Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Le Mont St Michel

My sister wanted to visit Mont St Michel having visited it once before on a school trip. I'd always wanted to visit but had a niggle that I was going to like it more from a distance than close up. It seemed to me that there was every likelihood that it would have been taken over by tourism.

Mont-Saint-Michel 3rd October 2009
 11" x 17",  pencil and coloured pencils in Daler Rowney Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I was right - although it was not as bad as it could have been - probably due to the fact that it's a World Heritage Site. However the combination of souvenir shops and coachloads of tourists made it somewhere I didn't want to be. It gets 3 million visitors a year.

I didn't climb to the top to the Romanesque Abbey (which has wonderful pointy bits), as my right ankle was making loud and painful protests at the time. I ducked into the little church on the way up - which offered a little bit of peace and quiet. Then I went up further but headed for one of the look-out areas. At which point I became completely entranced with the sand and the estuary. You can see photographs taken from the viewpoints on my Flickr site - Mont St. Michel set on Flickr. I watched a group of people who were right out on the sandbanks of the estuary.

The view from the viewing platform
at the rear of Mont St Michel
I then decided to come back down via the footpath along the peripheral walls - which made the experience a whole lot more satisfactory as this walk for some reason was almost deserted!

We visited three times - on Friday afternoon (which was when I stayed longest), Friday evening when we came back to see it lit up - a very spectacular sight from a distance and then again on Saturday morning.

On that occasion I stayed down in the car park, got into the back seat, opened the door and got out my sketchbook to sketch. The result is the sketch at the top.

You can see more of my drawings since I got back on my Making A Mark blog post today - From sketchbook to studio - which comments on the thinking and drawing process when I get back home.

I've yet to produce a more finished drawing that I'm happy with!

About Mont-Saint-Michel
Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stand the 'Wonder of the West', a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Plan Mont Saint Michel
You can see a gallery photos of Mont Saint Michel on the UNESCO World Heritage website and yet more on the Monet Saint Michel page on the "Our Place" Collection of Photographs of World Heritage Sites.

There are also more links below which tell you more about the site below.



  1. I too was worried it would be spoilt - but loved it! it's a pity about all the souvenir shops, but they can't spoil the beauty of it all - all the little lookouts and corners and shingled rooftops seen from the battlements, narrow streets and steps and the shimmering wet sands. I did go to the top and all over but was with family so no sketching :>( - lots of photos though that I should maybe dig out .....

  2. I really hate crowds. I was fine once I got on to the path around the edge but was not happy in that very crowded main street.

    Maybe that's got something to do with the fact I wasn't on a good surface and was worried about my ankle and falling?

  3. Your sketch is lovely...just enough detail. We didn't get to this part of France. Even being there for a month, we had to leave spots out of our itinerary. I agree about the crowds and the shops taking away the feel of a place. I enjoyed the quiet spots the best, but having been a teacher in my former life (lol) I became very good at tuning out noise and commotion if I was in the middle of it.

  4. I am glad to here you sat down in the car and sketched this wonderful piece of art. That special moment in your crowd filled adventure will stay with you.


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