We escaped Paris as early as possible, by way of Gare Saint Lazarre. Not knowing what to expect but feeling confident that our feet could get us just about anywhere and that most places have WIFI (pronounced weefee) we had made a hotel reservation somewhere “near” Mont Saint Michel.
Our train sped out of Paris giving us a better sense of the city’s true mass. Within a half hour we were in the country side speeding from small town stop to small town stop and experiencing each town’s fragrant mix of train station, fertilizer, feces (close to the same thing but definitely not the same), and whatever strange liquid was leaking all over the train floor. We finally arrived at our destination, the station was a single room building with one attendant.
“hello, when is the next bus heading toward Mont Saint Michel?” we asked “No, more buses, sorry.” “Oh, that’s too bad we are trying to get here*(show address to attendant)” “Sorry no, I don’t know.” “Do you have a map?” we asked “No” “Do you know where we could find wifi? Is there a wifi cafe near here?” “No, umm i don’t know, maybe you try down the street?” And with that we left the station. We had no clue where we were going, no phone, no internet, and no map. We took a left and headed toward what seemed to be the “City Center”. We really needed WIFI as the only means of communication we had with our B&B / Hostel was an email stating that we should call to get a ride (this email had the information that we needed- address, name, phone number, email etc) We start wandering down the sidewalk of what seems to be a “sleepy” beach town. It turns out the town wasn’t “sleeping” it was dead. The TI was closed, as were all the shops, it was literally a ghost town, with the only signs of life looking at us like monsters walking through with backpacks and bitch’n facial hair. After over and hour of feeling like we walked onto the set of Dusk Till Dawn we finally found a bar tabac open and I asked if they had or knew of a place with WIFI or even had a map so I could figure out where we were.
They recommended the McDonald’s that was 3km down the road, as the only place to find WIFI. So we headed out on the side of a highway following signs for the Golden Arches. I (Naomi) have never been a fan of McDonald’s, however, they served beer as a beverage option instead of soda and their WIFI was super fast, I’ll give them that. I (Sean) have always had a special place in my heart for McDonald’s and now that they serve beer and WIFI I am going to invest in them. We ordered a “Petite Baguette” sandwich, some chicken wrap thing, french fries, and a Heineken, sat down and sent a distress email to Paul and Jane the owners of the B&B we had reserved for the night. Within minutes Jane had replied that Paul was headed to the station to pick us up. Hastily and a little embarrassed, I replied that we’d made our way to McDonald’s (for the WIFI, of course) and would walk back to the station immediately. As we left the McDonald’s the smell of fertilizer//feces was almost overwhelming. I am not sure what happened but it smelled like we walked into a shit storm, it didn’t smell that way when we walked in but holy crap is was intense. About 5 blocks from the McDonald’s a blue (mini) Mercedes pulled over to the side of the highway and a middle-aged British man hopped out to greet us, we put our bags in the back and headed into the countryside. After about fifteen minutes in the car and a lot of random turns I was really happy to have a ride. Paul told us about the local agriculture, about how the area used to be shallow ocean, until it was dammed and turned into usable farmland. We drove by brick homes that were much more british looking than we’d seen so far in France. Paul and Jane’s B&B was a two-hundred year-old home that they’d restored when they decided they wanted to quit working for other people and move to France.
(Sean) While Paul was very nice, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that we were walking into a horror movie. The overly nice inn-keep, heading out into a desolate village, the house was over 200 years old, Paul was very well versed in military and local history, we just kept driving farther and farther into the country side. I put those fears aside, thinking if i tried to strangle or kill him first- that i would look like the crazy and end up on the news. Plus he was like 6 foot 4 and an overall friendly guy.
When we came in Jane immediately offered us tea and started asking us where we were headed next so she could help us plan for the next part of our trip. She pulled out maps and they both chatted about their favorite places in France as we sipped tea, a little confused as to which side of the Channel we were on.
Trying to find a grocery store and be cheap was out of the question so we went to the local pub, The Oyster Shucker. It was run by a family from Manchester and was empty except for a French regular who came in late to watch the football match and the bar cat who sat next to sean all night. There was a roaring fire, which was good because it was sleeting by the time we left.
The owner and his son were hilarious and chatted us up for hours telling us all the reasons France was a backwards country and occasionally why England and the US were backwards too. They treated us to some wine at the end of the night and we felt like family.
We stayed and drank pints and chatted with them for several hours, happy to have conversations in English, then at some point we decided to make our way back to the B&B, in the sleet with no street lights. They walked us out wishing us luck and safe travels and offering us flashlights to borrow because it really was pitch black outside, but we decided to take our chances with Sean’s flashlight phone app, luckily doing just “fine”.
The next day we woke up early and while we had breakfast Jane gave us bus and train schedules for our next destination after Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo. Paul drove us to Mont Saint Michel, giving us more local information along the way and finally dropping us off with concise directions and warm wishes. The only thing they didn’t do was pack our sack lunches.
Mont Saint Michel itself was great, despite the miserable weather, which did help to drive some crowds away. We toured the abbey, then the surrounding town and finally went out to the mud flats just in time to see that the tide was starting to come in. Our bus left late, so to kill time we drank vin chaud, had a crepe with salted caramel and some pizza. I finally bought some gloves too.
The building is much more impressive from a far then up close, the silhouette of Mont Saint Michel is breath-taking but getting up close in the nitty gritty is a little more dungeons and dragons errr something.