Tour Mont Saint-Michel, the real-life Minas Tirith (pictures)
Covering a tiny island just off the coast of France, Mont Saint-Michel looks like a fantasy, yet it has stood the test of time for over 1,000 years. Here is a photo tour of this legendary castle and abbey that has inspired the imaginations of so many.
Countless video games and movies have used the unique Mont Saint-Michel as inspiration, with the most famous example being Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Wandering minstrel Geoffrey Morrison climbs over the velvet ropes to show you this iconic medieval marvel.
It's a little over half a mile from the shore to Mont Saint-Michel, but a bit further from where you actually park. There are free buses that shuttle you from the parking lot to the main entrance.
As you enter (that's the drawbridge entrance in the center there), you pass restaurants and shops. This isn't an innovation for tourism; shops were here for centuries. Behind me the path curves up toward the abbey, but when I arrived there were so many people, I decided to head up to the ramparts first (the stairs on the left).
The tides can vary up to 14 feet here, some of the greatest variances in the world. Not, however, the days I was there. So I sadly didn't get that Mont-surrounded-by-water photo. Got some other amazing ones instead.
After looping around the outside, you come back in here, beneath the abbey. The maintenance crews have smartly used the ramp that the monks used to use to haul up supplies as their own ramp for hauling up supplies.
Even though the tides were low, this is one of the more dangerous photos I've ever taken. The tides come in fast, and the mud is sticky, so you can get swept away, or drown, pretty easily (there were warnings everywhere).
For a century there's been a causeway connecting the Mont and the mainland. You used to park right out front, which sort of ruins the view, in my opinion.
Well, due to growing amounts of sediment, and a desire to spruce the look up a bit, the French government is building a gorgeous elevated roadway, and demolishing the causeway. This, in addition to a dam nearby, is intended to flush more of the sediment out to sea, preserving the island as an island.
I'm standing in one of the massive fireplaces. I couldn't touch the walls with my arms outstretched. The shadow you see is the camera's lens. I hate using a flash, but since this was pitch black, I felt obliged.