There are a lot of pretty people out there: Gigi Hadid, Chris Hemsworth, Sofia Vergara (I know, I always mention her but DAYUM), that guy who tends bar at that place in that town. You know who I’m talking about–you’ll find him in a tight black t-shirt mispronouncing everything on the menu but his teeth are whiter than your dad on a dance floor so you just cock your head and say, Okay. Do you know anything about these people other than they are gorgeous and/or can open a beer bottle with his bicep? Probably not. With the exception of the last one, a simple Google search reveals these people are nothing but gorgeous. Just boobs and abs and come-hither looks. Are they someone you’d enjoy getting to know? No idea. Would it be worth inviting them over for movie night? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Can they hold an intellectually stimulating conversation? Couldn’t tell ya.
And it’s not just people left to suffer this fate (sorry you’re so sexy); it’s places too. Think of the Taj Mahal, Neuschwanstein Castle, Petra, the Sydney Opera House. You should have no problem picturing these places because you’ve seen them a gazillion times—on Pinterest, on “world’s most beautiful places” roundups, on someone’s bucket list. Sure they’re stunning, but do you know anything about what’s inside? Can you even go inside? Or do you not really care because look at them—those curves! Those peaks! The fact that it was in an Indiana Jones movie once! It’s sultry yet playful Australian accent! Hubba hubba!
Because of this phenomenon, it’s always shocking to find out something so beautiful is actually worth getting to know. Like Natalie Portman, for instance. Not only is she stunning (the face and body of Dior, holy geez) but she’s also Harvard educated, a philanthropist, and speaks six languages. Would I have dinner with her at that restaurant where that guy from that town bartends? You bet your ass I would. Or like Mont Saint Michel, that majestic, can’t-be-real, island castle thing you’ve seen the same picture of a million times but with varying levels of romance insinuation. Not only is it one of the most striking locations in the world, it’s also drenched in history, stranded in time, and even more interesting from the inside looking out. Yes, believe it or not, it’s actually worth visiting Mont Saint Michel, the Natalie Portman of travel destinations.
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While you’re in Normandy (yes, that’s where Mont Saint Michel is located), why not check out some of the amazing Normandy WWII museums? This region has so much to offer history geeks and World War II enthusiasts!
IT’S ACTUALLY WORTH VISITING MONT SAINT MICHEL
Have you ever seen a picture of the inside of Mont Saint Michel? Or what the surrounding area looks like from Mont Saint Michel? I’m willing to bet no. It’s always a variation of the same: the far off pointy French island sometimes surrounded by sheep, sometimes by foggy mist, sometimes by sunset. In a word: dreamy. The only thing dreamier would be a picture of Chris Hemsworth sheering a sheep at Mont Saint Michel. Call me when you find that.
These photos you see are stupid gorgeous. I mean… the nerve! In them, Mont Saint Michel looks like a fairy tale land or something that could only exist in our wildest imaginations (see ‘sheep-sheering’ comment above). And, since they’re all over Pinterest, those sons of bitches are most likely hella Photoshopped, right? (Those purple and turquoise Fairy Pools of Scotland? Gimme a f*cking break with that.) You’ll rarely ever find a photo of the island up-close or on the inside—this must leave you wondering whether or not it’s worth visiting Mont Saint Michel or if it would merely be an interesting photo-op on the road to somewhere else.
Sometimes a pretty face is just a pretty face and the cover should never, ever be pulled back. And sometimes, like with Mont Saint Michel, you absolutely owe it to yourself to get to know it better. So you do that and Imma go see what kinda stories Chris Hemsworth has got under his V-neck.
IT’S ACTUALLY WORTH VISITING MONT SAINT MICHEL FOR ITS HISTORY
I won’t get into the prehistory of it all, but I imagine the island itself has been around aboouuut as long as your husband’s promise to call his mother back. Think: mastadons and saber-toothed tigers. The abbey, on the other hand, has been an abbey since the year 708. That’s a little more than 1,300 years before you pinned it to your “Someday!” board. Oh, you didn’t know there was an abbey? Shocking.
