Author Cheng Yongling
They say that most desirable place for some tourists in France is not Paris or Provence, but Mont Saint-Michel. I also heard about this place. Thanks to my son's initiative and company, I was able to travel last Saturday to see his true face.
Mont Saint-Michel is known for its unique landforms and long history of island with many monuments. It is said that at beginning of 8th century, a priest received in a dream a speech from archangel St. Michael with a request to build a church on this seaside hill. According to oracle, priest encouraged faithful to work hard to build a church on top of mountain. Later, after thousands of years of trials and tribulations, churches on island were built and destroyed several times, but they still stand tall. Castles and monasteries were also built on mountain. Over years, countless Christians have made pilgrimages to this hill. In 1979, Mount Saint-Michel and its surrounding bays were included for first time on World Cultural Heritage List of France. The castle on mountain also enjoys a reputation as one of ten most beautiful castles in Europe. The third largest holy site outside.
Mont Saint-Michel is located in Normandy, France, more than 360 kilometers from Paris. The 4 hour train + 30 minute bus finally got me and my son to their destination at noon. Under blue skies and white clouds, first thing that greets us is sound of church bells and a chorus of seagulls, a fresh and sacred scene. Although French epidemic has recently recovered, it coincides with French holidays in August, and there are still thousands of tourists in scenic spots.
The hill is two kilometers from coast and is currently connected to mainland by a steel bridge. The bay in which it is located is a large shoal that is flooded with sea water at high tide. At that time, Mont Saint-Michel was really an isolated island in sea, mysterious and independent;
There is only one main road to climb Mont Saint-Michel, which must pass through city gates, cross suspension bridge and enter bustling street market. The eyes are full of old-style buildings, and after more than a thousand years of wind and rain, there are traces of time everywhere. The main road of city goes around all way to church on top of mountain. Most of well-maintained buildings on street at foot of mountain are shops, and there are also hostels where life is in full swing. The more you climb, more fireworks in world go out, and religious atmosphere becomes stronger. It just alludes to different areas of life. In addition to material life, people should also have a fulfilling spiritual life.
The famous monastery and church on top of mountain control flow of people due to epidemic. We were unable to book a ticket, so we walked down mountain and enjoyed panoramic views along Mont Saint-Michel coastal path. Standing on edge of English Channel, let sea breeze wrap around your hair and skirts, dancing in wind. I remember ancients saying: look at extraordinary is often hidden in danger. On this isolated island, surrounded by wind and waves, monks of day had to better understand difficulties of life and pray for God's guidance. Actually, this is meaning of travel: traveling to an unfamiliar place and experiencing a strange life naturally enriches mind.
The return train leaves at 5:00 in afternoon. To pass rest of time, I chose a seaside cafe with my son to sit. When sea is facing wind, you can hear melodious ringing of church bells in your ears and rising and falling sea waves before your eyes. Watching flow of people, watching flight of seagulls, enjoying this rare rest under bright sun.
If you have opportunity to travel to France, don't miss Mont Saint-Michel. The great writer Victor Hugo assessed Mont Saint-Michel as important to France as Great Pyramid is to Egypt. In hearts of pilgrims, this is gate of paradise.
At exit of bus, I turned my head many times, and Mont Saint-Michel moved further and further away from me. This trip made me understand a little why Eiffel Tower is not on French visa, but Holy Mountain. Looking at this miracle at edge of Atlantic Ocean, I hope that next time I will have opportunity to really enter its higher world.
A little more emotion at end. In order to protect environment and monuments, car park of scenic spot is located two kilometers from Mont Saint-Michel gate. There are free luxury buses that pick up tourists in a scenic area, but most French people who love sports prefer to walk. My son also told me that he heard driver tell tourists that bus pick-up time was one in morning.
This is a world cultural and natural heritage site, which is visited by more than 3.5 million tourists annually. free bus for you until late at night. Perhaps domestic tourism industry will be inspired by foreign colleagues.
Cheng Yongling, member of Chengdu Writers' Association. Lives in Paris, France.
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