On Saturday I took the tram to school at 6:30 in the morning, cold and tired and wondering what little seaside town was worth a three hour bus drive. All of the international students at the university were gathered in front of the school and then piled onto three charter buses, and the journey began.
After three hours, give or take time for traffic, we pulled up in St. Malo -- a quaint, charming, beautiful seaside town in the Britagne region of France. Everyone was dressed in hundreds of layers, as we were all told that it would be cold and windy and raining the entire time we were there. It was raining the entire bus ride, but as soon as we got to St. Malo the weather cleared right up. We had brilliantly blue skies, ample sunlight, and -- dare I say it -- warm temperatures. (But warm to me now means higher than 10 degrees Celsius, so that that as you will because I know in Texas warm starts somewhere around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.)
The first order of business was to walk the ramparts, which gave intoxicating views of the ocean as well as glimpses into the streets of St. Malo down below. There were statues, ancient cannons, miniature almost-gardens, and a plethora of runners on the ramparts. I don't think I'll ever stop saying that it's just so awe-inspiring to be in the company of such rich history, and I'm never short of amazed at how the French just take it for granted because that's how everything is here.
It's probably a good thing we only had a few hours in St. Malo because I can easily spend a day on a beach, just gazing out at the water. The ocean will always hold a special place in my heart, and I take every opportunity I have to soak in as much as I can, especially as there aren't any oceans in Austin.
I'm not sure what this particular statue is? But it was quite amusing to see while walking through cobblestone streets that twist and turn on themselves after a quick lunch.
We also explored the cathedral in St. Malo, which had one of the creepiest statues I've ever seen in a glass case. Although one of the girls I was with is convinced it's not a statue and is actually a preserved body, which would explain how eerily life-like she is.
After St. Malo we drove another hour to Mont St. Michel, which is an island barely off the coast of Britagne. The entire island is pictured above. Crazy, right?! Only 44 people live on the island and everyone else you'll see either works somewhere or is a tourist.
This is the view of where we had to walk to come in from the Abbey. Luckily we were able to catch a shuttle that brought us about a mile out of Mont St. Michel, but the walk still felt everlasting.
Another thing I'll never be over is the sheer magnificence of the architecture here in France. Part of what makes Mont St. Michel really interesting architecture-wise is that it's been renovated and expanded so many times in its 1300 years that you can immediately tell what parts were built together while walking through. I know every person in my life who has studied art history would be ecstatic to be able to walk through and identify all the various types of architecture.
There's something about the scale of Mont St. Michel that makes you feel humble as you walk through. It's grand but still very simple, and the ample natural light from all of the windows makes the space feel much more expansive than it might have if it was raining, as we had been warned it would.
I was mostly in love with all of the symmetry in Mont St. Michel, but also how the light created asymmetry. Unfortunately we were rushed through because of time constrictions, but I would have happily spent hours just exploring the Abbey and all of the shops in the streets underneath.