Christmas in France, Episode 178

Christmas in France, Episode 178


Don’t spend your hard-earned dollars and precious vacation time on a trip to France at Christmas without listening to this episode! Some places are amazing at Christmas in France, others are meh, and we list them all.

And for those of you not planning a trip to France right away, we’ll answer the question What do French people do at Christmas that that they don’t do the rest of the year? It turns out we do a lot of fun stuff!

Addicted to France: Our Small Group Tours

Related Episodes

At the Paris Christmas Market, Episode 132
Christmas in Paris, Episode 95
Christmas Markets in France, Episode 45

Recommended in this Episode

Gifts for Francophiles and Travelers

Santa climbing up a Christmas Tree; Christmas in France
Photo Annie Sargent

Christmas in France with Highlights and Time Stamps

This episode is brought to you by Patreon supporters and Addicted to France, the Tour Company that specializes in small group and custom tours in France. And we’ve a great tour coming up in May, check it out on our sister site, Addicted to France.

On Today’s Episode: Christmas in France

[01:24] Bonjour, I’m Annie, and on today’s show I chat with Elyse about Christmas in France. This is the 4th Christmas episode I’ve released, if you can’t get enough of Christmas, check out our related episodes.

[02:27] And for the email newsletter I’ll send you what I said I’d send last week but forgot to include and it’s called How French Is Your Christmas? If you’re not signed up for the Weekly Extras I recommend you do, I only email once a week and most of the time I don’t forget to include the file I promised!

Christmas in France — What Do French People Do at Christmas?

[03:15] On today’s episode we will be answering the question “What do French people do at Christmas that they don’t do the rest of the year?

At Christmas, French People Visit Christmas Markets

[03:47] The first thing we do at Christmas that we don’t do the rest of the year is that we visit Christmas Markets.

The oldest Christmas Market in France is in Strasbourg

The oldest Christmas Market in France is in Strasbourg. It has been happening since the Middle Ages, but it used to be called the Saint Nicolas Market.

Local merchants used to take over the plaza in front of the Cathedral with offerings from all sorts of artisans: pottery makers, clothes manufacturers, locksmith’s, folks who sold medicinal herbs, food and groceries stalls, bread makers.

You have to understand that in the Middle Ages, all of Strasbourg had converted to Protestantism, including the folks who ran the Cathedral! In 1570 a preacher decided that this whole Saint Nicolas business was too Catholic, saints were to be out completely.

Alsace Doll at the Strasbourg Christmas Market; Christmas in France
Photo Pixabay Contributor
If Saint Nicholas Doesn’t Bring Gifts Any More, Who Will?

[05:34] But if Saint Nicolas isn’t going to bring gifts any more, who will? They decided on the young Jesus, not a baby and not a teenager. They show a prepubescent Jesus that looks very much like a girl in illustrations we still have today.

In Alsatian the say Christkindel for “baby Jesus”. Thus the Saint Nicolas Market was renamed “Chrischkindelmärik”.  The tradition is that a young person dressed in white brings gifts.

In illustrations from the time you can see that this young person looks an awful lot like Santa Lucia in Northern Europe where a young girl wearing a crown of candles appears. But, young Jesus or young woman, this character was important.

Christkindel; Christmas in France

Christkindel Traditions in North America

[06:44] When the people of Alsace emigrated to America, specifically Louisiana, Arcadia and Canada, some of them brought with them the tradition of Christkindel, so you might have heard of it too.

In Strasbourg, the Christmas Market moved around from plaza to plaza so that every area of the city would enjoy the economic benefits. By now it is so big that it has sprawled throughout all city plazas, about a dozen of them, all within the historical center of Strasbourg.

The city is illuminated every night, there are folks selling candy, cookies, spice cake, mulled wine, fresh Christmas trees, crafts, everything is made locally and by artisans. It’s a feast for the eyes and the belly too!

Elyse’s Experience of the Strasbourg Christmas Market

[08:23] Going to the Strasbourg Christmas Market years ago was like going to Disneyland for Elyse. Weather in Strasbourg is cold in December, which goes right along with the spiced wine and the gingerbread men and everything.

