What’s the difference between a tourist and a traveller? Well, I believe that a tourist visits the popular, well known places in order to send the postcards back home and pick up a fridge magnet or tea towel. While a traveller is content to aimlessly wander through places that no-one has heard of, seeking out the local culture and, in my case, the local food and drink.
However, despite my best intentions not to follow the tourist route, it is inevitable that my path may cross it. This is how I find myself at Mont-St-Michel. My last visit here was on a school trip and it seems that several schools are visiting today as children run rampant round the ramparts with questionnaires on clipboards. They are learning about Bishop Aubert’s Abbey and Monastery, William the Conqueror’s grandfather – who married here – and the treacherous sands which surround the island and swallowed many a pilgrim. It’s still possible to take a guided walk across the sands today and, as it is low tide, I can see several tiny dots out between the mainland and the island. However, most choose to take the shuttle bus across the causeway and soon there will be a new bridge to replace the causeway.
The sun is blessing me today, so I sit on a café terrace and bask like a lizard, trying to make the extortionate cup of coffee last as long as possible. I’m joined by Lisette, from Denmark, who is on a 10 day whistle stop tour of Belgium and France. Across from us, in the shade, are Denise and Lexi from The States. They are touring on bikes and stayed the night on the Mont, savouring the tranquillity after the coach parties and school trips had left. Denise orders cider and is surprised when the waiter returns with a jug and, what looks like a teacup. This is obviously the traditional way to drink cider here. In fact, I see several cider teacups in the tacky souvenir shops on Le Grand Rue. ‘Grand’ it might be in name, but the main street is not really that big.
By 2pm the overpriced restaurants are full and the Japanese groups are arriving en masse, so it’s time for me to leave. I catch the shuttle bus across the causeway and then walk the 2 km along the canal, back to the village of Beauvoir, where I am staying. En route, I stop at the village patisserie to buy some Far Breton. This is a typical Brittany cake made with prunes. It’s the perfect coupling with a cup of coffee as I watch the sun sink over the poplar trees.