Europe, France, Travel, Western Europe

Mont Saint-Michel

Hi, it’s me Marimonda!

Today, I’d like to introduce you one of the most touristic areas in France, the Mont Saint-Michel! Located in Normandy, this place is loved by people from all around the world unique geographical characteristic. I’ve been there three times already, but I can’t stop wowing whenever I see it.

Brief History

Mont Saint-Michel used to be a fortification due to its location. It is said that the archangel Michael instructed Aubert of Avranches who was the bishop of that region in 708 to build a church there. You may probably notice many sculptures inside Mont Saint-Michel describing this legend.

Later, the cathedral and abbey were added to the original church and the island has modified according to the architect style as time flows. It took 800 years to have today’s feature. During the French Revolution, it was served as a prison. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979.

I’ve been to Mont Saint Michel three times so far, and I always find new things to appreciate inside. I went there by myself(self-guided tour), with a group tour, and with an official tour provided by the monument. Each visit was unforgettable since all of them were so different.

When I went there by myself, I was surprised to see the town. Seeing all that medieval structures, I felt as if I were a character in Game of Thrones. Since I didn’t get any tour, I couldn’t have any opportunities to understand better on this.

For the second visit, I took a day trip from Paris. It was easy since I didn’t have to calculate time for the transport nor line up to enter. Plus, the tour was included visiting other places Honfleur, a harbour city in France. It cost about €100 (only for the transport and the guide), including the entrance fee and the lunch, I spent around €130 excluding souvenirs. Plus, the guide explained the stories about Mont Saint-Michel, thus it helped me to get to know more about this place.

The last time I visited there, which was 1 week ago, I went there by train and participated une visite conference, an official guided tour provided by Mont Saint-Michel. I am not sure about English tour (there are visite conferences in different languages ) since I took a French one. I guess that it would be the same or similar. It cost me 13 and if you can I really recommend this. Since the tour guides are approved by the French government, I could access to hidden parts where is not open to public. The tour takes about 1 hour ~1 hour and half depending on the circulation inside of the Abbey.

How to get there?

Since Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular places in France, there are many ways that you can visit there.

Joining a day group tour would be the easiest way to get there. The tour usually takes a whole day ( about 14 hours on average) and it costs around €120~180. The price varies depending on the conditions such as admission or lunch.

If you go there by yourself, you can drive and it takes about 4 hours from Paris (one way).

You can also go there by bus such as flixbus it takes about 5 hours or a bit more (one way) and it costs around €50 for a round trip.

Travelling by train and then taking a bus can be an option. The combo ticket costs from €54 (the cheapest but the best time slot if you go there for a day trip) from Paris. The train leaves at Montparnasse 3 Vaugirard early in the morning everyday( 7 : 38 a.m.). Then you transfer to a bus offered by SNCF at Villedieu les Poêles. When you take off the bus, you can ride a shuttle (free) to get to Mont Saint-Michel, walk (about 40 mins), or by a horse-carriage ride.

What to eat?

Since it’s a touristic place, most restaurants in Mont Saint-Michel are busy and expensive. There, I found a creperie <La Sirène Lochet> and it was one of the best crepes I’ve ever tried in France with reasonable price. The restaurant is on the second floor (1er étage in French style), you should use stairs in a souvenir shop on the first floor. The service is a bit slow but the staffs are friendly and most of all, the crepes are delicious. You can customize your dish with the ingredients you want. Each crepe costs about €7~9, thus including the drink €12~15 would be enough per person. We ordered four crepes, one bottle of cider, and four coffees, and we paid less than €50 in total.

Salt lamb is the local specialty. You can try them out at <Le Pré Salé> or <La Rôtisserie>. Those are well-known restaurant for salt lamb (€30~). You can also try <La Mère Poulard>, it cost 40~ for one main dish which seems quite high to me. You can also find cookies from <La Mère Poulard>, but since you can get them from almost everywhere in France, I don’t think it’s necessary to buy them there.

Hope you enjoyed the visit to Mont Saint-Michel with Marimonda. See you soon 🙂

Practical Info. (websites)

Mont Saint-Michel

Le Pré Salé

La Rôtisserie

La Mère Poulard

Europe, Italy, Travel, Western Europe

San Gimignano 산 지미냐노

Hello Everyone, it’s me #Marimonda!

Today, I’d like to share my visit to San Gimignano, a city of tower. Fourteen towers are remained until today. Located in a hill in Tuscany area, it’s a popular day trip destination from Siena or Florence. The center of the town is one of the Unesco World Heritage Sites. Sitting down next to the wall in the center of the town and try the best gelato will be a nice pause.

The Center of San Gimignano, Unesco World Heritage Site
Marimonda World

Brief history

San Gimignano
Marimonda World

San Gimignano is well known for its medieval style buildings and towers. From the distance, you could recognize the town by its impressive skylines with fine towers. It had its heyday in the Middle Ages before the outbreak of the black death, which caused the death about half of population. With reduced the number of residents, the development of the village slowed down. Now it’s one of the popular holiday destinations in Tuscany. The city is twinned with Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic where I also went this July.

