Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pilgrimage around St Michael's Mount

I had planned to call my post "Les 100 kilomètres du Mont Saint Michel" like the "Marathon du Mont Saint Michel" which I have run for the French Nationals (marathon) in June 2005. The marathon was quite an experience with temperatures above 90F (32C). We were about 200 runners in the championship and 6,000 in the open competition and race management had to close the competition after 2 hours allowing only 2,400 finishers that year.

This Friday, I wanted to run the whole way between Granville (the city my mother was born in) and Cancale or La Pointe du Grouin. The whole way around the Bay of Saint Michael's Mount. From Normandy to Brittany. GoogleMaps was giving about 100K by the road but the itinerary included several highways. Whereas a trail was going along most of the shore: the GR 223 and GR 34, two national trails (GR stands for Chemin de Grande Randonnée and you can find them all throughout the French country side with their white and red short stripes markings).
Unfortunately, these trails do not seem to be much used by the locals. Nettles, wild rose bushes, thistles, mud, swamps, many obstacles which bring some fun when walking a few miles but not so pleasant when running more than 50. Needless to say, I almost saw nobody while on the trail. Overall though, it was a very picturesque run and hike with 360-degree views of Le Mont Saint Michel, very much worth its listing on the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Now, I want to see the other Saint Michael's Mount in England... I could have gone the whole 62 miles (100K) but stopped after 53 at Le Vivier-sur-Mer where my crew (Agnès, the boys and my aunt Miche) had been waiting for 1h30 (I was slower because of the trail conditions and the improvised stops to get water, food and hundreds of pictures...). Actually, it was not a bad idea to stop because a big storm hit us shortly after they picked me up, while we were driving up to La Pointe du Grouin (another very picturesque place, see the photo album).

You can find many details about my run through the following resources:
  1. Photo album with comments (175 pictures!)
  2. The detailed itinerary on GoogleEarth (download)
  3. The itinerary on GoogleMaps (no download necessary)
Note that I missed about 1 mile inadvertently stopping my watch in Cherrueix while calling Agnès from a pay phone.

A pilgrimage to Mont Saint Michel

Actually, the previous night, I walked with the family to the Mount, what we call in French La Traversée des Grèves. A journey that thousands of pilgrims made to visit this very special place. A place which is just celebrating 1,300 years (!) of history this year, with the Archangel Michael appearing to Saint Aubert in 708 and asking him to build a church on the rock (then Mount Tomb).

A 10-mile round trip through the flat and sandy bay, crossing streams, muddy silt areas and quicksands. From Le Bec d'Andaine to the Mount and back. We left at 5:30 pm and were back just after sunset around 10:30 pm, with a 1-hour stop at the Mount and a few other stops on the way, including Le Rocher de Tombelaine, a natural preserve (on the left on the following picture).
Here again, pictures speak better than words so you can visit my Picasa photo album (207 pictures). With these 10 miles, it made my 100-kilometer count over 24 hours. To, from and around Le Mont Saint Michel. Although I have been visiting Granville every summer for 44 years, I had never spent that much time near this monument. And crossing the Bay by foot was even a premiere for me!
The Bay is not a place to go faster, but farther definitely, very much worth the trip, I promise! Hope you have the opportunity to visit.


Anonymous said...

Nous venons de faire une magnifique AUTOUR du Mont...Merci!
Papa et Maman

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Quelles belles photos !... évidemment il faut aller (courir ou marcher)à pied pour découvrir ttes ces merveilles de la nature.
C'est la récompense !...Bravo pour ce beau reportage.
Bises à ts les 5

Anonymous said...

You are such a great writer, Jean! And what wonderful pictures you have. I feel like I'm right there living the moment with you.
Thank you, Nancy Miller

celestial elf said...

Really enjoyed your adventures around the Mount, thank you.
We are hoping to explore many of the ancient sites of the Uk, but for now The London Snowman
{ } Loved St Michaels Mount, and although his was not quite a religious pilgrimage, we highly commend this site to all visitors, look here