Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Brittany Ferries, Eurocamp & Mont St Michel

Left Poole Harbour on a murky morning via a Brittany Ferry bound for Cherbourg, Travelling Companion and I feeling extremely tired from our 4am wake up. Tip: yes, you really will need 3 hours to drive there from London. However, once on board, things brightened up considerably: the sun came out and, being September, the hordes were absent but, best of all, we had a charming cabin to rest in during the 4-hour crossing to Cherbourg.

The beds were comfy, it came with a private bathroom that had a toilet, sink and shower, and was blissfully quiet. It meant that we could actually sleep and wake up in time for a cup of tea before disembarking, feeling fresh and lively for the rest of the driving. Thank you, Brittany Ferries!

We're staying as guests of Eurocamp in the Domaine des Ormes resort near Dol de Bretagne and, having stayed in many campsites, I can report that I've never stayed in one quite as well equipped as this. On the massive site is a full-blown chateau, 18-hole golf course, hotel, various swimming pools, lakes, bars, restaurants, shop, horse riding, playground and high-wire course in the woods, which we discovered when we went for a walk.

Tip: bring insect repellent. We've never encountered mosquitos the way we have here either, and these woods are where they congregate.

This is also where the high-wire course and tree houses are. Being end of season, it was so quiet it was almost eerie in here.

After walking through the tiny town of St Leonards, which was having a Sunday beer-frites-and-music fest, we carried on, meandering down empty French lanes past a jolly hay family, cows (though a particularly beefy-looking one with horns could have fooled us), apple trees heaving with fruit, and fields and fields of corn – though we have seen none in the shops. Very tempting to do a bit of scrumping (that's Brit-speak for taking uninvited), but restrained myself.

Think we ended up walking something like 9 miles, but it was so pretty it just kept tempting us on. Big collapse at the end of it though – so much for our 'do-nothing' day after all the traveling!

You can't come to northern Brittany and not go to Mont St-Michel. It's just a given and, especially as TC had never been, we – and everyone else in northern Brittany – went.

It is an extraordinary sight, looking as if it's floating in the distance. These days too, the French have put a lot of effort into reinstating the original look after years of the surrounding area silting up due to a poorly thought-out dam being put in. Now, they are out-greening themselves, having dismantled the old dam and reused the parts (love this way of upcycling) wherever possible, and put in a new sluice that helps to sift the silt out before it gets to the 'mont'. So, with every tide, the  sea water is moving more silt away and the sluice is preventing more from arriving, so it will become an island once again. Very cool.

Also nice is the new, environmentally sympathetic walkway out there. You can also take the free shuttle bus or, even, a horse and carriage.

Tip number three has to be if you don't like crowds, go as high up as fast as you can. There are literally traffic jams of people inside the ramparts and a very long queue to get into the Abbey, which costs €9 per adult.

We skipped it and headed round the back and onto the slippery clay-like silt. The vast plain of it stretches as far as you can see to the horizon out to sea – you can see those reclaimers back at the sluice have their work cut out – and people and horses were walking about, some heading for the little island further away.

We spent a happy half-hour slip-sliding through the squiggly stuff, before making our way back to the car. Better than an old cathedral any old day.

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