Gelateria Dondoli

Gelateria Dondoli
Marimonda World

As you know Italian Gelato is famous in the world. In the hot and humid weather in Italy, you can’t pass the Gelato shop without trying it. Believe it or not, in San Gimignano, you can find the best gelato in the world. At the center of the town, you would see a long queue of people waiting for their turn. The ice cream from Gelateria Dondoli is very creamy and unforgettable. At the gelateria, some regional special flavors are available such as Crema di Santa (saffron flavor) and Champelmo (vernaccia sparkling wine flavor). I do recommend try the specialties since they are unique flavors in this town. The price is also reasonable about €2.5 + @ considering the fact that it’s a world champion place.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

Winery nearby San Gimignano
Marimonda World

Vernaccia is a white wine from wineries near San Gimignano. Guided winery tours including tasting and lunch are also available, and it’s a good experience to do it. The winery where I went served food with wine pairing; entrée, main, and dessert wine. Like other winery visit, you can buy at the store next to it. You can try red and white wine. Since this area is known for white wines, they can be good souvenirs. I bought three bottles of wines (two whites and one red), and when I tried it at home it reminded the moment at San Gimignano. The price depends on the label, but you can get one bottle of ok wine for about €10~15. Other local products like saffron and hams can be good souvenirs from the town.

The town is quite small and centralized. Half day will be enough to look around the important places.

Hope you enjoy the visit to San Gimignano with Marimonda 🙂 See you soon!

Italy, Travel

Florence

Hi, it’s me Marimonda!

Today, I’d like to introduce you Florence. This is a general post on Florence. I will post more on the city of Florence later on with more details.

When you google Florence, you probably see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, where is famous for its gorgeous red dome. The cathedral is the fourth biggest one in the world following after St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome, click here to see my previous post on it), St. Paul’s cathedral (London), Milan Cathedral (Milan). The House of Medici, an Italian banking family and political dynasty based on Florence, led Florence as a very powerful Republic in the middle ages throughout the Renaissance.

Designed by Brunelleschi, the red Dome of the Cathedral is not only an icon of the city but also a part of UNESCO World Heritage with neighboring Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. In the basement of the cathedral, there’s a tomb of Brunelleschi. You can see the city view on the top of the Dome or Giotto’s Bell Tower. There’re 463 stairs to reach the top of the dome, and the stairs get stiff and narrow as you go up. Plus, you have to make a reservation in advance to go up the dome.

The city must be stronger in the past. Still you can feel its power through endless tourists. All the streets and monuments were full of people amazed with the city and its history. It seemed like the glory in the past continues these days and it’s more culturally powerful than it used to be. The prosperity in the past may belong to the rich and powerful people but now it’s enjoyed by more people. From the train station to the Pitti Palace, you can access most of the places by foot. It’s not big, but every step in the city will be full of surprise.

The city is also well known for steak and leather products. It’s very recommended to reserve restaurants if you like to try the best T-bone steaks in Florence. I couldn’t eat any because I didn’t make a reservation and I am too lazy to wait for the line to eat the steak. There were some places I was recommended by my friends, but since I haven’t tried them, I can’t give any comment on them. Hopefully, I can go back to Florence to have some decent steaks. Various leather products are available from the street to the luxury boutiques. If you buy on the street, the price is always negotiable. Most of the stores on the street sell similar products. Thus, it would be good to save some money by comparing and negotiating the price.

Hope you enjoy the visit to Florence with Marimonda! See you soon 🙂

Italy, Travel

Civita di Bagnoregio

Hi, it’s me Marimonda!

Today, I’d like to introduce you an unique medieval town in Italy, Civita di Bagnoregio. I haven’t heard of this village before my trip. When I was searching and collecting informations for the summer vacation to Italy, I found out this jewel-like town in the sky. I guess not many people have heard of this town like I did. Thus, I decided to write this post to let the town be known. This village provided an inspiration to Japanese animation: Laputa, castle in the sky.

It looks like a typical city when you arrive at the parking lot. There, you can take a local bus to get to the entrance of the bridge, or you can walk about 10 ~ 15 mins. The local bus doesn’t have a fixed time table, thus it is recommended to ask the clerk at the souvenir store in the parking lot.

Civita di Bagnoregio by Marimonda

I was speechless when I saw Civita di Bagnoregio, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was like a village in an imagination. I’ve been to many places so far, but I would count this town one of the best magical places in the world. It is also called <The Dying City> due to the hill with never-ending erosion. It is very sad that the town might disappear with constant natural processes, and just exist in people’s mind like a legend in the future.

The town was built on the soil which has been evolving more than a thousand years. With its unique feature and outstanding value of the cultural landscape, Civita di Bagnoregio was submitted to UNESCO World Heritage in 2017 in cultural category.

You should buy the entrance ticket(€5) to get into the town. If you have an acrophobia, it might be difficult to cross the bridge. It’s quite windy and long. Moreover, the bridge is not that spacious as you can see in the picture. Sometimes a vehicle crosses it such as a bike. Since the bridge is the only access to the village, if you have a problem crossing the bridge it might not worth to go or just enjoy the view from the distance.

Inside the town, it’s like a normal medieval town in Europe. I’ve been to Mont St.Michel and Eze, where are medieval towns in France. Now, they became very touristic destinations with many restaurants, souvenir shops, countless people from all around the world.. local people work during the day and they go to nearby bed town like Venice in Italy. You would notice this town is also transforming into a more touristic place. Many buildings are under restoration or construction to host visitors. I don’t know whether it’s a good change or not, but it seems like that the town is alive again as it used to be.

The town is quite small, thus 2-3 hours will be enough to look around. There’s a perfume shop in the beginning of the town, which is one of few town’s local products. The prices are vary from €3 (soap). For beer lovers, local beers (about €6)are also available in the souvenir shops.

Enjoy your travel with Marimonda! See you soon 🙂

Practical Info.

Entrance ticket : €5