The 10 Best Christmas Markets in France

[09:38] This is the list of the 10 Best Christmas Markets in France according to the French Magazine Paris Match.

  1. Colmar is first. Colmar is a big rival of Strasbourg but is a much smaller city at the southern end of Alsace. The city center of Colmar is beautiful small medieval city center. It’s unexpected that Colmar should beat out Strasbourg because it is so much smaller.
  2. Strasbourg is number two on that list.
  3. Montbeliard is number 3 for the best Christmas Markets in France and Montbéliard is in the Juras, not in Alsace.
  4. Number 4 is Obernai, just a little south of Strasbourg, definitely in the Alsace.
  5. Number 5 is Mulhouse, neither Elyse or Annie have ever visited. It’s an hour south of Colmar. We’re still in the North East of France.
  6. Number 6 is Reims where the champagne is made, of course.
  7. Number 7 is Amiens, in the North of France. The official name of that region is “Les Hauts de France”. The Cathedral of Amiens is really famous.
  8. Number 8 is Lille, close to Amiens, also in the north of France.
  9. Metz is number 9. It’s a city that few people know about but it’s lovely, it has a beautiful Cathedral, it would be a good city to check out.
  10. Number 10 is Arras in the Hauts de France.

Apple style decorations; Christmas in France

None of the Best Christmas Markets in France Are in the South!

[15:30] You will notice that none of the cities that make the top 10 list of Christmas Markets in France are in the south of France because in the South we don’t have as long a tradition of Christmas Markets as they do in the north.

No Christmas Market on the Champs Elysées in 2017

[19:40] There will not be a Christmas Market on the Champs Elysées this year because the man who owned it, Marcel Campion, had his license revoked. He also owns the Ferris Wheel on the Place de la Concorde, that’s going down as well.

The city of Paris says that in the future they will do another Christmas Market on the Champs Elysées, but with a very different atmosphere.  That was Episode 132. We think more French cities need to go towards Christmas Markets that favor creativity rather than crass commercialism.

Fresh Christmas Trees Are a Novelty in Southern France

[24:08] Because Christmas in France has a lot to do with the predominant local religion, fresh Christmas Trees are a novelty in southern France. To this day in Toulouse you cannot find a Christmas Tree stand that includes a water tank!

The Santons and the Crêche Are a Southern France Tradition

[27:57] Most people in France by now put up a Christmas tree, even if it’s a fake tree or a live tree that will die for lack of a proper tree stand with a water tank, we do have a tree of some sort. Not as many people put up a crêche or nativity scene which is very Catholic.

Nativity Scenes from Provence are called Santons; Christmas in France

You Will Not Find Nativity Scene Displays in Public in France

[28:41] Nativity displays are not a big thing in France nowadays. Before the French Revolution there used to be live nativity plays acted out, but at the French Revolution things changed dramatically.

Before the Revolution, Nativity Scenes and Passion Plays used to be everywhere. In front of churches, on the public square, but that all stopped at the Revolution. Spain still has a lot of those to this day and we don’t in France.

Individual French People Do Not Decorate the Outside of their Houses for Christmas

[30:44] French people don’t put out lights on their houses very much. You’ll see one once in a great while, but it’s unusual. Cities do put out lights, but their purpose is clear: they want to attract shoppers to the center of cities. Paris is beautiful with the lights at Christmas time. There are Christmas Markets in different places around Paris.

The Festival of Lights in Lyon

[34:00] The Festival of Lights in Lyon is pre-Christmas, but it has been going on for many years starting on Dec 8th every year. This is a big cultural event that makes Christmas special for French people. Lyon gets 1 million + visitors each year for this event. This festival started in 1852.

How the Festival of Lights Came About in Lyon

[35:00] Lyon is a city divided in 2 parts. The part down by the rivers and the part on the big hill called La Fourvière. Starting in the Middle Ages there was a tradition of having a statue up on top of the hill lit up with a lot of candles.

After the anti-religious sentiment calmed down following the Revolution (around the middle of the 19th century), they commissioned a local artist to do a new statue. Originally, the new statue was supposed to be installed on Sept 8th, but there was flooding and bad weather that year, so the installation of the statue was put out for 2 months and happened on Dec 8th.

