Driving in France
In June/July 2006 we had a 9 day driving holiday in France. We caught a car ferry from Dover to Calais, drove down through Normandy, popped into Brittany and then caught the ferry back to Dover from Boulogne-sur-Mer.
We chose to take our own car over, as the cost of the ferry and petrol was significantly cheaper than flying from London and hiring a car in France. I also feel a lot more comfortable travelling in our own car as opposed to a hire car.
The only negative thing about driving our car in France is that it is a right hand drive car, and French cars are left hand drive, which means that tolls/tickets machines etc are on the wrong side of the car for the driver to operate…luckily I was able to assist in these duties from the passenger seat, but I do feel sorry for the solo traveller in these situations.
Driving in France is great. The roads are good and the sign posting is excellent. You can hoon along on the wide tollways/freeways, or travel along pretty coastal roads, soaking up the atmosphere of the French countryside. Just remember which side of the road you have to drive on if you come over from the UK.
- Historical Travel
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Getting to Mont Saint Michel
The Mont is located 180 miles northwest of Paris. It can be reached by car (A11 & A81 west to Rennes, N175 Pontorson) Total driving time from Paris is about 4 1/2 hours.
There is no direct train route to Mont St. Michel; take the train from Montparnasse, if leaving from Paris, to the town of Pontorson, from it's station take bus #15 to Saint Michel.
Take the TGV to Rennes, then take Les Couriers Bretons bus for the 75-minute transfer to Mont-St-Michel. Depending on the season, there are between two and five bus departures from Rennes a day, most of which are configured to correspond to the TGV's arrival times in Rennes.
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How to go to Mont-Saint-Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel is 22 km south west to Avranches
67 km north to Rennes and 9 km north to Pontorson.
It is open for visits yearlong but the hours vary according to the season.
From May 2nd to August 31st : 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM (last entrance 6:00 PM)
From September 1st to April 30th: 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (last entrance 5:00 PM)
It is closed on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
Unaccompagnied visit with a leaflet (available in french, english, german, italian, spanish, russian, chinese, dutch, japanese, polish, portugese), is free under 18, 5 € between 18 and 25 and 8.50 € for adults,.
For visit with audioguide (available in french, english, german, spanish, italian, Japanese), the supplement is 4 € single and 3€ couples.
Guided visits are available too.
No dogs allowed except blind’s.
- Road Trip
Towards providing naturally shaded walkways
The walk from the parking areas to the navette (shuttle bus) station is at least 10 minutes - and considerably longer if you're visiting in peak period when you'll have to park in one of the more remote car parks.
One of the excellent tourist-friendly initiatives that has been undertaken at Mont St Michel is to plant shady trees along these walkways. Judging by the size of the saplings at the time of writing in July 2012, they were only a couple of years old, but it will only be a few years before this makes a major -and very positive - impact on visitors' comfort.
Walking to the Mont
As one of its many excellent concessions to managing the tourist hoards, Mont St Michel offers an excellent navette (shuttle bus) service between the mainland and the Mont.
However, if it's a nice day and you're not in a rush - you really should consider walking to the Mont. It will only take you about 15 minutes extra, depending on how long you dawdle to admire the view and take photos, and (particularly in peak season), you will more than compensate for that with the time that you'd otherwise have spent queueing for a navette.
Quite apart from the saving in time, the chief attraction of walking is to approach the Mont in the same manner as the medieval pilgrims and experience the intimidating spectacle of the Mont rearing up from the coastal flats: utterly incomparable!
Restoring Mont St Michel's island status
Mont St Michel experiences the most extreme tidal range in Europe, which has been both a challenge to access and a defensive advantage, particularly during in its early history.
Up until the 19th century, visitors to the Mont had to approach the island across the tidal flats and could only access the island during low tide. Imprudent travellers often paid for their carelessness with their lives, either being swept away by the galloping tide, or falling foul to quicksand.
In 1879, a permanent causeway was installed between the island and the mainland, which allowed round-the-clock access in all weathers. Whilst a superbly practical solution from an access point of view, this has had a significant impact on the marine environment, encouraging siltation on either side of the causeway, and causing damage to the sensitive salt marsh ecosystem. Yet another major improvement to this amazing location!
At the time of writing in July 2012, construction was underway to replace the causeway with a bridge that will go a considerable way towards reinstating natural flow conditions and assist in the reestblishment of the natural ecosystem. This project will not compromise access to Mont St Michel, but construction activity - with some attendant disruption and aesthetic impact - is not likely to be completed until 2015.
By public transport
Excellent transportation info here
In short: TGV (fast train) from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes (2 hours, cost between 25-51 EUR)
Then bus from Rennes to Pontorson (9 kms from M.St.M), then another bus to Mont St. Michel.
You need the following websites to work out your trip:
www.voyages-sncf.com (for train travel and remember to reserve for TGV in advance).
Then use bus services: http://www.lescourriersbretons.fr/english/accueil.htm
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Make use of the free navette service
One of the most tourist-friendly developments in what is possibly one of the most tourist-friendly destinations I've ever visited is the navette (shuttle bus) system that ferries visitors from the mainland to the entrance to Mont St Michel.
The navettes depart for the Mont every few minutes from the navette station, about a ten minute walk from the parking areas. And, best of all, they're FREE!
