Mont St Michel

La Pommetier is located around 130km from the stunning Mont St Michel and its 8th century abbey.

This UNESCO heritage listed site is incredibly popular with over 3 million visitors each year.  We recommend an early start to beat some of the crowds – particularly the coach tours on day trips from Paris who you will have a few hours head start on.  Plus the light for your photos is particularly soft in the mornings. We’re happy to organise an early breakfast to get you on the road by 8am.

When you arrive at the designated Mont St Michel car park (its enormous – remember the zone you park in!) the Mont itself is around 2.5km from the carpark and you can either catch the free ‘navette’ bus or the walk is flat, safe and offers terrific photo opportunities as you get closer.

Once on the Mont you can either take a walk around the ramparts and/or entry to the Abbey itself is 9 euro for adults (over 25).  We recommend heading straight up onto the ramparts via the stone staircase on your right just after you enter the portcullis gates – often there’s less people up there and the walk around the edge and up to the top is gentler and with great photo opportunities. For further details on entry prices and times for mass services please visit the official Mont St Michel website.

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After a visit to Mont St Michel, you might want to visit a few other sites to make a full day trip.  Under an hour’s drive from Mont St Michel is the former home of legendary couturier Christian Dior.  The house is now the Musee Christian Dior with a small shop and usually an exhibition of his work on display.  The gardens around the house are filled with roses and stand points allow you to smell the various Dior perfumes while you stroll the garden. In summer there is an outdoor tea salon set up under the trees to relax with tea and cake (Wed-Sun).  The view from the cliff top in the garden out to the Atlantic Ocean where Mr Dior loved to swim is spectacular.

Another option is a shorter side trip to the lovely village of Villedieu les Poeles – you’ll see the signs for the turn off and its less than 10 minutes off the highway.  Its particularly good if (like us) you were left less than impressed by the food on offer at Mont St Michel and are looking for a place to eat.  While there is a good selection of restaurants, cafes and creperies (and even a briocherie – yes, they specialise in brioches), Villedieu (pronounced something like ‘vill-dyuh’) is famous as a copper town.  Here is where you’ll find the foundry that made the bells for Notre Dame in Paris and the Bayeux Cathedral.  There is a museum of copper right in the village (open 4 April to 4 November 2017) and several shops specialising in copper wares are dotted around if your luggage has room.  Just on the outskirts is the factory (and shop) of the venerable maker of copper pots – Mauviel established in 1830.  For any foodie friends or budding chefs, a little Mauviel pot would be a gift they’ll love you for.

 

Chateau de Balleroy - 30 mins awayAnother fabulous house to visit on the way back from Mont St Michel is the Chateau de Balleroy – purchased by Malcolm Forbes of Forbes Magazine fame who served in Normandy during WWII and was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat.  Tours of the chateau are all guided and take in most, but not all, of the chateau as the Forbes family continue to visit and keep some rooms private.  The rooms you can see are beautifully decorated and sympathetically restored and the tours offer a personal insight into the restoration and maintenance of a grand chateau.  Keep an eye out for the interesting paintings of Christopher Forbes dressed as Napoleon hung in the grand staircase.  If the timing of the tour doesn’t suit you, the chateau a great photo stop and there is a lovely tea salon set among the topiary parterre garden and a good gift shop.

 

L1040950If you’re not done yet, just a few minutes from Chateau de Balleroy is the beautiful Jardins de Castillon.  The garden is one of the best in France having been awarded the title “Jardin Remarquable” and was featured in Monty Don’s ‘French Gardens’ series.  Set up in rooms throughout the terraced gardens, the hour long self-guided walk takes you through hedges and arches to the scented garden, Japanese garden, and my favourite, the pond with frogs hanging out on the lily pads among the lotus flowers.  The garden is open in the afternoons (2-5pm) Tuesday to Saturday from 1 May to 12 October 2016 and on Sundays in June and July from 2.30-5pm.  For those travelling home by car, there is a nursery on site with many of the plants used in the garden available to buy to create your own little piece of Castillon at home.  Many of the plants at La Pommetier were purchased here in moments of (over) enthusiasm.