Mont-St-Michel sans crowds

When we visit Mont-St-Michel, France, we prefer to stay on the island rather than the mainland because of the change in the atmosphere when the last of the day-trippers leave by about 5 p.m. It goes from a noisy, crowded, carnival atmosphere to one of magic, romance and solitude. You can walk the ramparts without running into anyone else, and looking up in the dark at the beautifully lit abbey is an unforgettable sight. We’ve made four visits to Mont-St-Michel.

The magical experience of staying on Mont-Saint-Michel in northwestern France begins, unfortunately, with fighting for a place in the parking lot. Have your hotel confirmation ready to show the parking attendant and head for lot No. 1, which is the closest to the entry gate. (In 2005, parking for 24 hours costs €4, or near $5. For info on hotels, restaurants, tides, etc., visit

It helps to arrive in the late afternoon when people are starting to leave. If your bags are large and heavy, your hotel can arrange to have a porter take them in for you; you’ll be grateful that you did. During our visit, the charge for this came to about $7, which seemed very reasonable considering the distance and climbing involved. (2004 price for this service, €10, or $12.)

Despite the aerobic workout to reach our room, being on the island for the night was worth it. We walked the ramparts, sat in the dim light of the small chapel at the foot of the abbey and listened to the faint Gregorian chants playing softly in the background. Check out the sound-and-light show in the abbey (visit for dates and times).

If you can, plan to be on the island when there is one of the exceptionally high tides. Your hotel can tell you when they occur. It’s amazing to watch the tide sweep in or out at an incredible rate.

Lutz, FL