After a huge hearty breakfast at the Hôtel de la Poste, we drive away from Mortain with all our energy. Enticing Mont Saint Michel is luring us to the sea, not so far now. Driving our bikes back on the Véloscénie track, we are getting ready to meet La Merveille (the Wonder) again! Indeed, we haven’t seen this old friend of ours for a very long time and we are looking forward to drive along the famous salty meadows of the bay to see her unique silhouette emerging from the landscape.
A greeny green track
Leaving Mortain is not as easy as we would have thought… The densest fog we’ve ever seen in a while wraps itself around us like a giant scarf. British-like, unpleasantly cold and wet. We manage to take a quick look at two of Mortain’s curiosities, the big and the small waterfalls, before getting back on track.
On this third riding day, the Véloscénie takes quite a different appearance than what we’ve been driving through before. Indeed, we are now following what was once an old railway and therefore crossing many cute tiny ex-train stations on the way. More importantly, this track is also very flat and nothing restrains us to speed up to Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët then to Ducey.
There is a good reason for us to be fast: we have booked one of the best tables of Ducey for lunch. And this is the kind of rendezvous we absolutely can’t miss! Being fast doesn’t mean we don’t take time to admire the lush countryside though. Our surroundings are greener than green. This is quite stunning. We didn’t know this colour could be declined in so many varieties! And it seems that every shower makes it brighter! We feel like literally bathing in nature. It’s so soothing and rejuvenating and… well, also quite wet.
Our memories of Ducey will be of a small city of absolute loveliness. Stopping there on our way to the Mont Saint-Michel is one of the best ideas ever. The visit starts with our arrival at the Montgommery castle, beautiful and well-preserved monument from the 17th century. Then we drive our way along the narrow street following the charming Sélune river, down to the inn we booked for lunch. We are looking forward to discover the menu of its highly praised cuisine prepared with love by Sébastien Godefroy, who was elected Young Talent 2016 by the Gault & Millau. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
Our belly is already rumbling with expectation as we enter this Auberge de la Sélune… And we are not disappointed! Every dish is absolutely delicious! The entrée we choose is nothing less than the famous « crab pie » which has established the reputation of this inn and its owner, the Girres family, since 1978. It is a very fine dish, very long to prepare, therefore it is served only on sundays at lunch. The following dish is the unavoidable salted meadows lamb (agneau des prés salés), which grazed around the Mont Saint-Michel all its life. Tender and super tasty, this lamb has the special taste of the sea. Moreover, the chef has his own way to prepare it which we can be called nothing less than sublime! The dish is delicate, creative and highly delightful. Yum! Then the very good desserts bring a happy end to this amazing lunch.
When we leave the restaurant, surprise! Quentin’s bike is flat! …Damn! Will we be on time at the Mont Saint Michel? This is very unfortunate, but thankfully we meet a very nice man, himself fond of cycling, who agrees to help us and leads us to his workshop. While the boys are fixing the annoying tyre, Mariette goes on a little exploration on her own of the banks of the Sélune river… and discovers another face of Ducey! The old bridge, dating from 1613, delicately strides over the clear water, framed on both sides by the old town. It’s lovely! A narrow path follows the river on one side, leading in peaceful nature, inviting us to come back one day with a picnic and a fishing rope!
En route to the salted meadows
We are very late now. As soon as Quentin’s bike is ready, we get back on track with all the energy of despair, hoping that we will be fast enough to claim back some of the time we lost. The Sélune river gets larger as we bike by, gradually revealing a famous landscape: the vast grey-green salted meadows which note the entrance in Mont Saint Michel bay. A large number of small white sheep watch us as we pedal by, encouraged by noisy seagulls flying overhead.
We have to stop on our way at la Roche Torin. Here is probably where you can find one of the best (and quietest) views on the Mont Saint Michel and this peculiar landscape. We draw a large amount of fresh marine air and we jump back on our bikes. The goal is in sight!
Le Mont Saint-Michel!
Here we are, facing La Merveille proudly. We have been cycling three days on the Véloscénie to stand in front of Her! We park our bikes at the Tourism Office before jumping in the minibus which is dedicated to drive tourists to the Mont. On the way, we have to rack our brains a bit… How are we going to take pictures of this place? Our job seems compromised by the weather. Dull and grey, the sky filters only a bleak blue light. Plus, the Mont Saint Michel has been photographed so many times! What a challenge for photographers to take novel pictures of this magnificent place!
Arrival at the Mont Saint Michel. Fortunately, we already know this place quite well so we already have a rough idea of what places we want to see. Not wasting time, we rush by the numerous tourist shops at the foot of the Mont to climb up the steep stairways leading to the abbey. We are quite out of breath when we get in this sacred place. We stop a bit. Even if we visited this place many times before, it still doesn’t fail to exert on us a visceral fascination. The unique atmosphere has not been lessened by the never ending crowd of visitors, which is not that big at this beginning of September.
The bad weather blackens the stones, and the dim interiors plunge us in a gothic ambiance matching the architecture. Suddenly, all this darkness seems very enticing to us and we try our best to create old-world romantic pictures from what we see.
Then we meet strange characters, black and tormented, standing in the wide Salle des Hôtes like ghostly figures searching their way in the feeble light. These powerful sculptures were created by famous french modern artist Germaine Richier who was aptly nicknamed « the hurricane lady ». This season, the Mont Saint Michel has been chosen to pay her a tribute, and what a tribute! Can we dream of a more remarkable place to exhibit those enigmatic creatures?
We leave the abbey by the battlements, our favourite walk on the Mont which gives us the opportunity to admire this architecture that was so brilliantly adapted to the relief of the hill. We are not sure that we manage to succeed in our mission to take original pictures of the Mont Saint Michel, but at least this challenge gave us the chance to discover some small details that we have never seen before, proving us once again that practicing photography is an excellent way to develop a good sense of observation.
This wonderful day is ending. Time to give back our two bicycles to our renter Locvélo. Those three riding days were too short! Everything we discovered on the way make us want to see more of the Véloscénie. And why not starting it from Paris next time? It also makes us want to come back in some of the places we’ve passed through to discover more about this wonderful Normandy and its natural and cultural richness!
L’auberge de la Sélune : http://www.selune.com
Abbey of the Mont Saint Michel: www.abbaye-mont-saint-michel.fr
Tourism Office Manche Region: www.manchetourisme.com
Website of the véloscénie: www.veloscenie.com
Renting a bike: LocVélo Normandie. www.locvelo.fr
Organising bike tour in Normandy: Petite Reine. www.petitereinenormandie.fr
Hotel in Ducey renting bike and proposing tours around town : http://www.moulindeducey.com/