What You Will Learn About in this Episode
This is Join Us in France Episode 186. Bonjour, I’m Annie and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, its many quirks, its history, its language, and of course, destinations in France you want to learn about because, hopefully, you’ll be visiting soon and you need all the best tips from a local!
In today’s episode, I answer this question: is it possible to visit the mont saint michel as a day trip from paris, on your own, without joining a tour? Lots of people wonder about this, but is it possible or even advisable? Let’s talk about it in today’s episode.
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Today’s episode is going to be short, I think, because I am simply answering one question: is it possible to visit the mont saint michel as a day trip from Paris, on your own, without joining a tour? Well, of course, we’ll also talk about how to go about that, and we’ll end on Is it a good idea?
Lots of people wonder about this because onces you’re in Paris, you’re thinking the Mont Saint Michel isn’t that far, is it? And visiting the Mont Saint Michel is a lot of people’s bucket list, so let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this plan.
Can I Visit the Mont Saint Michel as a Day Trip from Paris in a Car Rental?
There are 360 kilometers (that’s 224 miles) between Paris and the Mont Saint Michel by car, average drive time is around 4 hours each way. This is the kind of distance where it’s far enough that doing it as a day trip with a car may be a bit much.
I don’t know about you, but when I drive for 4 hours and then walk around a Medieval City for 6 hours (which is about how long it’ll take you to do the Mont Saint Michel Justice), I wouldn’t be up to driving back for 4 hours again. But some people wouldn’t mind doing that, so of course it’s an option.
Renting a Car for One Day in Paris
Car rental agencies are not open around the clock in France, not even at major train stations in Paris. So, you’re on the clock, you want to drive off early to avoid commuter traffic jams. You’d like to drive off at 6 AM. You have two choices:
1. You could go get your car at the Charles de Gaulle Airport (that’s open longer hours although not around the clock). But that means leave your hotel in central Paris at 5 AM.
2. Or you could pickup your car the night before and park it in Paris overnight. This can be done, but it introduces complications and extra expense.
If you’re going to go the early morning route, you really need to leave Paris by 6 AM because that puts you at the Mont Saint Michel by 10 AM, visit for 6 hours, and drive off again t 4 PM to drop off your car at 8 PM at CDG and get to your hotel by 9 PM. Long day, but I suppose doable.
This also means that you’re going to be at the Mont Saint Michel exactly at the least desirable time because that’s also when everybody else is there!
If you want better timing for your visit, this is what I believe: pickup your car at noon, get to the Mont by 4 PM (that’s when the masses of visitors start leaving), go directly to the top and the Abbey so you can see it before they close (check on opening times, they change throughout the year.)
Stay as late as the last shuttle back to your car, because you’ll have to park a few miles from the Mont Saint Michel as we’ve mentioned in episode 175 which was an episode on the history of the Mont Saint Michel and episode 176 a trip report on the Mont. The shuttles end service at midnight. Then drive back to Paris in the night. This is a pretty good plan if you are a nocturnal bird or if your jet-lag works in that direction, and that will depend on where you are coming from, so I won’t even try to guess!
We’ve mentioned driving in France on many episodes, but the two main ones you should listen to if you are considering doing this are Episode 16, titled Driving in France, and Episode 138 Tips for Driving in France.
So, these are your driving options. Honestly, if I were driving, I’d either do the late departure from Paris or book at hotel near the Mont. For a hotel for the one night I recommend the Mercure Mont Saint Michel because it’s well situated and not that expensive. It’s near the Mont but not on it.
How About Taking a Train to Visit the Mont Saint Michel as a Day Trip from Paris?
There is no train station at the Mont Saint Michel, so the train cannot take you all the way there. But, since the Mont Saint Michel is such a popular place for visitors, there are really good options on getting there by train. Why isn’t there a train station right at the Mont Saint Michel? Because there are 33 full-time inhabitants there right now, so setting up a train station isn’t high on the list of priorities!
