We drove through French villages toward the coast, everyone inviting a quiet stroll past cottages, farms and hedgerows. This is the Europe one never tires of seeing. At last, in the distance the pinnacle of Mt San Michel rose against the backdrop of a summer sky. We were greeted by the cries of seabirds circling that vast pyramid of rock, village and monastery which fills the view and holds it there as if to blink or look aside would be a sacrilege. The tide was out, and the island home to Catholic monks for centuries looked reverent in its isolation, surely a retreat worthy of contemplation and inviting communication with the highest powers. A brisk climb to the highest point brought a cooling breeze and a view well worth the exertion as the coast of France stretched out in both directions.
This is a coast where invasion dominates its character, is infused in the very air and stones, turning the mind naturally towards the sea. Twelve hundred years ago these beaches and river estuaries saw the advance of the Viking long boats filled with ax wielding Norsemen. Their raids were only stopped when a French king gave the northern coast of France to a Viking chieftain stamping the area forever with its name-Normandy, land of the North men.
S. Michael Wilcox is an educator traveling the world with Fun for Less Tours.