March 29, 2017

The beautiful Mont Saint-Michel. Don’t turn down the chance to visit this real Disney castle! The beautiful Mont Saint-Michel. Don’t turn down the chance to visit this real Disney castle! Flickr user: Nicolas Raymond


This may be slightly odd for an adult to admit, but I love a Disney film. Who doesn’t? Two hours of pure fairy-tale escapism is sometimes exactly what the soul needs. My search for fairy-tale goodness led me to Mont Saint-Michel, the island commune that is the inspiration behind the castle in Tangled, as well as Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings films.

Only a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Calais, Mont Saint-Michel is a small island commune in Normandy, less than a mile from France’s coast. When I say small, this is no exaggeration. As of 2015, the island had a population of just 50. The island’s inhabitants are vastly outweighed by tourists- it’s visited by three million people a year, making it one of France’s most popular landmarks.

Mont Saint-Michel was originally inhabited by an Irish hermit and his following, prior to the sixth century. Mont Saint-Michel changed hands a lot over the years, eventually becoming an official part of Normandy in the 10th century.


What to Visit?

Mont Saint-Michel Abbey

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel was the inspiration behind the castle in Tangled. Head there for real-life Disney magic! © Flickr user Nicholas Raymond

The Mont Saint-Michel Abbey is situated in the centre of the town, perched on the very top of the hill. All the other buildings surround its incredible structure, making it a signature landmark. The great halls, houses, shops, and fishermen and farmer’s homes have been built in gradual layers towards the bottom of the island.

The building of the abbey was supported by French Dukes and Kings from 966. This was a century after Aubert, a local bishop, claimed that the Angel Gabriel wanted a church built out on an island. The church was so highly regarded that, despite the dangers of crossing the tide, there were huge pilgrimages.

In 1794, the abbey was turned into a prison. Napoleon III closed it in 1863, claiming quite rightly that it was an architectural treasure that needed to be preserved. It’s still used as a place of prayer, with monks and nuns of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem having resided on Mont Saint-Michel since 2001.

As I’ve mentioned, you’ll notice that this is the very place where the makers of Tangled got their idea for the castle. Based on the German fairy-tale of Rapunzel, it’s another example of how Europe is the traditional home of fairy-tales. If you’re planning a tour of the myths and legends of the continent, I’d say that this is definitely a great place to tick off your list!

Animators travel all over the world trying to find stunning locations to recreate on film, and the fairy-tale magic of the abbey was exactly what the film crew behind Tangled needed. When you arrive at Mont Saint-Michel, make sure you look out for the similarities between the two castles. You’ll realise just how similar they are!


Watch the Tides Change

Mont Saint-Michel

The tide at Mont Saint-Michel is famous for how fast it change.

The Bay of Mont Saint-Michel is famed throughout the world for its fast-changing tidal variations. Standing back and watching the tide change so frequently is a truly amazing sight. You can also see the streams, fauna and other natural sights uncovered from the tides.  

As is the way with nature, it may be beautiful, but it can also be dangerous. When you cross at low tide, you need to be accompanied by an experienced guide. They can keep you safe, and point out the stunning landscape, too. As this is a tourist hotspot, there are plenty of information points around to help you. 


What to Eat?

La Mère Poulard

La Mère Poulard

Visit the world-renowned La Mère Poulard for an omelette like no other. © Flickr user John Mason

Would you believe a town of 50 can boast both a Disney castle and a world-famous restaurant? I’m happy to tell you that Mont Saint-Michel can. It’s home to the world-renowned omelette restaurant, La Mère Poulard, founded in the 1800’s by Anne Poulard. The restaurant is famous for its omelette soufflés, which are made in copper bowls over an open fire and are several inches thick. Certainly not your average omelette! It’s very popular, so I’d recommend booking in advance.

 

With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle you can start to journey through your favourite fairy-tales. In just 35 minutes to Calais from Folkestone, it’s easy to find your happy ending!


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