On the other hand, there are so many visitors that there is a regional bus line that takes you the rest of the way between when you get off the train and straight to the Mont. This is not one of those silly buses that stops constantly, it’s a direct bus. So, total between Paris Gare Montparnasse and the Mont Saint Michel is 90 minutes on the bullet train and 45 minutes on the bus. So, this combo fast train + bus will take you 2 hours and 15 minutes. That’s almost half the time it would take driving! That sounds good to me!
Let’s Talk About Some Bad Train Options That You Need To Know About Before I get to the Good Stuff
The closest train station to the Mont Saint Michel is called Pontorson–Mont Saint Michel, but that’s 10 kilometers from the Mont, and it’s not the most efficient way to go. Should you book your train ticket to Pontorson–Mont Saint Michel, you’d have to change trains in Rennes, get on another train to Pontorson–Mont Saint Michel, then get on a bus that will drive you 10 kilometers to the Mont (there are 4 of those a day, timing may be an issue), and then take the free shuttle. That’s too convoluted, you can do simpler than that!
The other bad train option would be to get on a slow train, and by slow train I mean any train that is not a TGV. Slower trains are a little cheaper than the TGV train, but they take a lot longer, they are as slow as a car. So, don’t take the slow train!
Some people can’t resist cramming in more than they really should do in a day and so they have the not so brilliant idea to take the train to Saint Malo or Bayeux, and then take a bus to the Mont Saint Michel. That’s a bad idea because there aren’t that many buses between the two and the schedules will not work out well. You can do better than that!
Kim Henry, on Episode 106 told us that she took the train to Bayeux, and then joined a tour to Mont Saint Michel, and if the schedule works out, why not? But that seems waaayyy too much for me. I’m French, I believe in taking things slow if at all possible.
The Right Way to Do Your Day Trip Between Paris and the Mont Saint Michel by Train
The right way to do this is to take the TGV train and get on a bus line that’s dedicated to taking you the rest of the way to the Mont Saint Michel. This bus is timed to allow TGV passengers to get off the train and get on the bus just outside of the train station. And if the train is delayed, the bus will wait for the TGV to arrive. And if the TGV is delayed so much that the bus can’t wait that long (because they are also taking people back from the Mont Saint Michel back to the train), they’ll add an extra bus to serve the passengers who are arriving late. So it’s not just any bus service, it’s made to serve visitors who choose to take the TGV then the bus to the Mont Saint Michel. Their website is in English and they explain really well how to find the train too. Please check their site because this is all true as of February 2018 as I record this, and things can change!
I mentioned the TGV train, but maybe some of you aren’t familiar with that acronym. TGV stands for Train à Grand Vitesse. It’s the French bullet train. Between Paris and Brittany it can go at a maximum speed of 320 kilometers per hour (that’s 200 miles per hour). So yeah, it’s a fun ride! And you’ll only spend 90 minutes on the train. And there is WiFi on the train, but it’s made for people who have a data plan, either from a French carrier or from a company that has agreements from a French carrier. If you bought a data plan for you trip, it will work on the train. If you didn’t buy a data plan, bring a book!
You will have to choose between two destinations for your TGV ride: either one will work, they both depart from Gare Montparnasse in Paris, but at different times. Your TGV destination should be either Rennes or Dol-de-Bretagne. If you go to Rennes, you leave Paris at 7:40 and arrive at the Mont at 10:55. If you choose to go through Dol-de-Bretagne, you’ll leave at 8:14 and arrive at the Mont by 11:20. Either way, there will be a special bus waiting for you right outside of the train station. There are also other departure times, but those two seem the most sensible to me.
You have to buy your TGV ticket in advance, the earlier you buy it, the less you will pay. Pay attention to this: last minute TGV tickets are expensive! For the bus ticket, that’s cheap and the price stays the same: you pay 12€ to the driver, bring exact change or as close to exact change as you can.
Bottom line: this TGV train + dedicated bus service is a great way to go. I don’t know if it’s the best way for YOU, but it seems to me totally doable and enjoyable.
