Category Archives: Normandie

Mont Saint Michel History, Episode 175

Mont Saint Michel History


If you’re wondering some of the things you might need to know about Mont Saint Michel history before visiting Normandy, you’ve come to the right place!

Licensed Tour Guide Elyse shares with us some of the highlights that will help it all make sense. And they will also help you look around with a different eye. Did you know that the Monastery on top of Mont Saint Michel was a prison for 200 years? Did you know that the Mont wasn’t always an island? It’s all in today’s episode!

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

Other Episodes About Mont Saint-Michel

Red half-timbered house on the Mont Saint-Michel; Mont Saint Michel History
Photo Phil Roberson

Episode Highlights with time stamps

[02:00] Phil Roberson visited the Mont Saint Michel in September 2017. He took the train between Paris and Rennes and then rented a car to get to the Mont Saint Michel.

The Mont Saint-Michel Gest 2.5 Million Visitors Per Year

[02:45] Elyse will be answering the question “Why go to the Mont Saint Michel?” One reason is that it is the 3rd most visited cultural site in France after the Eiffel Tower and Versailles. It is extremely popular. The first tourists started going there in the 19th century. It became a historical monument in 1874.

Where Is the Mont Saint-Michel?

[04:00] It is in the southern part of Normandy and right at the border between Normandy and Brittany. There has been a historical debate as to which region it belongs to. It’s about 1.5 hours from Bayeux.

The Mont Saint Michel Was Not Always an Island

[05:45] The top of the rock is 92 meters high. We think there used to be a pagan site on the Mont. They used holes in the rock to place religious artifacts. It used to be called Mont Tombe which means elevated mound (and not “grave” as one might think).

High Places Used as Religious Sanctuaries

[08:00] We know from several places in France that high places were often used as pre-Christians religious sanctuaries. When Normandy became Christianized they also setup the area as a religious sacred site. It is not a burial site because it is solid granite, but they placed objects there.

Hermits Lived on Mont Saint Michel Long Before the Monastery

[0940] Places like that were also used by hermits as a refuge from the world. One of these hermits created a shrine to Saint Etienne (Saint Stephen) half-way up the rock. And another one of these hermit shrines was placed at the base of the rock. The area was surrounded by forest at the time. By the 6th Century, Christianity and the Francs had taken over and that’s when it first became a monastery. Vikings were next, arriving from the Seine River.

Norsemen Became Normans

[14:10] In the 700s King Rollon promised to protect the rock which allowed the monks to start building the precursor to the Monastery. Saint Michael is a popular Saint at the time and Charlemagne wants to dedicate the rock to him. That’s when it becomes called Mont Saint-Michel. The early name was “Mont Saint-Michel in the Peril of the Sea”.

Legend About When Mont Saint Michel Became an Island in the Year 709

[18:30] Elyse tells the story of the natural disaster that turned Mont Saint Michel into an island supposedly over-night, but it most likely happened over a long time. It’s more likely that the land eroded slowly. They built the first church on the Mont late 8th century under the Bishop of Avranches. That is why Normandy has more of a claim on the Mont Saint-Michel than Brittany does.

The Mont Saint Michel as a Major Center of Learning

[22:15] The Monks at Mont Saint-Michel became the center of intellectual development in Western Europe and are the first to translate Aristotle from Greek into Latin. Between the 11th and 14th Century Mont Saint Michel is a major center of learning.

The Benedictines Take Over

[24:00] The Brothers fell away from austere religious life and Benedictines came to take over. On the site where the Monastery stands today there used to be a pre-Romanesque church. What we see today is late Romanesque / early Gothic.

Because of the work of the Benedictines, the Mont became an important pilgrimage site. When you visit you’ll see two Saint Michel statues, one from late 1500s and the other from the end of the 19th century when they did some renovations.

The Abbey Is Turned into a Prison

[27:40] By the 17th century, most of the brothers have left because of wars between England and France as well as the wars of religion. The brothers leave starting in the 16th century and eventually it gets turned into a prison. It was a Royal Prison.

Before the French Revolution it had turned into a prison for men, women and even children. They were turned into indentured servants. This lasted over 200 years. They called it “Bastille de la mer” because it was such a horrible prison.

[30:00] In 1810 there were over 1000 prisoners there. Victor Hugo wrote about it. Over time there were 14,000 prisoners at this jail.  The jail closed in 1863.

The Mont Saint Michel Becomes a Historical Monument in 1874

An elderly Violet-le-Duc starts the renovation of the Mont Saint Michel with the help of two students. What we see today is neo Romanesque because of the way Violet-le-Duc renovated things. He liked pointy roofs.

Modern Tourism Started at the Mont Saint Michel in 1880

[31:40] Mont Saint Michel was famous because of the pilgrimage and the outrage of the prison and 100,000 come see it that year. It was a great way to rebuild a fresh image for this ancient site. Pilgrims start coming back too at that time also. The big boom of tourism in the area started after WWII.

