Our ultimate destination after leaving Paris was to be the sunny beaches of the French Riviera, but we decided to make a slight detour and head west to the coast of Normandy and a particular island that I’ve always wanted to see. Le Mont Saint Michel is something right out of the imagination of Tolkien or Martin: a towering abbey perched atop a small cliff lined island with the cobbled streets of a medieval village zigzagging up to its gates, all ringed by castle walls and ramparts, and protected from the mainland by a thousand meters of mud flats that are impassable at high tide, or were at least until they built the modern causeway.
We stayed there two nights, the first of which was spent at the ER as previously alluded to, for Oliver’s worsening eye condition- he got so bad that his eyes were stuck shut with mucus! The hospital was about a half hour away from Mont Saint Michel, and no one there spoke any English, but Ollie’s eyes told the story plainly. Where the language barrier really came into effect was when we were leaving, at 11:30pm, the doctor gave us the prescription for Oliver’s medication and that was it, no bill, no insurance claim info, nothing. That was strange enough, but when we tried asking where the pharmacy was to pick up his medication, and she told us to talk to the receptionist downstairs. And he told us to drive to another small town a half hour away… at midnight mind you. Doesn’t the hospital have a pharmacy? or isn’t there a least one in this town? The map on my phone said there were four, and the town he was directing us to was little more than a bump in the road. We were skeptical to say the least. We finally found an old lady in the waiting room that spoke Spanish, and so were able to at least confirm that that is where we were supposed to go. So, we stuffed the boys back into their car seats, and headed for Bums-ville, France and its mysterious pharmacy.
We rolled up to this deserted ghost town, where the only light was the flashing green cross ubiquitous with pharmacies in France. We were feeling more and more that this was a wild goose chase. But, to our surprise, there was a light on inside, and when I approached the door, which was heavily locked, an old man, the pharmacist apparently, met me on the other side and slid open a slot to talk through. I handed him the prescription and a couple minutes later, he came back with everything we needed! We were truly grateful, but I am still flummoxed as to the reasoning behind this guy staying up all night in some no-name farm town in the middle of nowhere to hand out eye ointment? Truly bizarre.
Equally bizarre, was when we finally returned to the parking lot for Mont Saint Michel at 1am, where during normal people hours, you would catch the bus across the causeway to the island. You can’t drive over there because your car would float away with the tide if you left it outside the castle gate. Since we constantly find ourselves not doing normal people things, we relinquished ourselves to the 3km walk over the causeway, in the middle of the night, with two slumbering kids, one of which was very sick. BUT, on the tourist info website for the island, it made a brief mention that if you arrived to the car park after normal hours to call a number and they would arrange a ride for you, or at least I thought that’s what it said, it was in French of course. So, I gave it a shot. And after some frustrating minutes of incoherent blathering with a staticy, faint voice on the other end of the line I gave up and we started walking. But to our astonishment, a few minutes later a big public city bus rolled up next to us. We got on and he whisked us away over the causeway and delivered us to the castle gate, a mere 50 feet from our hotel inside. Not only did he not charge us anything, he wouldn’t accept my tip either- he just said bonne nuit and winked at the boys. Truly astonishing.
I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of our story in Le Mont Saint Michel. It’s an amazing place that you should definitely see if you get the chance, and if you get there late I’ve got the number for you to call.