Sunday, August 8, 2004

Last Chance of a Lifetime

Mont Saint Michel is a castle on a rock set out in the middle of the bay. When the tide is in, the only way to get there is by the narrow causeway that runs up to the gate. But when the tide is out, it is surrounded by a bay of sand.

Ben wanted to set out over the tidal sands all day. He kept mentioning it and asking if we could. But the sands were sticky and wet, and the prospect of wading out into a gooey mire with a tide coming back in did not sound appealing to Trudy or me. So we declined his frequent entreaties.

Instead, we walked around the west side of the island (on the outside of the walls, sticking as close to the rocks and the wall as we could, to keep out of the mud). We walked to the abandoned chapel and to the well that made this stronghold in the middle of a saltwater basin feasible centuries ago. And we walked further to where the map showed stairs partially descended to shore (but we did not find them).

And we when we went back thru the gates, we climbed to the top of the island. We toured the abbey sitting on the summit, with its dining halls, galleries, meditation gardens, and church built into the living rock. And at every turn when a window in the walls or a terrace at the edge afforded us a glimpse of the low lands surrounding the island, Ben offered his suggestions again. And we still said, No.

But as it turned out, the tide was going out, not coming in. And as the day wore on, the sun warmed the air. And the tide sands got drier than they were before. As we rested in the afternoon, we could see it from the balcony. What had looked gooey and wet now began to look dry, and people were setting out on foot across the sand.

As Ben and I stood on the balcony of our hotel room looking out on the waterless bay, I changed my mind. I said to him, Why don't you go exploring out there by yourself? Take off your shoes when you get beyond the castle walls, and run as far as you want.

He stared at me.

It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, I said. It was perhaps the only time I will ever be able to use that bit of advice and speak the truth.

He was silent for a moment longer, and then he decided to go. I gave him ten Euros to get a snack on his way to the gate. And he was off!

Trip to France - Day 7
Mont Saint Michel

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