Monday, June 28, 2010

Tides of Change

The English ChannelAhoy! We are sitting on the eighth deck of a Brittany Ferry, sailing from St. Malo, France to Portsmouth, England. Our time in Normandy and Brittany was really great and gave us many opportunities to fill up on crepes, croissants, Kirs, baguettes, chevre cheese, noisettes, and all of the other local fare that we’ve loved for the past 4 months.

We ended our time in France on a very high note. After a lot of effort juggling our schedule around, we finally made it to Mont St. Michel on Friday. After a 5K “pilgrimage” from our hotel to the Mont, we climbed through medieval alleyways to the towering abbey. Looking out, we saw miles of flat, wet sand dotted with puddles as if someone had drained the Atlantic.

We timed our visit to coincide with the few days when the tides rise high enough to flood the normally dry bay. This epic event only happens a couple times a month and takes about two hours. For the first hour we could barely tell that anything was happening. Then, a small and steady wave crept around the closest sandbar, raising the water level a couple of inches as it moved. Soon, sandbars became islands, which then began to shrink and finally to disappear. Currents swirled, gaining strength and depth, and before we knew it, the once-beached Mont was surrounded by water.

The next day we followed in some tour groups’ sandy footprints and headed out to the dry bay, dodging the quicksand along the way. At one point, we came upon a “stream” that cut across the sand. As we waded in, the water got deeper and the current got stronger. Just as we were about to turn back, the water began to get shallower and we emerged on the other side, on a higher sandbar. The view was awe-inspiring. We were standing in a part-time desert, part-time ocean.  That evening, we decided to watch the tide roll in from just above the beach, a view that was really different but equally impressive. From there, the tide seemed to rush in much faster and more dramatically. This time we could hear the waves crashing against the shore.

We left Mont St. Michel for St. Malo, where we spent our last night in France. For once our “budget hotel” was really nice, and we got checked-in in time to walk along the beautiful beach. When the wind got too cold, we continued our walk through the old city to the most incredible outlook from its ramparts. After a farewell dinner, we returned to that spot to watch the sun set over the ocean. It was one of the most beautiful sights of the trip—as if France was giving us a warm “au revoir.”

New pictures starting at number 128:

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