Just a bit about the history of the abbey: In the late 10th century, the bishop in this part of Normandie received a vision from St. Michael, the Archangel. He was told to build an abbey on the top of what was an island (at the time).
To get to the abbey, we had to follow the path of a pilgrim, climbing up the 280ish stairs. Along the way, we passed shops in the medieval buildings which would have supplied goods, etc. to the monks and pilgrims (now souvenirs stores for weary tourists to shop in).
We had a guide who kept us to a reasonable pace and told us lots of interesting facts about the place, so it was actually an enjoyable climb.
Once at the top we took time to look out over the water at Brittany.
Once up there we took a moment to turn around and look at the façade of the abbey cathedral before heading instead. Interestingly, the abbey was given back to the Catholic Church in the 20th century, and monks and nuns live there today.
Sadly, the cathedral is now largely a shell, especially since it was taken over to be a prison by the French government after the French Revolution.
After a look inside the cathedral, we headed outside and walked along the cloister,
to the dining hall for the monks.
From here we visited a couple other rooms in the complex. The cathedral was built on the top of the point of the island--other rooms are underneath to support the cathedral.
This room would have been decorated like Saint Chappelle was and would have served as the quarters of visiting nobility.
The mourning chapel of the monks:
One of the support rooms with its huge thick pillars:
The entire complex is within walls,with two sets of ramparts. On the way back down we walked down along part of them.
(Statute of the Archangel Michael on the top of the spire)
We took a shuttle back to the hotel and headed over to a large dinner included in the tour. We had a glass of apple juice and an apple liquer from this part of France with mini-quiche appetizers,
a salad of shredded carrots and this white stuff i've never had that was like sourkrut sort-of, followed by a scoop of vanilla sorbet with an stronger apple liqueur to cleanse our palates. Remember, apples are a big deal in Normandie.
With the main course, we had white wine, a yummy white fish in a cream sauce, followed by a cheese plate with three local cheeses (which we had really been looking forward to trying).
Dessert consisted of three assorted delicacies with a cup of expresso (which I finally tried with lots of cream and sugar) and a shot of a different apple liquer, this one more like a syrup.
So it was definitely a large dinner!
Afterwards, Katherine and I walked back up to the abbey to take nighttime pictures. It took us quite awhile to get up there because we kept stopping to take pictures in the different light--it was gorgeous at night!
We even went back up into the town and onto the ramparts one last time (by this point we were all about the climbing).
At night it really looked like some kind of fairytale castle.