6:30 am came very early but we were up, fed, and on our way to hike across the Bay of Mont St Michel. At about 9 am we met up with our official guide, Ian, a “misplaced” Brit who came to Normandy years ago and never left. An licensed guide is required for walking over the bay due to the dangerous tides and “quicksands”. All of us were required to wear a warm hat and windbreaker/raincoat because of the winds blowing across the bay. In addition, we all had to go barefoot and in shorts because of the mud and clay flats and crossing several streams. We began by walking through the sand dunes, shown below and onto the bed of the bay.
The surface of the bay itself varied widely from compacted rippled sand to clayey sand where you would sink up to your ankles to almost greasy, highly organic muds and clays that squished through your toes and were so slippery that it threatened to throw you onto your back. This last mud is collected and used for highly expensive mud baths in local and far away spas. We saw lots of signs of the local flora and fauna including mermaid purses (egg pods), flat oyster shells, worm casings, etc. We could see the islands looking very close across the salt marshes and we gradually crossed the Selune, the See, and the Couesnon Rivers, the last being the border between Normandy and Brittany.
I took very few photos because of all the mud and slipperiness but it was fascinating. We only walked as far as Tomberlaine Island, which is now a protected sanctuary for nesting seabirds and is only about half the way across the bay to Mont St Michel.
We returned to our vans just as it started to pour. We had meant to have a picnic lunch on the sand dunes but Lucie found us a small shelter at a closed camping park where we shared the shelter with a boisterous group of high school students who had been picking up trash along the shoreline. We had four or five local cheeses (the Camembert was unbelievable!), unlimited baguettes, local garlic and other sausages, apple cider (of course), fruit, and apple tarts.
As the storm broke and the sun reappeared, we piled back into the vans and drove into Brittany to the Chateau Richeux in Saint Meloir des Ondes, our last hotel on the trip. This Chateau is a luxurious 1920s villa with antique and original furnishings directly overlooking the Cancale Bay with views of Mont St Michel. My room was not ready when we arrived so everyone else disappeared into their rooms to wash off the soils of the bay and rest before dinner. My wait was worth it. When shown to my room, I immediately noticed the balcony outside the room and walked directly to the French doors, opened them and stepped onto the balcony.
On the corner table shown here there was a small bottle of Calvados, a small ceramic dish of dried fruits and light cookies, a plate with two apples and fruit from the grounds of the chateau, and a bottle of sparkling water, along with a welcome note from the family that owns the chateau.
Little did I know that I had gotten the only room with a balcony. How I lucked out I do not know but it was lovely.
We had dinner that night in the hotel. The chef, Olivier Roellinger, one of the few French chefs to have earned three Michelin stars. He developed a menu just for us from local and in-season produce, incorporating spices from all over the world. It was fabulous, especially the fish. But dessert was over the top! They brought out a platter of small desserts—enough for each of us to have seven or eight different desserts. Unbelievable! We all sat talking for several hours. And a few of us retired to the library to sip herb tea mixed on the property. I had a mixture of tea with ginger and fennel—just the thing to soothe an over-full stomach.