it once contained dangerous criminals, serving half a century as a state prison.
In 1863, the island was opened to tourists beginning a tradition that has seen the number of visitors the UNESCO World Heritage site swell to more than 3 million people per year.
And while the sheer number of visitors means it can become very “touristy” during the day, this rocky sland with “the most beautiful wall in Europe” – is well worth a visit ranking up there the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles as one of the unique attractions of modern France.
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