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Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

Mont Saint-Michel

FRANCE, JAN 25, (UITV): Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay with its jaw-dropping natural surroundings and exceptional architectural heritage was one of France’s first properties to be listed as World Heritage. This complex exemplifies the outstanding universal values upheld by UNESCO. To travel here, be it the first or hundredth time, is an awe-inspiring experience.

The abbey at Mont-Saint-Michel—a stunning Romanesque church situated on a seemingly impossible location—is a unique example of the incredible building expertise exhibited in the Middle Ages. The building of La Merveille, in particular, is considered a masterpiece of Norman Gothic architecture. The island also became a major place of Christian pilgrimage and cultural and academic centers, where important manuscripts were produced and stored.

The legend of Mont-Saint-Michel begins in the year 708, when the archangel Michael visited the Bishop of Avranches, St. Aubert, and asked him to build a church on the island in his honor. As the story goes, St. Aubert initially ignored the request but then complied after Michael burned a hole in his skull with his finger. It was the site's first miracle and would begin more than a thousand years of visits by pilgrims and lovers, drawn to the magic of the island. The site received a second World Heritage listing in 1998, as a "Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, in France."

Mont Saint-Michel is accessible by car (it's roughly a four-hour drive from Paris, though traffic can be bad) as well as chartered bus or tour. Several private companies offer fourteen-hour day trips directly from Paris, but for a more budget-friendly excursion, take a train from Paris and transfer from a selection of stations to the town of Mont Saint-Michel . Tourists can't drive directly onto the Mont, but easily accessible parking costs 11.70 € for 24 hours and a free shuttle (7:30 a.m. - midnight, daily) or a short walk on a footbridge brings you directly to the site.