Thursday, May 7, 2009

Le Mont St. Michel

I have a lot of things to do in the next few days, mostly revolving around preparations for the 4 events I have this weekend; get my merchandise ready, get my crews ready. I took care of my Mother's Day gift in advance, getting my Mom the Jane Churchill fabric she desperately wanted for her kitchen chair pads. No one will see me much this weekend so I gave it to her today and she was of course thrilled!

In the middle of my new merch orders and show preparations, I am planning a trip to France, which was my Christmas gift to two of my nephews, who are 16 and 17.

We'll be making sort of the Grand Tour of France in August: Paris, Normandy, Loire valley, Burgundy and the South. I have booked the airfare (miles), and Paris lodging is taken care of thanks to Francoise & Bob, who will be compensated with a delivery of Burgundy wine for the use of their flat.

We are going to be staying at gites or with friends etc for most of the trip. The one exception is the hotel I booked on the Mont St. Michel. If you don't know it, it is a must-see and one of the most visited sites in Europe. I have no friends with flats on the Mont so a hotel it will be!

The story goes that the Archangel Michael ("Michel"- duh!) appeared in a dream to a local bishop in the year 708. Michel told the bishop to build a church on the site, and bishop must have rolled over and gone back to sleep because he ignored Michel. Several times. Until Michel burned a hole in his skull with his finger (so the story goes). That got the bishop's attention and things started moving after that point....

There is a long history to the Mont. It is now a complex of buildings, all stone, a magnificent monestary etc, with a stone village around the base, which is accessed by a causeway and has a parking lot at the Mont end that floods a little at high tide. Anyway, Victor Hugo famously said "the tide comes in at a gallop" (of a horse), and it's true it is one of the fastest moving tides in the world. Just ask my sister about her visit to nearby Saint Malo! But I have seen more than a few cars and buses stranded in the rising tide in the parking lot (it may be improved by now), and there is a lot of hand waving and yelling as the tires of the unattended vehicles become submerged. Like Saint Malo, watching people and cars and buses get stranded by the tide is a spectator sport in this area. I will have to post on Saint Malo later.

Anyway, there are lots of little shops and famous little fluffy omlette restaurants and the place is crawling with tourists during the day. I don't like it much during the day; too crowded. But as dusk approaches, the commune on the rocky islet changes when the day-tourists leave. During most of July and August, the monestary and its complex are open for nocturnal visits until 11pm. As you can imagine, there are not a lot of modern lights in most of the buildings and medieval rooms, so for these special summer night visits the entire monestary and historical site is lit by hundreds if not thousands of candles, with a variety of new age-y cool French music piped around. It's a self-guided tour (just wander around), and quite a mystical experience! I remember being a little shocked that I was listening to Enigma as I explored the various rooms of the enormous monestary. It's not as spiritual as, say, a visit to Lourdes, but it is impressive. It's completely different than seeing it in the day, and I recommend seeing it two times, day and night.

I booked an "interesting" hotel. We check in at the main building, which has 5 rooms, but there are a series of other rooms scattered around the island; our room will be somewhere else. We were told to be prepared to go up hills. I am glad I travel light and will have my porte baggage (the boys) with me on this trip!

Next week I will get back to more trip planning. The boys are totally excited, mostly, I think, to taste a lot of wine, but that's ok. I'll show them what they need to know about how to get around a French wine list. That's also why I figure a noctural visit will be better than say, a sunrise visit to some site. Teenage boys sleep in a lot, as you know...

This weekend, Saturday: I will be at a benefit in Los Angeles, Michelle and Kailea will be at the Corona del Mar market, Kristin and Chris will be in Glendale at the Americana. Sunday I will be at the Brentwood market. OK now I get back to work....

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