What Attracts the Pilgrims to the Mont Saint Michel

[32:30] What do pilgrims go to see there?  They have a relic of a rock that contains a footprint from Saint Michael and and some cloth. It’s hard to believe The Monks there now are from the Order of Jerusalem. But the biggest draw for people to this day is that it’s so spectacular. It is beautiful both from a distance and from inside.

To Be Continued in Episode 176 Next Week

[37:00] To prevent this episode from going too long, you’ll get the rest of our conversation next week!

Annie’s Personal Update

[38:15] Thank You Patreon supporters!

Questions for this week: what can I do to make the show better in 2018? What do you think about the video teasers?

French Tip of the Week

[44:50] Est-ce qu’il va pleuvoir demain ?

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Mont Saint Michel history, medieval door to enter the city
Photo Phil Roberson

Conclusion

Now that you know a few important things about Mont Saint Michel history you’ll probably get a lot more out of the time you spend there.  But no matter how much you learn about history, the real reason why people go is that it’s so beautiful both up-close and at a distance. It’s a photographer’s paradise!

Claude Monet and a Visit to Giverny, Episode 167

Claude Monet and a Visit to Giverny


Giverny and Claude Monet, photo of Monet and his long white beard

In today’s episode we take you into the beautiful world of Claude Monet and Giverny. You’ll need to put some effort into getting to Giverny from Paris, but it’s so worth it! And, as we explain in today’s episode, you have several options to get there and all are pretty simple. Giverny is a place of contemplation and that will blow you mind away with an array of colors and shapes that contributed so much to Monet’s art.

Recommendation

You can join us for a tour with Annie and Elyse and Addicted to France. If you can’t, please get your tickets in advance on-line so you can enjoy the day without the line! Whatever you do, do not miss the entrance for those who can skip the line, as we discuss in the episode, it’s too easily done. (See photo at the end of this article.)

Places Mentioned in this Episode

Giverny, Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Gare Saint-Lazare , Orangerie Museum in Paris, Marmottan Museum in Paris, Vernon-Giverny Train Station

Episode Highlights with Time-Stamps

Giverny Tour with Addicted to France

[02:18] Next time Elyse and Annie will offer a tour of Giverny is going to be on May 26, 2018, you can read about it on Addicted to France and we’re only opening it to the first 6 people who book.

Claude Monet, Prolific and Long-Lived

[03:10] Claude Monet was both a prolific and long-lived painter. He didn’t paint the waterlilies exclusively, but he painted them a lot over his many years!

Giverny Is in Normandy

[04:12] Monet was born in 1840 and he bought the property that became known as Giverny at age 43. Giverny is technically in Normandy.

How Long Does it Take to Go to Giverny from Paris?

[04:56] By car, it takes an hour to an hour and a half from the center of Paris depending on traffi. By train you get on at Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon-Giverny and then you take a shuttle bus that runs every half hour. Or you could take a little tourist train between the Vernon-Giverny train station and Monet’s house. Some websites suggest you could walk it, and probably you could, but why? It’s neither short or pretty. When you take the train, you go along the Seine, which is pretty.

Why Monet Settled at Giverny

[08:33] Monet wanted to get out of the city, he was at an age where he was getting to be well-known, but he wasn’t super famous yet. He wanted to create a space that he designed (with a gardener) so that anywhere he looked he would have something to paint. Everything is organized by color combination.

Flowers Year-Round, Almost

[12:00] They have 12 or more gardeners these days, there are a LOT of flowers and unless you go in the dead of the winter, you will get a feast for the eyes. The part with the lily pads and the willows and the pond are amazing. It’s hard to get a photo of the little green bridge without anybody on it because there are always so many people. Don’t go on a Saturday or Sunday if you can. Monday has fewer visitors typically. Overcast days are even better for artists and photographers, so don’t worry too much about not having perfect weather on the day you visit.

Where to Go if You Bought Your Tickets Ahead of Time

[15:10] When you get to the parking area you have a 10 minute walk through the village (with nice houses, restaurants, etc.) there is a ticket office on your right. There is a sign off to the right for people who have already bought their tickets on-line, you need to turn to the right before you get to the ticket office.

Giverny Is a Full Day Trip from Paris

[17:50] You can spend a whole leisurely day at Giverny. If you rush, you could do it in 2 hours, 4 hours seems like an ideal amount of time to spend there. If you’re into botany, you’ll need more time because you’ll want to pay closer attention to specific plants.

Giverny Was “Une Ferme de Paysan”

[20:00] When Monet rented Giverny, it was 20 hectares and it was a “ferme de paysan” so a farm. Monet quickly started to transform the farm into a flower garden. Giverny became his life’s work, he worked there along with the gardners his whole life.