On Dec 8th, 1852 city cryers announced that everybody was supposed to put candles in their windows that night and they did. From that year on, it became a tradition for people to light candles in their windows on Dec 8th. In 1989 the city of Lyon made it into an official festival called the Festival of Lights.

Since 1989 the festival has grown to take up 4 days.  Last year 1.3 million visitors came to see it, lots of light artists are invited to come put on events. They project images onto buildings, and they organize 286 guided visits to help visitors get the most of it.

Christmas Caroling Is Not a Thing in France

[39:49] Christmas Carols are not as big a thing in France as they are in the US or England or Germany. We have plenty of old Occitan and Provence Christmas songs like Nadal Tindaire or Catem Nadal

Food French People Eat at Christmas that We Don’t Eat the Rest of the Year

[43:11] Let’s talk about the food traditions of France for Christmas!

  • Foie Gras
  • Oysters
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Caviar
  • Turkey
  • Capon
  • Goose
  • Leg of Lamb
  • We do NOT do ham at Christmas
  • Prime Rib is unusual in France
  • Champagne
  • Good wines
  • The Christmas meal goes on forever!
  • Christmas Log (Bûche de Noël) either pastry or frozen
  • 13 Desserts of Christmas (Provence)

Christmas Mass in France

[50:28] This may sound surprising on account of what we said earlier is that French people go to Christmas Mass, Midnight Mass! Only Cathedrals will put on a wonderful Christmas Mass but small neighborhood churches are closed, so if you want to attend Midnight Mass you need to get there on time because the Cathedral fills up!

Christmas Chocolates

[53:15] French people have chocolate out to enjoy this time of year when they do not the rest of the year. We also enjoy candied chestnuts which Annie prefers to chocolates. In Provence they have more nougats.

When Do French People Celebrate Christmas?

[54:39] Whenever is convenient for everyone in the family! We are more flexible about when the celebration happens. Sometimes this means that celebrations go on for several days around Christmas.

[58:54] Don’t forget about our tour in 2018, it makes for an unforgettable vacation. Check out dates and prices on Addicted to France

Christmas decorations vendor; Christmas in France

Patreon Supporters and Lunch-Break French

[59:52] Last Saturday I released a new installment of Lunch-Break French, the exclusive reward for Patreon supporters. The theme this month was The 13 desserts of Provence, les 13 desserts de Provence.

For Lunch-Break French I write a short article in both French and English and I read it to you in both languages at a normal rate of speech, and you can read along if you wish. It’s great listening comprehension practice and a great test to see if you are ready for the French we speak in France rather than the stuff you hear from French teachers, which is usually too simplistic.

When you sign up to support the show on Patreon you get access to all previous installments of Lunch-Break French and I’ll be announcing new rewards for patrons who support at a level of $5 per month in the next episode.

French Tip of the Week

[60:01] Joyeux Noël et bonne année !

French History Brief: The First Christmas Tree Ever Recorded in the World!

[62:00] The first Christmas tree ever documented anywhere in the world is credited to a place in Alsace called Sélestat and that was in 1521.

Sélestat is just a little bit south of Strasbourg and only 17 kilometers from the German border. It’s not a village any more, there are 20,000 inhabitants in Sélestat today, it has a cute medieval center with lovely half-timbered houses.

Like most places in Alsace, Sélesta has a Christmas Market where they celebrate the first Christmas Tree, they have blown glass festivities (more about that in a moment), video projections against the façade of the church, an open air ice rink, it looks like Christmas is serious fun there.

This first Christmas tree inspired Protestants in Alsace and in Germany to do the same. They wanted to get rid of the Crèche or Nativity because that was from the Catholic tradition.

Why an Evergreen Tree?

Why did they pick a tree? Because of the idea of the Tree of Life from the Bible. They picked an evergreen tree because of the idea of everlasting life. These Christmas Trees became common over time, in Alsace, in Germany, in Poland. Wherever there were Protestants, the Christmas Tree tradition took root. It was slower to make its way into Catholic country.

At first, the trees were decorated with cloth, ribbons, candy, painted apples, and candles of course, which I don’t know how they pulled that off, a plain old electric garland is dangerous enough for my taste!

