Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kirsten White

Expertly maneuvering the van through windy cobblestone roads in the Brittany Provence of Northern France, Professor Longmire began to explain the unfathomable beauty that would soon emerge from the horizon ahead. Although I once received a postcard illustrating the picturesque Mont Saint Michel, I couldn’t imagine how it would look in reality. The sun shone brightly, pressing through the hazy pink sky; I shielded my face with one hand, while grasping the road map with the other. After driving through a stretch of polderized pasture, a unique type of land used to halt harsh effects of the tide, I caught my first glimpse of the stone monastery dominating a small, circular island in the distance.

Professor Longmire was right; the island truly exhibited an indescribable grandeur. We made it to the infamous Mont Saint-Michel, France, finally having the opportunity to observe one of the most distinctive coastal islands of the world so conveniently located in Europe’s fastest ocean tide pool. I felt humbled by the enormity of the stone structure, which stood on the top of the island, surrounded by a village consisting of shops, eateries, personal residences, gardens, and even a small cemetery. At this point of the exploration we had begun to walk along the sandy path towards the entrance of the tall fortress. Because the sun had just begun to set, we hastened our pace in order to make it up in time to snap some pictures that would illustrate our adventurous experience to friends and family back home.

With birds flocking overhead, we left the sandy path and entered the fortress. Stepping onto a narrow cobblestone street, I felt as though I had taken a leap back in time to a thriving medieval village in which life revolved around religion and basic trade. As we explored the main road up to the monastery, we noted that each building contained an emblem of its primary trade item, such as an artichoke or even a lamb. Through this structural design element, the medieval villagers were able to find out which buildings sold certain necessary goods. Continuing the seemingly endless spiral towards the abbey, we climbed flights upon flights of narrow, old, stone steps, some leading to little gardens, look-outs, or even old gravestone yards. Finally reaching the highest point on the island, we stared off into the distance, each one of us undoubtably thankful for this travel and study opportunity of a lifetime.

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