Saturday, October 25, 2008

Changing Landscapes

We woke this morning to sunshine and a free breakfast at the hotel. Neither turned out to be any good. By the time we got into the car and starting driving towards Mont St. Michel the sun was shrouded by clouds and we were praying it at least wouldn’t rain. We followed Bobus back out to the main roads - although there were a few times that Todd looked at the map, “That can’t be right!” he would utter. I stroked Bobus’ ego and we kept the faith. Sure enough, within a few hours we spotted the 1000 year old Abbey rising up from the fog. It was kind of creepy actually because we were driving through farm towns - see a cow, then see an old scary looking steepled church rising out of no where! The winding roads were again pretty narrow and we wondering what it would be like to make that drive in the summer with 10 times more tourists. Even with the rain we planned this trip well. The timing couldn’t be better.

We parked below the towering Abbey and started to make the climb to the top. The Abbey used to be surrounded by water and the only way you could get to it was in low tide. Monks would pilgrimage to the island, careful to avoid high tides that would swoop in at 2 feet per second! There is a great deal of quick sand in the area too and many a tourist has lost a shoe. We decided to just stick to the cider block walls and not brave the sand. The island begins with jammed touristy shops in narrow alleyways. It takes longer to go this way but it was fun to see what people were selling. There is an original restaurant started by the woman who used to clean the abbey for the monks. She made huge whipped omlets. The tradition continues to this day and you can watch as the chef whips up the eggs in a brass bowl using a brass whip. The poor guy - he looked tired! Next the eggs are handed to a woman standing in front of a fire. She pours them into brass frying pans with extra long handles and places them into the fire. We enjoyed the “show” but decided not to order any because they were $30 Euro each! It is huge and can be easily split between 2 or 3 people but still....a sandwich eaten picnic style would be our lunch.

We continued to climb, and climb and climb....okay, legs getting another work out here.... Entering the Abby was unique. We happened upon the monks at noon mass. The chapel was filled with the sound of them singing! It echoed around the room and was such a treat! We toured the Abbey and marveled at the engineering it took to create a church on such a solid mass of rock. It took 600 years to complete and dealing with the tides, lack of supplies close by, and lack of money it was easy to see why. Again, we were blessed with limited crowds (I detest crowds) and easy weather, although some sunshine would have helped the photographs a bit. The lack of any “WC’s” (water closets - toilets) was proof of the age of the place. When I finally found one Todd gave me some coins in case it wasn’t free (we came across some of those in Paris but when you gotta go, you’ll pay whatever!). I took the coin and Todd said, “Get a receipt.” Ah, yes, financial humor at its finest! Each night after I post on this blog, Todd takes the computer and enters in the days receipts. France brings out the romance in all of us I guess......

Anyway, we got back in the car and followed Bobus another 4 hours to the Loire Valley where many chateau are available to tour. As soon as we crossed the border into the Valley the sun came out and the sky was suddenly blue. It was the strangest thing! Total clouds and then total sun and blue skies. Apparently the valley acts as a screen for the clouds - that is what Laurent told us, the manager of the hotel we are staying in tonight. We are in Chenonceaux, very close to one of the most beautiful and romantic chateau in this area. We are staying in a lovely little hotel surrounded by courtyards and gardens. The leaves on the trees are all changing and it is a beautiful autumn day. No shower in our room so I guess we will be bathing as they did back in the 17th century for the next few days....wait, did they bathe back then? Probably not! Time to get ready for our full course dinner downstairs. Todd is pretty excited. I still feel a bit queasy from the car ride but some soup should help. Tomorrow we go to the chateau and to Da Vinci’s last home where many of his inventions are still held in a museum.


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