In 1858 the winter was so harsh that they didn’t have enough apples to decorate the trees, that’s when they started to use blown glass “apples” that they used on a tree as a substitute. That caught on right away of course and we still put round ornaments on our trees.

In France, Louis XV’s wife, Marie-Antoinette, who was from Poland, introduced the idea of the Christmas Tree, but it didn’t catch on too well. Then in 1837, Hélène de Mecklembourg, Duchess of Orleans and step daughter of King Louis Philippe, had them plant a spruce in the Luxembourg Garden just to decorate it. And that’s what launched the Christmas tree in France

Annie’s Personal Update

Pick Your Christmas Town Carefully!

[65:00] Well, I went to the Toulouse Christmas Market after this recording with Elyse, actually the same day we recorded, and got there a little late— 8:45 PM— and everything was closed! Security was showing people out, all the vendors were packing up, too late lady! For as much as I love my city of Toulouse, it is not a Christmas town!

Updating the Website

[66:00] I’m going to be be taking the time I won’t spend on producing new episodes the next couple of weeks to work on the new Join Us in France website. If I manage to make enough progress to launch it before I talk to you again, I’ll announce it via the newsletter.

 How to Connect

[72:14] The best way to connect with me is email me, annie@joinusinfrance.com or call to leave a voice mail 1-801-806-1015. If there’s a great tidbit you want to share with the listeners, call the voice mail and I’ll play it on the show. 1-801-806-1015.

All right, let’s wrap this up, go enjoy your friends and families, merry Christmas or any other celebration you do this time of year. I think most people celebrate something or other in December, so whatever it may be, enjoy it and I’ll talk to you again on Jan 10th, 2018! Au revoir !

Conclusion

One thing is for sure: if you attend Christmas Celebrations in France, you will eat too much and drink too much. French people who are so careful about what they eat year-round will totally let loose at Christmas, that’s part of the French Christmas Traditions!

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Place de la Concorde in Paris at Christmas; Christmas in France
Photo Annie Sargent

Saint Bertrand de Comminges, a Day Trip from Toulouse, Episode 177

Saint Bertrand de Comminges


If you are staying in the Toulouse area long enough to look around at some of the other hidden gems of Occitanie, we recommend you consider a visit to St Bertrand de Comminges, a bucolic and inspiring village in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

In today’s episode, Elyse tells us how the gorgeous Cathedral came to be built and about other interesting sites nearby such as the Basilica of Saint Just Balcarère, the painted neolithic cave of  Gargas, the spa resort of Bagnères de Luchon and the Roman ruins at Montmaurin. 

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

St Bertrand de Comminges Episode Highlights with time stamps

About Join Us in France

[00:00] This is Join Us in France Episode 177. Join Us in France is the podcast for where we talk about France, it’s many quirks, it’s history, it’s language, and of course, destinations in France you might want to visit since you’re probably someone who loves to travel. This episode is brought to you by Patreon supporters and Addicted to France, the Tour Company that specializes in small group and custom tours in France. And we’ve a great tour coming up in May, check it out here.

 

Saint Bertrand de Comminges city sign and illuminated Cathedral
Photo Annie Sargent

On Today’s Episode: Saint Bertrand de Comminges

[01:05] Bonjour Francophiles, I’m Annie, and on today’s show I chat with Elyse about a really small and charming village an hour south of Toulouse called Saint Bertrand de Comminges. Definitely out of the beaten path but at the same time a center of French history and culture. This episode goes entirely to the depth of knowledge we aim to bring to you about France because this is certainly not a place lots of people Google about! But we talk about it anyway because it’s interesting to people who love France and want to understand it better.

French History Brief: Richard Coeur de Lion

[01:44] The French History Brief at the end of the episode today is called Richard I of England aka Richard the Lionheart aka “Richard Coeur de Lion”. But did you know he also had a nickname? They called him “Oc e no” which spoke to me because that’s an Occitan expression, and as you know, that’s where I’m from too! More on that after the episode. Here’s the song I mention in the episode.

The Show Will Go Dark Between Dec 20th and Jan 10th

[02:14] The next episode coming out next week on Dec 20th is going to be the last of the year and then I’ll take a couple of weeks off and will come back with new episodes in the new year starting on January 10th. And now, on to my conversation with Elyse on Saint Bertrand de Comminges!