What You Will Inside the House at Giverny

[21:19] When you go into the house, at first you see the studio room that he used when he was older because he could see into the garden. You see the original furniture in the house, and on the walls you see reproductions of Monet’s work by amateur painters. They don’t look near as good as the original and anybody can tell! Then you see the bedroom, the blue and white kitchen and the very yellow dining room.

Monet Lived a Charmed Life

[23:34] Monet lived a charmed life other than a couple of tragedies (the untimely death of his first wife and the death of one of his children). When he wasn’t painting he entertained his friends. He was a well-centered person. He was very close to all the impressionist painters, close to Alfred SisleyCamille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot who he took under his wing. He was also very close to French Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau.

Giverny as a Place of Pilgrimage

[25:09] Giverny has now become a place of pilgrimage. In part because Monet’s art is so well represented all over the world, but also because he personifies that time period. His legacy has been preserved in part thanks to a lot of American money.

Claude Monet and Georges Clémenceau

[26:29] Claude Monet had the privilege of being best friends with Georges Clémenceau (Président du Conseil) and that’s how he was given the space at the Orangerie to do the lily pads. That’s also how he got a State Funeral. Sadly, Money died before the Orangerie opened with the lily pads. In many ways Monet was an “official” French artist.

Claude Monet, the Conventional Artist

[28:33] Claude Monet was also a conventional Frenchman. He was grounded, not a thrill seeker. He had his wife and his kids and his work and that fulfilled him. Walking through the gardens and sitting on a bench near the ponds at Giverny can be a meditative experience. It became important for other artists to come visit him and he made people come to him at Giverny.

Also Consider Visiting the Marmottan

[31:00] The Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris has a lot of wonderful pieces by Monet, and also well-worth a visit. But Giverny continues to be the place of pilgrimage where people flock to in order to get a feel for his work and legacy.

Should You Stop at the Musée des Impressionismes at Giverny?

[32:00] The Musée des impressionismes in Giverny is located near the gardens is now open and features impressionist and post-impressionist artists. The space itself is lovely, not very big, it is dedicated to other artists who worked at the same time as Monet or were influenced by him. It will take an hour or so to visit and is recommended if you have the time.

How to Schedule Your Day at Giverny

[33:50] Elyse and her sisters took the 8:30 AM train out of Gare Saint-Lazare and took the 5:30 PM train back to Paris. This means they got to Giverny by 10 AM which is about when it opens. There are nice places where you can get some breakfast and lunch as you walk to the entrance.

The Gift Shop at Giverny

[35:40] The gift show at Giverny is pretty big, they have a little of everything, but also garden books and seeds. It’s a great place to bring little souvenirs.

Giverny as a Photographer’s Paradise

[38:00] Giverny is not a place that needs a lot of talking or explaining. It is a place of contemplation. If you want more details on the plants there are books and their website is also very good at giving the names of the plants. It’s a photographer’s paradise and a place that appeals to the senses.

Addicted to France Tour to Giverny

[39:38] The Addicted to France May Tour is going to be happening May 27th thru June 3rd. Before the tour there are two add-ons you can purchase:

  • On May 25th we’ll go to Versailles and will visit the King’s Private Apartments. Then Elyse will guide through the rest of the Château.
  • On May 26th we’ll be going to Giverny.
  • May 27th thru June 3rd is going to be the full Paris Tour that we’ve talked about on the show before.
  • June 4th thru June 7th we’ll be going to Normandy, including the commemoration of D-Day, Mont Saint-Michel and Bayeux

The Extra this Week

[45:54] The Extra this week is the Circular Paris Metro Map

French Tip of the Week

[47:00] French Tip of the Week: “Quel temps de merde !”

Conclusion

Giverny is conducive to reflection and introspection even when it is filled with visitors. We recommend you take your time and make a it a day. You don’t need to be a botanist or a photographer to enjoy it, but if you are, you will totally fall in love with the gorgeous colors and beautiful setting.

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Giverny and Claude Monet where to go once your have your skip the line tickets

 

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Normandy WW2 Trip Report, Episode 116

Normandy WW2 Trip Report

Normandy WW2 Paratrooper Veteran
Phil Meets a WW2 Paratrooper Veteran who jumped over Normandy 70+ years ago.


Normandy WW2 Trip Report with my guest, Phil Roberson, who  shares his great passion for WW2 history, how he has visited many battle landmarks in Normandy, and the appeal they had for him (and possibly you too!)  D-Day happened on June 6th, 1944 and there has been extraordinary interest and curiosity about Operation Overlord or the “débarquement” as the French call it. The American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer receives one million visitors per year. Would you like to be one of them?

Places Mentioned in this Episode: Omaha Beach, American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, Arromanches, Bayeux, Museum of WW2 in Massachusetts, Pointe du Hoc, Sainte-Mère-Église, Utah Beach.
Visiting Normandy? Find the Best Deals & Reviews at TripAdvisor.


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Continue reading Normandy WW2 Trip Report, Episode 116