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Experiences with our Motorhome,  Food and drinks,  Trips to France

France, part three – Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Poul’s 97 years old ex-father-in-law and Venise Verte

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We left Cave Tronquay late in the morning. After doing some shopping for groceries for the next 2-3 days, and filling up diesel, we arrived at the Mont-Saint-Michel area. As this is a major tourist attraction in this part of France, road signs showing the direction started far far away. When we got closer we suddenly saw the dramatic silhouette from far away. Le Mont-Saint-Michel, for those who don’t know it, is a small but magical island with an Abbey on the top. We had booked the next two nights on the Camping Mont-Saint-Michel, to be sure having enough time to explore this wonderful little island, and to be as close as possible. When booking in advance, a 6 digit code is sent by email or SMS. This code has to be entered by a bar to get access to the area with the campsite and hotels. Check-in was easy and we got a very nice pitch for our camper. Just for info, in addition to the camping price, there is a fee for “parking” on top of that. Strange, but a fact.

We quickly settled on our pitch and walked in the direction of the island, just to get the first glimpse. Wow, it is indeed a magic moment to see this for the first time, in reality, after having seen so many pictures of it. After our barbecue dinner, we drove to the island on our bikes with Maggie in her bike basket. There is a bridge to the island, so it was fast and easy to get there. But we had to stop many times to take photos. Normally there would be thousands of tourists, but not this evening. It is possible to bike all the way to the island, and 70 bike parking spaces are available in a nice courtyard. So we could really enjoy the buildings and the views. In most restaurants, there were plenty of free tables, not what we expected. There has been a Benedictine abbey on Mont-Saint-Michel for more than 1.000 years. We didn’t visit the abbey, dogs are not allowed there. But there is so much more to see and explore. It is indeed a magical place with a special atmosphere, so early the next morning we biked out to the island again. This time there were even fewer other tourists. (And free shuttle busses are driving to and from the island from 7:30 in the morning and until midnight). We were happy to be able to enjoy the silent atmosphere again and even walked a bit on the beach before biking back to the camper. When walking on the beach around the island it is important to know the times for the tide which can have a dramatic difference. A very interesting day on a very interesting island.

The day after the plan was relatively simple, drive to la Venise Verte (the Green Venice), a huge area with lots of channels, perhaps including a short trip with a rowboat on one of the channels. BUT, then an old friend of ours, in Denmark, Poul, had mentioned and suggested, that we should visit Benet. A small village in the vicinity of Venise Verte, where his former father-in-law still lives. And a small very popular restaurant next to the channels serving great local dishes. So we changed our plan a bit. First, we arrived at the restaurant, but without a reservation no chance to get a table.

A bit of the background. Poul and his wife Kirsten, have been our friends for more than 30 years. Many many years ago, before we met them, Poul had a girlfriend in Benet in France. Later Poul and Kirsten visited Benet several times, and the French family also visited Denmark and they all stayed in contact.

In Benet, we managed to find the address of Poul’s former father-in-law. Actually, we even found Jean Mathé in his garden. Jean is 97!! Of course, he was very surprised, seeing two complete strangers in his garden, and we don’t speak much French….and Jean only French…. We told him that we were Poul’s friends, opened a Messenger video call with Poul, and slowly the whole situation was more clear, kind of…. The interesting here was also that Jean Mathé is famous for making a great Pineau, and last year he even wrote a book about making this and his life, long long life. Jean, still overwhelmed about our visit and greetings from Poul, invited us in his home to taste the famous golden liquid, and it was really delicious. We were also invited to see the beautiful old barrels. And then we read a bit in his new book and talked about many things, as good as we could with our low-level French. This was such a touching experience, meeting this old, warm-hearted, and smiling guy. He didn’t know us and still invited us to his home.

Then we drove to the beautiful little village La Mazeau in Venise Verte, to have lunch at a small café by a channel where rowboats were passing by.

Our next stop for the night, was by another France Passion host. A small farm near Saint-Hilaire-la-Paloud. A nice spacious field and 5 other campers had found the same place. There were a lot of chickens, especially the old breed Maraîchine, geese, and pigs. The roosters, including the neighboring roosters, really did have a hard time trying to be the noisiest….but we still slept well.

End of part three, but don’t forget to check back for the next parts.

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