A Letter from Katie Botkin in France:
I’ve been wanting to go to Mont Saint Michel for about seven years, based on the ethereal photos I’d seen of the place. So I convince Sophie and her boyfriend to drive down with me, and we make the trek of about 2.5 hours from Rouen. When we’re a few miles out, we start seeing parking lots, which the French call les parkings. That’s my first clue that this might be more touristy than I’d envisioned. We can’t even get close — we have to stop the car and resign ourselves to walking the last couple of kilometers, although it turns out there’s a bus as we get closer.
We get up into the city, if a little place run entirely on tourism can properly be called a city, and I start feeling claustrophobic. There’s just too many people with cameras in the narrow passageways. Sophie sees a tiny street of stairs, and dodges into it, running upwards until she emerges into a less crowded place.
Over the next three hours, we trip up and down stairs, exploring every corner — especially Sophie, la sale gosse, who disappears at one point and emerges from a thicket of trees with an unripe fig — and then walk outside, all the way around this city on a hill surrounded by wet sand. Sophie gets her flip-flops, which she bought in Idaho, fantastically muddy.
I’m starving by this time, so we walk back to the car and have leftovers from breakfast as a picnic in the grass: large, dusky grapes, pain au chocolate, French bread with cheese. The pain au chocolate is still good, crispy-soft and decadent without being too sweet.
I tell Sophie, I have dreams about pain au chocolate like this. And I’m not even exaggerating. I’m sure they think I’m crazy to be having pain au chocolate for dinner, but faut que j’en profite. I cram the last bit into my mouth and sigh with weariness and contentment.