7. Paris: Mont-Saint-Michel Bay Walk & Abbey Full-Day Tour
Your day starts at Montparnasse train station in central Paris. Meet your expert guide and small group and hop on the high-speed train to Rennes. Zipping along at 200 mph (320 kmh), you'll be there in just 90 minutes. Once in Rennes, transfer to a private minibus for the rest of the comfortable journey to Mont Saint Michel. Most tours from Paris go entirely by bus, which takes an arduous five and a half hours each way (more in bad traffic). That means most visitors only get four hours in Mont Saint Michel, while you’ll enjoy nearly six. The order of this tour depends heavily on the tides coming into and out of the bay. Most visitors never explore the sand here, but you will. Led by a specially trained naturalist guide, you’ll kick off your shoes and walk out onto the tidal flat to discover the unique natural environment surrounding Mont Saint Michel—and even see a bit of the dreaded quicksand that used to trap pilgrims trying to cross the bay. Don’t worry, your guide won’t let you get stuck, but they will show you how to get out of it. This is also where you will get the most stunning views of the village and monastery, so make sure to bring a camera. Back in the village, you’ll enjoy a tour of the medieval city streets and fortified walls. Your guide will regale you with the colorful history of this tiny yet strategically important community. From Irish monks and Breton bishops to English barons, French kings, and countless religious pilgrims, seemingly everyone in Western Europe has, at some time or another, wanted a piece of this little rock. Once you head inside the monastery after lunch, you’ll understand why. After a break for lunch (with plenty of recommendations from your guide for where you can enjoy the local specialty omelets) you’ll head inside the abbey to soak in the Gothic architecture and its history. Your guide can’t accompany you due to site rules, but they will brief you on the building’s history and what to keep an eye out for before you go inside with your audio guide. Because it was used as a prison after the French Revolution, you can see stark reminders of human captivity like a human-sized “hamster wheel” that was operated by prisoners to haul goods up the hill. Afterwards, you might just want to conquer the village yourself. At the end of the abbey tour, hop back on the bus, then train, for the journey back to Paris. You’ll be back in the city in time for dinner.