From Brittany to Normandy

The morning sun did not improve Saint Malo’s appearance. The streets were just as austere as the night before and almost deserted. We couldn’t even find a boulangerie, and that’s in France. Finally, we found an open albeit unattractive cafe to have coffee and were ripped off by the proprietor who charged us $4.50 a cup, when elsewhere in France, we didn’t pay more than $2.50. That exacerbated the bitter taste from this town and we departed immediately for the resort town of Dinard, also marked in my tour book as Fodor’s choice.
Dinard is a resort town. To me, all European resort towns have the same feel, though varying architecture. Dinard is no different. It was pleasant enough but nothing special. The only uplifting experience was a walk on a seaside promenade, which revealed nice vistas, rocky slopes, and a bay sprinkled with scattered sailboats. On the other side of the bay, the walled city of Saint Malo looked as ominous as it did close up – the projects in grey stone hastily put together. It should be taken off the tourist map altogether, i nmy humble opinion.
After these two towns, I was ready to get out of Brittany once and for all, but decided to give it one last chance. Dinan was another city Fodor marked as his choice. With Dinan, he redeemed himself. Charming, lovely, cheerful, Dinan made Saint Malo seem like a bad dream. We were back to half-timber houses, mostly in pastels, stone houses with ornamental facades, sloping roofs, cast-iron balconies, courtyards, flowers, winding streets, coquettishly crooked houses, gardens, and vistas.
So if in Brittany, stay away from St. Malo, forget Dinard, just go to Dinan and call it a day.
Our next destination was Le Mont Saint-Michel. We were to stay overnight on the island because tonight was high tide. Arriving to Le MSM is a smooth operation these days. There is a huge parking lot a safe distance from the treacherous tide, a shuttle taking people to the foot of the island via an elevated road. Years ago, you could only come here during low tide, and if high tide caught you on the island, there you stayed until the sea receded once again. The tide swept away cars and people alike, and quick sand was there to catch the unsuspecting traveller.
When I came here 35 years ago, the bus took us close to the entrance and then we walked on the wet sand.
Today, we rode on the road above the sand and were let out outside the gate. A little sterile it is but dangerous no more. But inside the gate the village was as magical as ever. Our relatively late arrival and the fact that it is not high season yet were a huge plus. The village was the way it should be seen – almost empty, and it felt like being inside a fairy tale.
But the tide was coming and we rushed to see it. It arrived at a speed of a meter per second, so the sand and the rocky islands began disappearing under water before our very eyes. Within minutes, the rocky mountain on the sandy beach became an island in the sea.
There is one great advantage to the dry road connecting MSM to the dry land – you can walk out of MSM and look at it from the road. When the darkness falls, it is all lit up, and the sight of it illuminated from below is one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen.


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