Mont Saint Michel is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France. It has 2.5 million visitors a year. This was to be our next destination.
France is heaven for motorhomes. It’s got thousands of ‘Aires’ and campsites. The French realised many years ago that if they encouraged motorhomes to visit then their owners would spend their money in the many towns and villages that have places to park motorhomes for the night. This is in stark contrast to the UK where many local authorities have no desire to have visits from motorhomes. The UK is missing out on lucrative tourism by adopting this short sighted attitude.
Arriving into Caen
It’s a fascinating sight as you approach the ferry port at Ouistreham. We had sailed on the Brittany Ferries ‘Normandie’ from Portsmouth and Sword Beach, where British troops landed as part of Operation Overlord in June 1944, was clearly visible. On this warm sunny day in July beach lovers and swimmers were taking advantage of the weather and a big wheel dominated the landscape. I still tried to imagine what it must have been like on 6th June 1944 as the huge invasion force met the might of the German defenders.
The battle of Villers-Bocage
After arriving late afternoon in Caen we didn’t want to drive more than an hour, so I looked at the map and found a free aire at the town of Villers-Bocage. After further research it transpires that this place was the site of a ferocious battle, a few days after D-Day, involving a large number of tanks. The Allies, however, did not manage to take the town so over the next few days 266 Allied bombers flattened it. Today, it’s a pretty, sleepy place with no sign that such a battle ever happened. Read more about the battle of Villers-Bocage here
The town of Villers-Bocage is so sleepy that we only managed to find one bar that was open and showing the World Cup. This was the night England were playing Croatia and the friendly bar owner informed us that she was closing at 9pm, so we could only watch the football until half time!
The best Aire for Mont Saint Michel
When we look for somewhere to stay for the night we don’t tend to do much planning. We have a vague plan on where we are heading but only plan where we are staying one day in advance. When we plan, however, we look carefully at where we want to go and where it’s possible to park a motorhome. It could be wild camping, an Aire or motorhome stop or a campsite. For France we use the Camper Contact app. and All the Aires books by Vicarious.
We had never visited Mont Saint Michel before so I picked what appeared to be a good Aire and found the one at Beauvoir. It turned out to be one of the best Aires we have stayed at. Spacious pitches with electric and all the usual water and waste points. This Aire is also on a cycle path to Mont st Michel which is only 3km away.
Cycling to Mont Saint Michel
Our last motorhome adventure was to Norway, which you can read about here, but we didn’t take our bikes due to the hilly terrain! It was good, therefore, to dust off our bikes and get cycling again. This area of France is very flat with plenty of purpose built cycling routes and the Aire at Beauvoir is conveniently located for cycling to Mont St Michel. When we arrived at the bike park I realised that I had forgotten to bring our bike lock so I volunteered to cycle back to get it.
Once our bikes we locked and parked we jumped on one of the free shuttle busses that ferry people across the bridge to Mont st Michel, which is an island 600 metres from the mainland. Besieged by the English twice during The Hundred Years War and once used as a prison it was packed with tourists. There were lots of shops and restaurants but we only bought a small bottle of water. The restaurants seemed empty, which is not surprising, when a quick look at a menu revealed the price of an omelette at €34.
The walk back along the bridge was lovely in the very warm sunshine and our locked bikes were still there for us in the bike park. I don’t know why it has taken us so long to visit Mont st Michel but I’m glad we have seen it because it is a fantastic historical place. 3 million tourists who also visit every year will probably think the same.