Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mont Saint Michel - one of France's most recognizable landmarks

     Yesterday I visited an abbey on top of Mont Saint Michel (click here for a map). The best way to understand this phenomenal landmark is to play the promotional clip, click here.  Ready for an adventurous day with me? I start with a Continental breakfast at the very clean hostel at 6:45 AM (included in the $21 Euro daily cost).

     Then a subway ride for only $1.30 Euro which is also very clean. It's prompt, people are polite, runs frequently, and is totally remote (no human operators).

     I waited at the busy main train station one hour for the bus to Mont Saint Michel. A young man was waiting for a connection, too, but instead of playing with his IPhone like the other young folks, he sat at a piano and played songs by memory for about one-half hour. Click here to hear him play "Toccata in A" by Pietro Domenico Paradisi.

     When the piano man left, I hurried across the street to the bus station (much nicer than Greyhound), and one hour later, I was at Mont Saint Michel. Unfortunately, it was foggy and cold, couldn't see anything! I blindly followed the arrow signs to Mont Saint Michel.

     Then, a foggy bridge to the mountainous island.  I figured soon enough I should see a huge mountain in the horizon. But no mountain.

This is the only view that greeted me at the end of the bridge; not very impressive. Where's the abbey?

     I entered the huge gate entrance (see below photo). That wooden door suspended on the ceiling is about ten inches thick. When it's cranked down in front of those iron gates, I don't think anyone could blast their way though that entrance.

     The mountain of granite where Saint Michel sits was designed as a feudal society accessible by boat; the Abbey and monastery are at the top and the stores and homes (now also hotels and restaurants) are at the bottom of the mountain. It looks like this 3D depiction.

     There are cobblestone alleys  (red in photo above) that switchback their way to the top, and there are stone steps (depicted as white paths on the left side) that get you quickly to the abbey. I took the stone steps up, and took the switchback alleys down. These are views as I climbed all those stone steps.

I know I must be near the top, but why can't I see the abbey!? And then voila! there it is . . .  it's still quite a ways up there.

     At first, I was disappointed about the fog. But once inside this abbey, it was magnificent. I took too many photos, like a kid in a candy store. And since I can't bear to toss these awesome photos, I've decided to compile the photos in chronological order with the audio of the nuns' mass held while I was there.

Click here to begin the slideshow.

     Travelers can stay here at hotels on the island, but the downside of staying here is no bellhop. You have to trudge your own luggage up all those steps. She was not a happy lady when I passed her going down.

The hotels have a lot of ambience of course.

      Coming back off the mountain, I opted for the shuttle to the mainland to wait for the bus back to Rennes. This shuttle bus never turns around; it changes mirrors and driver seats in both ends!

Back at Rennes, I got to see Christmas lights.

It was still foggy, too.

Tomorrow I board a train for a little village and say Au'Voir to Rennes.

Friday, December 16, 2016

More Sights of Rennes, France

     I asked a French guy how to pronounce Rennes. He rolled the "R" heavily, and the "s" is silent. Sounds like "Wwwwrrrrrrrrren".  This little city has won my heart, and that's a huge compliment coming from someone who has no desire to see Paris.

     See all the fireplace flues? It's no wonder almost all the buildings have been masonry construction (more fireproof) for the last six or so centuries.

     This mason is crafting a wall with rocks and mortar. He's chipping away a stone with a hammer to make it fit.

 The doorways range from very elaborate . . . .


to semi-elaborate . . . .

to sublime . . .

and to simple but elegant.

And one can drive under buildings with a little car.

. . . and sometimes with a big car.

This drive-through has a lot of French ambience.

This is the Doge Ram ProMaster's daddy and momma, the Iveco.

Lots of European auto companies make these popular large vans.

Rennes is improving their subway system near a very old cathedral.

This outdoor food stall had me salivating.

I think these are open-faced panini on crusty thick bread slices, ready to be pressed to order. Center ones look like prosciutto, and the others look like cheese and pepperoni.

 And served with a bowl of soup, maybe potato and bacon soup??

All the bakeries look amazingly scrumptious with that French thing they sell so well, AMBIENCE.

This capital city has its share of official looking buildings. This is Saint Georges Palace.

This is the Place de la République.

This is the courthouse.

This is the Commerce Building. See the Sprinter?

The Visitors' Center is an old building, too. The ceiling looks at least 300 years old.

This is the entrance to the Visitors' Center.

 Lots of cathedrals and churches!

And inside St. Pierre's is a beautiful rotunda .. . .

and a beautiful pipe organ.

I'm hoping to hear Christmas music at one of these churches this weekend.

This is the Municipal Swimming Pool built in 1924.

     I swam there today with about 60 other swimmers, round-robin style -- very crowded, very limited lap swimming hours for too many lap swimmers. Males and females share the same showers (with bathing suits on), then walk to little 2x4 feet dressing stalls (on left and right side of pool) to change back into street attire. Two of those little stalls have a toilet for men or women. Unlike the USA, they certainly have solved the transgender bathroom issue  :)

     I am in awe of the old homes that still function today, probably as office buildings. I'm glad someone is taking care of them.

     I've noticed Christmas lights strung across all the streets, so hopefully tomorrow night, I'll stay awake and have Christmassy night photos to show you all.