A Great Day Trip from Toulouse

[03:10] Why Saint Bertrand de Comminges makes for a great day-trip from Toulouse.

An Organ Festival at the Foothills of the Pyrenees

[04:35] The Saint Bertrand de Comminges organ sounds great and the concerts there are top quality.

St Bertrand de Comminges Historical Background

[06:10] St Bertrand used to be on a major trade route under the Romans

Roman Villas Established in the Area

[07:48] Roman traders established lavish villas in the area

Herod the Kind from the Bible in the Comminges

[09:00] Herod the King was kicked out of Palestine with his wife and he took his retirement in the Comminges.

From Roman Baths to Early Christianity

[10:00] St Bertrand de Comminges went from Roman settlement, to early Christianity settlement, to a County overseen by a Count

A Large Cathedral For Its Time

[12:24] The Cathedral at St Bertrand de Comminges is surprisingly large for the time

Geology and Archeology in the Area

[13:54] The area has interesting geology and several active archeology research sites

St Bertrand Is a Low Population Area Today

[14:57] The village has a lot of empty houses today because there are many home owners who only go on week-ends. We recommend you visit on a week-end or during the festival when it’ll be more lively.

Roman Ruins

[15:57] Besides the Cathedral, you also have a site of Roman Ruins to visit nearby with beautiful frescoes.

Saint Bertrand de Comminges in the year 1000

[20:00] Bertrand de l’Isle Jourdain was a bishop in the Gers, then went to Rome, built the Cathedral on top of the hill, then as made a Saint.

It’s Hilly!

[21:28] Watch out for narrow streets! Most of the houses look really nice.

Best Time to Visit Saint Bertrand de Comminges

[22:50] Go on a week-end or in the summer or on a day when the festival is on.

Saint Just de Valcabrère

[23:45] This is Saint Just de Valcabrère, a beautiful and World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, it was closed when Annie Arrived.

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Either Eat on French Time or Bring a Picnic!

[24:35] This is not the sort of place where you can grab a bite to eat any time of the day. Either eat on French restaurant time (arrive at 12:30 PM or 7:30 PM) or bring your own food! We’re not even sure there are any restaurants open year-round in St Bertrand

The Cathedral and Cloister

[27:17] The Cathedral and Cloister were commissioned by one of the French Popes in Avignon called Clement V. He had been bishop of the area and when he became pope, he built a large Cathedral there (large for the area, you’ll see bigger ones lots of places!). The Monastery has been gone for a long time. The organ and wooden choir is gorgeous.

The Summer Music Festival

[30:19] The Festival is over 40 years old, started out with Organ music, but now they also have chamber music and sacred music. It attracts music connoisseurs who are usually older and better off.

What to Do Nearby: Gargas Painted Cave

[32:04] You can visit the painted cave of Gargas where you get to see the actual ancient paintings, lots of hand prints. (http://www.grottesdegargas.fr/)

[34:19] You can also stop at Martre Tolosan where there are ceramics with nice designs.

[36:09] For an over-nighter you could go to Banières de Luchon where they have spas, thermal baths, go hike in the mountains. Luchon is a lot bigger than St Bertrand de Comminges and has a lot more happening.

Saint Bertrand de Comminges Cathedral at dusk
Photo Annie Sargent

 

 

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Mont Saint-Michel Trip Report, Episode 176

Mont Saint-Michel Trip Report


It’s a fact: the Mont Saint-Michel is a big rock with an abbey on top. It doesn’t sound that appealing when I put it like that, does it? But that abbey on top of that rock with the sea surrounding it at high tide and the vast expanse of sand at low tide; well, it works. It is one of the most spectacular vistas you will ever see.

The Mont Saint-Michel attracts lots of tourists every year, and the word “lots” doesn’t do it justice. There are so many, sometimes it’s unbearable. But like all “touristy” places, there are things you can do to maximize your chances of seeing it in peace, and that’s exactly what Phil Roberson explains to us on today’s episode.

