The Normandy Coast is just a few hours drive from the West Coast of Brittany where we spend our summer vacations. We’ve talked many times about seeing Mont Saint-Michel and this time we were determined to make it part of our plans.
We packed a lunch of white asparagus, baguette sandwiches of jamón serrano and butter, a couple of flatto peaches and a few bottles of Badoit sparkling water. There’s nothing quite like a French packed lunch.
Arriving at Mont Saint-Michel
A few kilometers before arriving at Mont Saint-Michel, the remarkable fortress Abbey comes into view. Its steeple rises 150 m (500 ft) in the air, made more distinct by the fact that the entire structure sits on a granite ‘island’ in the middle of an enormous bay. In ancient times, it was cut off from the mainland at high tide. Even if you’ve seen the pictures, the sudden appearance of something so large and so architecturally stunning comes as a surprise. Read more
We were fortunate to have an evening off from meetings while in the UK last week, so we took a taxi to the nearby city of Winchester. I have to admit that we didn’t realize before going that this is one of the most historic cities in England. Once there, we were transported back in time by find some of the best preserved buildings, walls (even Roman) and gates. It is always a pleasure to see a city that doesn’t have its history only as a pay-to-enter refurbished piece of antiquity, but instead history blended with the modern city. It was quite obviously an upscale town with a great High Street.
Winchester is located near the South Coast of England, near the important port city of Southampton. It was originally an ancient Roman city known as Venta Belgarum (AD 70) and has one of the largest cathedrals in England. Hours could be spend just walking around the 11th Century Cathedral and its grounds. We had limited time, so we spent it walking the streets. The city was charming, equally beautiful and far less touristy than better-known places. If we make it back, we’ll certainly spend time in the Cathedral.
We were surprised when we noticed a plaque that identified a home as the place where Jane Austen died in 1817. That experience typified what it was like to see Winchester–a place we weren’t aware of but once there, were very pleasantly surprised to learn about. We think some of the best adventures happen just like this…in a place you didn’t plan to see, discovering things you weren’t seeking.
We took a recommendation from our hotel to eat at the Royal Oak. We asked for a ‘real pub’ and were instead steered to a place with a mix of picnic tables and ’English fusion’ food that wasn’t what we expected. It isn’t always easy to get the recommendation for the truly great pub, like the Castle Inn in Rowlands Castle, where the steak and ale pie is amazing and every local shows up for a pint before dinner. The crowd swells and thins according to the schedule of the nearby train station.
This is a place we’d recommend to anyone traveling along the South Coast of England. If you’d like to see more, these are some good sites on Winchester:
The Unofficial Guide to Great Britain