However, be realistic about your expectations. During peak season, the sheer pressure of tourist numbers will mean that you have to queue for a navette, so either factor this into your planning and accept the inevitability with good grace, or - particularly if it's a nice day and you're not in a rush - consider walking to the Mont.
Access - general information's
Driving is certainly the most efficient way of visiting Mont Saint Michel. By road (see road access instructions on the picture - see the website below for details +railway,...):
- A11 motorway, Chartres-Le Mans-Laval exit to Fougères, then, direction to Le Mont Saint-Michel
- A13 motorway to Rouen and Caen. From Caen, use the A84 motorway to Le Mont Saint-Michel.
From Paris the total driving time is about 3.5 hours (358km-Toll 21.60 €)
Parking: (per day and per vehicle)
Car 4 € Camping car 8 € (Autobus: Free)
Remember: when those car parks are covered by the sea (high tides periods), you can park your car upon the causeway (from approximately 2 hours before to 2 hours after the high tide hour).
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Best that you take a bus in from Pontorson...
...just be very mindful of the schedule of return times since they are not the same every day...if you are not careful you could find yourself facing a semi-pricey taxi fare back to Pontorson (as was our lot) so you can still make your train back to Bayeux or wherever it is you are staying that evening! Then again, if you drive your own or a rental car here, be mindful of the tides. During high tide, this lot becomes submerged, no kidding!
For those with no car
This tip concers mainly those who don't drive.
As we were on an Interrail trip, we depended on trains and other means to get to the places we wanted to see.
And visiting The Mont Saint Michel was in fact quite easy. The nearest train station is the village of Pontorson. There are trains arriving from Rennes and from Normandy. From the station, a private bus company takes you to the Mont Saint Michel for a reasonable price. There are several buses a day, but the amount of people waiting for them can be great too.
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Bus or car to get it
To join Mont Saint Michel the best way is to take the car but you can also choose to go there by bus. It takes about 4 hours from Paris to Mont Saint Michel, roads are quite good and fast from the capital. I recommend you to move from your location very soon in the morning to stay there as long as possible, consedering that at 5:00 P.M. the water of the Sea arrives !!
The Bus from Pontorson to Le Mont St. Michel
Les Courriers Bretons offers convenient bus transportation from the Pontorson train station to your Mont St. Michel hotel and to Le Mont St. Michel itself. The Pontorson bus stop is 100 m on the left as you exit Pontorson train station. (Ignore the bus parking spaces in front of the Pontorson Gare.) Each bus has plenty of cargo space for those travelling with luggage or backpacks. And, the drivers are really great people. My driver spoke zero English, but went out of his way to help me get to my hotel.
If you have booked a hotel on the continental portion of Mont Saint Michel, you can purchase a 1.50 euro ticket from the driver that will take you from Pontorson Gare to the La Caserne bus stop, which is located in front of the Hotel Motel Vert and its associated restaurant, La Rotisserie. From there, you can easily walk to the following hotels: Relais Saint-Michel, Hotel de la Digue, Le Relais du Roy, Formule Verte, Hotel Mercure Mont St. Michel, and the Hotel Motel Vert. When returning to Pontorson Gare, use the bus stop across the street -- in front of the Hotel Mercure Mont Saint Michel.
(If you are going from Pontorson Gare directly to to Mont, just ask for the Le Mont Saint Michel bus stop. It only costs 1.80 euro.)
The bus schedule is seasonal and probably coordinates with the trains arriving in Pontorson. (The Le Courriers Bretons web site has no information about this Pontorson to Mont St. Michel bus route. I found out the details at my hotel.)
There is also a bus service from the Rennes train station the the Mont -- possibly operated by Ligne Regionale (Region Bretagne). I know nothing about it except that one of their busses stopped at "La Caserne" before my Les Courriers Bretons bus arrived. I also noticed a listing for Le Mont St. Michel while waiting at Rennes Gare.
- Budget Travel
Access to Mont Saint Michel
The Mont is located 180 miles northwest of Paris. It can be reached by car. There is no direct train route to Mont St. Michel; take the train from Montparnasse, if leaving from Paris, to the town of Pontorson, from its station takes bus #15 to Saint Michel. Or Take the TGV to Rennes, then take Les Couriers Bretons bus for the 75-minute transfer to Mont-St-Michel. Depending on the season, there is between two and five bus departures from Rennes a day, most of which are configured to correspond to the TGV's arrival times in Rennes.
A13 motorway to Rouen and Caen. From Caen use A84 to Le Mount Saint-Michel: exit n° 8, main road N 175 towards Rennes, up to Pontaubault, then secondary roads D 43, D 75 and D 275 to the Mont Saint-Michel. Total driving time from Paris is about 4 1/2 hours.
- Road Trip
from Paris to Mont St.Michel by train
From Gare Montparnasse take a train at 10.05 to Dol. It arrives at Dol at 12.46. Transfer to bus at 13.05 to Mont St.Michel which arrives there at 13.45. You have enough time to tour Mont St.Michel until 16.00 for a bus back to Dol. It arrives there at 16.40. Get to train at 16.59 to Paris Montparnasse and you`ll be there at 20.00.
You will have to take sandwiches or like with you and you won`t have to spend time and money at Mont St.Michel`s restaurants. So you won`t be robbed by the locals – prices are twice as high there as in Quartier Latin or Montmartre.