 

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

Mont-Saint Michel Trip Report

 

mont saint-michel at night
Photo Phil Roberson

Paris to Rennes on the TGV

[03:04] Phil arrived in Paris, spent one night, then took the TGV to Rennes where he picked up a rental car. That’s probably the most direct way to get to Mont Saint-Michel. When returning to Paris he decided to do it the other way, driving through Bayeux.

Quick Walk-Through of Rennes

[03:45] Quick two-hour visit of Rennes, a charming city with half-timbered buildings and pretty streets. It was a sunny day and lovely. Had a nice meal there.

Stop at the American Military Cemetery in Saint James

[04:43] As a WWII history enthusiast, Phil had to stop at the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial. It is smaller than its Normandy counterpart, but just as sobering.

That First Glimpse of the Mont Saint-Michel Will Take Your Breath Away

[05:30] Even though he had been there before, Phil was surprised how when he caught his first glimpse of the Mont Saint-Michel through the winding roads, it took his breath away.

You Can’t Drive Right Up to the Island

[05:45] They will not let you drive right up to the Island, not even to drop somebody off. You will be required to park and either take a free shuttle or walk. The parking lots can be 3+ kilometers away from the island.

If You Reserved a Hotel You Can Park Closer and Free

[06:15] Hotel customers have a special parking lot, but you have to arrive with the reservation information ready or they will try to make you go with everyone else. You need the code for the hotel parking lot.

What Has Changed at the Mont Saint-Michel Since 2012?

[07:36] You can’t park at the foot of the ramparts any more. The bridge lets the tides do their job, and the sand doesn’t get stuck around the causeway any more. It’s a more natural, and more spectacular, look now.

You Have to Do a Lot of Walking on Mont Saint-Michel, Don’t Bring Too Much!

[09:00] Travel light because even the buses don’t drop you off right at the foot of the island. If you can, bring what you need in a backpack. Backpacks are ideal because you’ll have to deal with lots of cobblestone once you get to the island. Rolling suitcases do not work well on cobblestone! The walk to the island is great in good weather, not so fun in bad weather.

Timing is Everything at the Mont Saint-Michel

[09:45] Pay attention to the tide schedule so you can walk around the island on the sand. Bring another pair of shoes for that! Big tides are also a lot more spectacular than minor ones. Some days the water doesn’t move much, others it’s truly spectacular. It’s all known in advance, check the schedule.

Troubles Checking in at the Hotel on Mont Saint-Michel

[12:15] Phil had a reservation at the Mouton Blanc, but when he got there, he found a sign saying he had to check-in at a different hotel and go back down the hill. That wasn’t right!

Pack Light! Schlepping Your Luggage Up or Down the Island Is NOT Easy!

[13:40] Even young, fit people have a hard time with rolling suitcases at the Mont Saint-Michel

Hotels Just Outside of the Mont Saint-Michel

[15:30] There are hotels near the island where the bus drops you off at the hotel. That’s a viable option as well. You’ll have to walk the 3rd of a mile between the island and the bus-stop several times, but the buses run late.

How to Bypass the Crowded Road with All the Restaurants

[16:20] If you just want to get up to the Abbey quickly, you can take the ramparts path and avoid all the restaurants and shops. Phil tells us how to find it.

Find the Little Chapel to Get to Quiet Areas

[17:15] From the “Eglise Saint-Pierre” you can get access to paths where there are a lot fewer tourists because they’re not on the main drag. There’s a small cemetery there too.

The Poulard Story

[18:50] It’s everything Poulard on the Mont Saint-Michel, we don’t know if it’s a racket or a conglomerate or what, but it seems they have the corner on everything!

[Addendum: The original hotel and restaurant Mère Poulard developed was bought by the mayor of the island in 1986 and he turned it into what it is today. But “La Mère Poulard” had modest beginnings a housekeeper and a great cook. She was welcoming and motherly and attracted famous people to her hotel and restaurant. She also had great business sense even though she didn’t seem to care about money. She died in 1931 and is buried in the tiny cemetery of the island along with her husband.]

The Mont Saint-Michel Is Definitely a Touristy Place

[20:30] There are no businesses on the island that don’t have to do with tourism. But, despite that, it is still worth a visit because it is so beautiful.

Food Specialties of the Mont Saint-Michel

[21:47] Omelets, shortbread cookies and mussels with cream are the specialties nowadays. There were other local specialties before the Poulard empire, but you have to go elsewhere in Normandy to enjoy them.

