Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mont Saint Michel and Saint Malo

I've reached a certain point due to lack of sleep - now, I am so tired that I don't realize I'm tired. It's currently 12:12 and I'm not asleep yet, despite the fact that I woke up at 5:30 on Saturday morning and 6:45 this morning (technically yesterday morning) (oh, and I need to include another parenthetical statement - this morning was daylight savings time here, so I lost an hour of sleep) and couldn't manage to sleep on the bus. But, Mont Saint Michel and Saint Malo are adorable - Mont Saint Michel is an abbey on top of a granite rock (sometimes an island, sometimes not - depending on the tide) and Saint Malo is a walled city from the middle ages where Chateaubriand was born! Both have very high tides (according to the Saint Michel tour guide, they're the highest in the world, but the Saint Malo tour guide knew better and acknowledged that the Bay of Fundi in Canada has higher tides) and very old buildings to see.

Due to the late hour, I'm going to speed through stories and skip the pictures until tomorrow. Saturday morning: woke up at 5:30, departed from the place in front of the Opera Garnier at 6:30, and got to Mont Saint Michel about four hours later, if I remember correctly. On the way, I finished Zazie dans le metro by Raymond Queneau (pre-oulipo) and it was incredible. You can see remnants of the war in the book, in the loss of innocence of Zazie at the end, and also in the type of society Queneau describes. For example, there are bits and pieces of American culture throughout the novel - Zazie initially wants a "cacocalo," is obsessed with "bloudjinzes," and then her uncle, Gabriel, becomes a "guidenapper" and accidentally ends up showing a group of tourists around Paris. The only problem with that is, just like at the beginning of the book when Gabriel can't tell Les Invalides from the Pantheon, he ends up showing the tourists Sainte Chapelle, which isn't really Sainte Chapelle. Anyway, we got to Mont Saint Michel, I actually considered paying 30 euros for an omelet (my dad told me to...) and ended up going to a similar place and getting a salad and an omelet for 24 euros. Much better deal - plus, that restaurant had a view. The salad was great. It had goat cheese in it.

We then had a guided tour of the abbey on top of the rock. During the tour, I learned that the archangel, Saint Michel, represents the air, so they decided to build the church exactly on the point of the rock. Of course, that is very precariously perched, so they built tons of buildings underneath it to provide a flat foundation. The whole building is pretty much original, except the center part, which is Gothic whereas the rest of the actual church part is Roman style. Apparently, the original center part fell down because of all the wind, water, and the fact that the stones were just really heavy. The abbey is still functional, and not all parts are open to tourists. For example, they uncovered an original church from the 8th century (if I remember correctly) that used to be toward the top, and apparently, when they build the new one (in the 11th century?), they used the first one as part of the foundation. But, it was crumbling away underneath the weight of the new building, so they ended up removing it and supporting the new church in another way. Anyway, Mont Saint Michel was cute, but very tourist oriented. There wasn't really much to do there beside the visit and looking around in shops. I can't believe there were hotels there - who would want to spend the night on that rock?

We left after a few hours there and drove to Saint Malo. Saint Malo is a city enclosed in medieval walls that protect the city from tides and invaders. In fact, the walls date to Louis XIV, but the city is older than that. The residents were initially British and French and they fought over it. It's very well protected - fortresses on little islands surrounding it are positioned so the crossfire is deadly. Once, the British navy tried to attack, but ended up ruining their ships on the rocks in the harbor then crashing into a tower that held spare gun powder. Probably not their shining moment - they didn't kill any of the residents, but they did hurt a cat who, in his pain, looked like he was dancing. So, now there's a street called "La rue du chat qui danse" or "The street of the cat that dances." There was also a famous captain, Surcouf, who was from Saint Malo. They told us this story about his encounter with a British captain who told him that he only fought for money, but the British naval officers only fight for honor, to which Surcouf responded: "We all fight for what we don't have." Jacques Cartier (one of the founders of the New World, aka us) was also from Saint Malo, in addition to Chateaubriand, who wrote about the New World in some of his books. I read "Atala" last summer, and that took place in America. The end took place at Niagara Falls! The tour guide told me, though, that there are some doubts that Chateaubriand ever saw America. Not that it really matters, though - "Atala" was a good book whether or not Chateaubriand had ever seen Niagara Falls. Chateaubriand is also buried there, on a little "sometimes island" near the city so he can hear nothing but the wind and the sea. The atmosphere there is really nice - I really liked it.

Anyway, Saturday night, we just had free time in Saint Malo. I had pesto pasta with scallops for 9 euros! Then, we went to bed. Funny story - there were four of us in our room: Alexandra, Lidia (a Russian girl who speaks a million languages fluently), Mirka (an Italian girl from Venice) and me. But, when we went in, there were only two beds. So, we told the guides, and they switched us into a room with six beds. I suppose that was acceptable!

Now that it's 12:45, I think I'm going to go to bed. Hopefully, I don't realize I'm tired tomorrow - I have my ENS class and I also really need to study for my first history exam on Wednesday. Ciao! (that's Italian! Next weekend, I'm going to Italy!)

No comments:

Post a Comment