So back in 708, Saint Michael appeared to the bishop of a nearby town in a vision (allegedly) and told him to build a church on that big rock out in the ocean (allegedly). He ignored this vision because he hadn’t gone completely cuckoo yet but one, and then two metaphysical (and somewhat abusive, actually) visions later he finally gave in and built the damn church. This was a time when announcing long-dead spiritual saints have visited you and told you to do insane things made you a saint yourself, not a crazy person who isn’t permitted unsupervised visits with his children anymore.
It’s this divine intervention that has made Mont Saint Michel not just a perfect image for your desktop wallpaper, but one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Christendom, a stop along the Camino de Santiago. (And you thought watching Thor was a religious experience!) The island has less than 50 permanent residents at any given time but welcomes hundreds of thousands of religious pilgrims each year. That’s not even counting the rest of us—the tourists, the Pinterest pilgrims who travel the world seeking the most beautiful places to show off to our friends on Facebook.
In 1979 Mont Saint Michel and its bay were officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site having met such criteria as: “exceptional combination of natural and cultural elements” and “interaction between man and his natural environment.” Speaking of the interaction between man and his natural environment, where are we on that Hemsworth/sheep thing?
IT’S ACTUALLY WORTH VISITING MONT SAINT MICHEL FOR ITS MEDIEVAL-NESS
People seem to love everything to do with medieval times (the historical era, not the dining experience though I can’t say I don’t love that, too). We love the architecture (castles!), the clothing (those dresses!), the knights on horseback, that whole eating your food with your hands thing. We love the drama and the barbaric—will I or won’t I get beheaded today?—way of life that is, for some f*cked up reason, trés sexy. We dress up and go to renaissance festivals and are obsessed with Game of Thrones to an almost unhealthy point. But though we like our HBO as far-fetched and fantastic as George R. R. Martin (et al.) can fathom, we prefer our real-life medieval travel experiences as authentic as possible (are we ever pleased?). And that’s where Mont Saint Michel comes in.
You’ll see on your approach (from a land far, far away) the architecture of the island and notice how it seems stuck in ancient times—like your weird co-worker’s outdated 1980’s trainwreck of a hairstyle you can’t stop looking at and like something out of a Disney fairy tale. Only… it actually is that last one. (You’ve seen Tangled, right?) Nope, we’re not in Paris anymore, Toto. Sure, the City of Lights has romance and a shit-ton of tea roses, but you’ve grown up. You’ve moved on to a place even a lumberjack could love. A place with iron gates, eerie alleyways, and tides that rise so quickly there’s a legit fear you might drown here. Medieval AF.
You’ll stand at the bottom of the island looking way, way up at the abbey and wonder how many dragons have flown over this. very. spot. You’ll start talking with a British accent because, from what you’ve seen on your television screen, everyone in the Middle Ages spoke with a British accent, regardless of nationality or location. You’ll enter the heart of the town through an honest-to-goodness drawbridge and your hobbit-loving heart will skip a beat.
You’ll throw out your arms and start singing about this poor provincial town as you spin through the streets: “There goes the baker with his tray like always… the same old bread and rolls to selllllll!” Only, before the town’s inhabitants can get to the part about you being a weird-as-hell chick, you’ll crash into about twenty people because these tiny streets are cuh-rowded. You can’t swing about like a Disney princess here–this is not your living room after your husband has left for work.
The totally worth visiting Mont Saint Michel is quaint and cute and… loaded with tourists wanting to see for themselves. The main street you’ll be pushed through is lined with countless souvenir shops and eateries and… 2.5 million visitors a year. While at first this is a discouraging fact (you just wanna pretend you’re a Disney princess for like one damn minute), it helps to know that this street has always been this way. Even in the Middle Ages the town’s main thoroughfare was flooded with merchants selling everything from fast food and candles to, I can only presume, swords and house banners and direwolf pups. But as crowded as it is, it’s still charming as hell.