Least Busy Times at the Mont Saint Michel
I won’t lie to you: because the Mont Saint Michel is such a touristy place, it’s best to be there outside of the hours of 11 AM until 5 PM, but depending on the time of year you go, this may not be such a big deal. When I look at the site that predicts waiting times for major museums and attractions in France, it’s called jaimeattendre and you’ll find a link to it on joinusinfrance.com/links, they say that July isn’t as busy as August, other than July 14th week-end, and that the last week of July is relatively calm. Last week of August is bad, the week of the Marathon is bad (around May 13th), 3 day week-ends are bad, spectacular tide days are bad. September is relatively low attendance and the weather tends to be pretty good. This is Normandy, no promises, but those are the trends.
I didn’t talk about companies that will drive you there on a bus from Paris, but there are many of them. Use your google fingers to find them!
Thank you Barbara Livieri, Shelah Miner, Anne St George, Cas McIntyre, and Sarah Root for pledging to support the show on Patreon this week and thank you to all the other patrons who support the show month after month, it’s really gratifying to have new people find so much value in the show that they want to give back. To support the show on Patreon, go to PATREON.COM/JOINUS and thank you!
Short show update: I am so excited to announce that the Amazon Echo Skill dedicated to Join Us in France is going to be available soon. It’s not ready yet, but things have made great progress. This will make Join Us in France one of the earliest podcasts to get its own skill, which is a big deal because I know those Echos are really popular. Nobody I know has one in France, we’re probably 5 years behind the trend as alway.
For a personal update, well, it’s been cold in Toulouse and all over France. I was hoping for signs of spring, but nope. The daffodils got fooled and bloomed early and last night they got frost bite because it froze hard. It snowed in Corsica and in Provence and pretty much all over France today. So, for those of you coming soon, please check the weather forecast and remember this is France, not southern California, it gets cold and wet!
And, I am getting new glasses. Why am I mentioning that at all? Well, because since getting lasik surgery in 2003 I haven’t needed glasses. At that was so nice! But it’s back to the point where the myopia is back, not too bad, but I can tell, especially when driving somewhere new where I actually need to look at the road signs! I’ve needed glasses for up-close for a while now, but I’ve been in denial about that too. Ah well, at least my vision is easily corrected with glasses.
And that brings me to another thing that’s been on my mind: should I get a new dog or not? My old lady Luna dog died a few weeks ago, and I am faced with a choice. Get my own dog or take care of guide dog puppies?
It’s really hard to do both because when you have a guide dog puppy, you’re supposed to take them lots of places. The guide dog in training goes to all the stores with me and takes special trips on the bus and on the metro, goes to the movie’s and concerts and everything. My own dog doesn’t get to do those things. And dogs have a keen sense of fairness and unfairness.
My Luna was already 11 when I started volunteering with guide dogs, so as long as she got her long walk every day and plenty of attention, she was OK. But I don’t want to do that to a young dog because they won’t understand. So for me it’s either go with my own dog or volunteer with guide dogs.
On the other hand, when you raise a guide dog puppy, you have ZERO say as to what happens with that dog. So long as things go well, it’s fine. But what if there are problems and you completely disagree with what the dog school intends to do with the dog? It’s their dog, their decision. That’s hard to take. I’ve seen some examples of that lately, and it’s not good
So, I don’t know what I’ll do. I am leaning just taking my own dog because that’s a lot less work than a guide dog puppy, and it’s not like I am not too busy as it is. But that will feel a tad selfish. At the same time, I’m hardly the only person that volunteers at the Toulouse Guide Dog school! So I don’t know. The breeder I want to buy from won’t have puppies for several months, so in the meantime I’ll help out at the guide dog school and see how that goes.
All right, that’s going to do it for today’s show. Elyse and I are supposed to be recording an episode in a couple of days that will be a rundown of Paris Museums and what you can expect to see there, the big ones, the minor ones. So I think that’ll what you’ll get to hear about next week.
Thank you for listening and welcome to all the new listeners who found the show recently, it’s good to see new people! The best way to connect with me is via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Au revoir!