It Stays Light Late in Normandy in September

[23:35] The sun doesn’t set until around 9 PM in France in September, this gives you time for great visits and photography.

Photography Talk

[24:42] Annie and Phil talk photography gear for a minute, specifically how to protect your camera gear from rain damage.

Le Mouton Blanc Hotel Review

[26:30] The hotel was OK, but nothing special. Phil didn’t spend much time there, so he didn’t care, it was adequate. Some rooms have an ocean view, his didn’t unless you craned your neck just right!

Is It Worth Staying on the Island?

[27:25] Yes. You have to pick your poison: you either deal with the luggage on the cobblestone and up-hill, or you deal with walking back to the bus. There are inconveniences to both. If you want to stay on the island, book far in advance if you’re going in high season (May thru August)

Is Mont Saint-Michel Doable for People with Limited Mobility?

[28:35] Not really. There are stairs everywhere, up-hill cobblestone, not possible for a wheelchair user. For people with other types of limited mobility, it depends. Plenty of people who suffer through it. Our frank discussion on this podcast can hopefully help you decide.

mont saint-michel bay with the island far in the background

Visiting the Abbey at the Mont Saint-Michel

[30:43] The Abbey opens at 9:30 and closes at 5 PM most of the year. Check on times. Phil was one of the first ones at the opening which was good because otherwise it’s mobbed.

No Signage in the Abbey, Take the Audio Guide!

[33:05] The audio guide will tell you a lot about the architecture and the history. You really need it because there are no signs explaining anything. Check out the models of the development of the Abbey over time at the entrance, it’s impressive. The views from the top are amazing, a must-see.

Some Things You Will See Inside the Abbey

[35:20] Large dining rooms, meeting rooms, tiny cells for the monks, the pillars that hold everything up. Massive fireplaces and the manual crane they used to bring goods up to the top of the Abbey.

Finishing Your Visit Just As the Massive Crowds Arrive

[38:27] You don’t want to start heading up the hill at 10 or 11 AM, that’s when it’s mobbed.

Never Travel with Just One Pair of Shoes

[39:39] Annie argues that point and Phil, being a polite gentleman, doesn’t dare contradict her too much!

Leaving the Mont Saint-Michel, Gorgeous Country Road!

[41:08] To get great views, don’t stay on the N road (route nationale) and go to the smaller roads. You want the D275 and the D75 (same road, changes names in the middle because of arcane French naming conventions).

A Stop at Avranches

[42:24] Avranches is great for a quick stop, could even be a good Plan B if other hotels are too full. It’s possible to get great views on to the Mont Saint-Michel from there when the weather is clear.

The Scriptorial in Avranches Is Worth a Visit

[44:34] As Elyse explained in Episode 175, Avranches is where the monks of Mont Saint-Michel were attached to. Their writings are kept at a museum in Avranches and it’s worth a visit.

How Much French Do You Have to Know in Get By in France?

[45:51] You have to know the niceties (bonjour, au revoir, merci) and it’s good if you can struggle through a sentence or two because it makes the person you’re talking to less worried about their English. But you can visit France with hardly any French at all.

Fans of WWII and D-Day Must Listen to Episode 116 with Phil!

[49:03] Episode 116 with Phil on WWII history and D-Day is a must-listen to for anyone preparing to visit Normandy. It is informative and super helpful.

[51:50] Show Updates

  • Thank you Patreon supporters!
  • What’s new with the show this week.
  • The answers to the question of the week and things that will chance in 2018.
  • Join Us in France is now on Spotify.
  • The show will soon be on the Amazon Dot or Amazon Echo.
  • You asked for it and it is here! You can get Join Us in France Merchandise on TeePublic.
  • Email: annie@joinusinfrance.com or leave a voice mail on 1-801-806-1015.

[60:00] French Tip of the Week: c’est bientôt Noël

[60:45] French History Brief: La Guillotine

Next week’s show is going to be on Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.

Thank you for listening, if you heard something in today’s episode that someone you know would enjoy, find this episode on Join Us in France on Facebook and tag them!

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll talk to you next Wed!

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