Weave through the cobblestone streets–“Up, up, up, up, up the stairs we go!”— and wind your way through the hilltop abbey, its gardens, and its gothic cathedral. Have your friend follow you the entire way shouting, “Shame! … Shame! … Shame!” for full effect.
IT’S ACTUALLY WORTH VISITING MONT SAINT MICHEL FOR THE VIEWS
Have you ever met Chris Hemsworth? I personally have not but I imagine he’s just as beautiful in person–unlike a lot of celebrities who probably don’t look near as fabulous as their magazine covers without a fair amount of Photoshopping and/or a couple hours in the hair and makeup chair. That’s something you just can’t say about Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel may get mega hype for being a looker but it deserves every bit of the attention. The island is effortlessly gorgeous and even more so in person where you can admire its size, its every detail, and its complete surroundings. (Oooh… the rear on her… wow!)
For starters, seeing Mont Saint Michel up close and in person is fantastic but seeing Mont Saint Michel way out in the distance on your drive in is extraordinary! Everyone’s face will be glued to the bus window, taking shitty cell phone pics through a green-tinted window that they’ll look back on as a really pointless thing to do. But that’s the magic of places like this. You see it on the approach and you gasp because THERE IT IS! Must. Capture. This moment! Don’t. Care. How blurry!
The views of Mont Saint Michel are incredible—from really far away, from not-so-far away on your crossing the bridge, and from at the bottom looking up. But my favorite were the views from Mont Saint Michel. Is it because this part never gets bragged about or pinned or shown in your aunt’s vacation slides at Thanksgiving? Maybe a little. Everyone likes an underdog, right? Why show the flat surrounding land when there’s a medieval island fortress from a Disney movie here? However, Mont Saint Michel’s surroundings are totally unique and I was kind of shocked at what an awesome surprise they were.
At high tide Mont Saint Michel becomes an island. At low tide, it’s your every Princess Bride dream—a vast expanse of actual, real-life quicksand. The receding tides create beautiful swirls of colors that I imagine are different every day. And there isn’t an inch of water literally as far as you can see. So while most pictures you’ll see of Mont Saint Michel are of it in its island state, I prefer its bald, daytime persona even more. Shout out to the Steve Harveys of the world!
IT’S ACTUALLY WORTH VISITING MONT SAINT MICHEL FOR THE INSIDE SCOOP
Everyone wants a bit of the inside scoop—it’s human nature, no? It’s why we gossip and read celeb interviews and watch behind-the-scenes YouTube videos of Kit Harrington sword-fighting in front of a green screen… right, girl? There’s often more than meets the eye when it comes to a beautiful exterior and Mont Saint Michel is one example. It’s worth visiting Mont Saint Michel for the same reasons it’s worth reading the interview behind the cover photo. “As a matter of fact I do want to know Jessica Alba’s billion dollar success secrets!” You’ll never learn how Kate Hudson stays “fun, flirty, and fit AF” if you don’t open the magazine while waiting in the checkout line behind that woman searching for her checkbook.
Visit Mont Saint Michel to find out what’s behind all those stunning photos you see online–it’s like knowing a beautiful travel secret. See the views of the surrounding landscape from the top of the abbey that never get shown. Take in the details like the cutest stained glass windows I’ve ever seen and the human hamster wheel used to bring supplies up from the bottom. Learn first-hand that it’s totally worth visiting Mont Saint Michel, that it exceeds all bucket list/Pinterest expectations, and that, yes, it’s full of tourists but is in no way a tourist trap.
Heading to Mont Saint Michel? Find great places to stay here.
But where do I personally recommend? I stayed at the sorta nearby Gold Beach Hotel.
For more information on visiting Mont Saint Michel, visit their official page.
Camera I used for this post? Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II with 12-40mm & 40-150mm lenses
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Mrs Major Hoff (Sara)
I’ve always wanted to go there! Loved the pictures!
Ashley @ My Wanderlusty Life
Thank you! I really hope you get to — it’s so worth the trip.
I’m DYING over shame… shame… shame… once again, I really should not read your posts while in public.
Ashley @ My Wanderlusty Life
Hahaha – I’m definitely bringing my bell next time!