Monday was deemed time for a break from the carnage of battle. Carol particularly had long wanted to see Le Mont-St-Michel but, since we rarely stay that far north for long, we had thus far avoided it. It’s about 100 miles from where we were staying in Dives-sur-Mer and now the French had put in a decent autoroute making it a reasonable drive of a little under two hours. So, off popped the battle-wearied troops. We arrived without incident approaching midday after a somewhat murky but nonetheless pleasant drive in very light traffic. This made me wonder where all the traffic at Mont-St-Michel had come from. The extensive parking facilities were filling up with hundreds of cars, in addition to about 25 camping motor vans and half a dozen or so tour buses spilling out an almost endless stream of Japanese tourists. I kid you not, I saw no exceptions; each and every bus appeared to contain exclusively Japanese. I’d heard that this was the most visited site in France and, given the crowds on New Year’s Eve, I could well believe it. Though quite busy it was actually reasonably comfortable – plenty of people watching to do – but what on Earth must it be like in summer?
The day remained murky so it was not a terrific photo opportunity but the place was very impressive, nevertheless, especially because of its scale. It is substantially larger than its related cousin on the English side of the Channel, St Michael’s Mount. We all climbed up to the entrance to the abbey itself where I decided to remain outside and do some of that people watching while Carol went in with Keith and Marlene. Eventually they re-emerged and we sauntered back down the hill through ever-increasing crowds, pausing only to buy lunch on the run in the form of pizza slices and a less-than-scintillating tuna baguette. We left the car park to continue filling up.
Returning to the carnage of war, nearby at Huisnes-sur-Mer is another burial site for German soldiers which we decided to visit. I was expecting another graveyard but it actually turned out to be an ossuary for the remains of almost 12,000 lost in various locations, including some from each of the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The structure resembled an enormous circular set of bank vaults on two levels, not particularly attractive, I thought, but moving nonetheless.
Now it was time to head back to Dives-sur-Mer for our now daily visit to the unexpectedly open supermarket to inflict further casualties on the forces of the European Wine Lake. Champagne was cooling in the fridge ready for the turn of the year and everyone either stayed awake or was woken up for it – weren’t they, Keith? Hard work, all this tourism.