One of the most popular tourist sites in Normandy is Mont Saint-Michel. It is both an island and an abbey - and sometimes it is surrounded by seawater but at lower tides it isn't. This is pretty cool so my son and husband wanted to go. I was outvoted. Ah well.
The parking lot was the first reason I had not enjoyed it before. The old parking lot was at the foot of the causeway that allows you to visit at high tide. It was large, dusty, disorderly and very ugly. But in 2012 the French declared the area around the abbey a nature preserve and built a new parking lot farther away. It is orderly and surrounded by high hedges with a free shuttle bus and a Visitor's Center. We chose to walk and I was already feeling better about the visit.
Mont Saint-Michel has been called the Bastille by the Sea and throughout its history has been a prison instead of an abbey from time to time. As we walked we felt that we were leaving civilization behind - it feels remote and it is desolate. It was close to low tide so we walked out on the mud flats that surround the island. Very empty, very dusty and quite interesting - I'm not sure why. We explored for a while then decided to go up to the abbey before we got too tired.
There are 2 ways up to the abbey. My husband had bought some guidebooks and brought them with us. I thought this was silly, but I was mistaken. The book stated quite clearly that you should skip the main entrance and go around to the left to climb up to the abbey. The main entrance is narrow, crowded - overfilled with shops and people. I remembered that part pretty clearly. The other path is not crowded and very pleasant. It's a steep climb so it was nice to be able to stop as needed and since the parking lot couldn't be seen all the views were wonderful.
The abbey itself was the third part that I felt was different. This time I think my memory was inaccurate - I recalled it as small, dark and confusing. There are small, dark and confusing parts but there are also beautiful ones. Since we had the guidebook it was less confusing as well.
When we finished the abbey we were all a little tired. My son declared that we should descend quickly and to aid this that each person was limited to 5 photos only. Two minutes later he and my husband had both broken this rule so I said I was going to take all the photos I wanted also. Our descent was not particularly brisk but eventually we got down and to the car. It was a great day and I'm really glad I was outvoted.