One of France’s busiest tourist attractions newly bedecked with a causeway meaning its no longer only accessible during low tide. A constant throng of humanity heading onto the small island community means this place is sheer hell in high tourist season.
A lot has changed since I was last here nearly ten years ago, but one thing that remains constant is the sheer mass of human beings. I’ve visited at peak season, off season and apparently no season at all (early November) and yet it remains full. Last time I came I drove my car to within 500 metres of the hill and walked the final bit, nowadays there is organised (compulsary) parking at 3kms from the site
and from here you either take the free shuttle bus, pay for a horse drawn shuttle, or walk. The buses run constantly so the wait is minimal although on the way back we finally got onto the fourth bus due to the volume of people leaving. It was a warm day though and I had my grandchildren with me so nothing was a problem.
On arrival the gendarmerie is visible on the left hand side, I watched a programme recently saying that patrolling coppers give a sense of well being to the tourists, I felt no sense of foreboding going there. I’m sure with the amount of people passing throug petty crime happens, but I didn’t feel worried. The old stone archway, the original sole entrace is still there and we walked through and into a labyrinthyine maze of cobbled alleys, high stone walls and steep staircases.
With my youngest grandchild being only 3 years old, the steps were difficult for him and the grumbling from impatient people behind (and those who just pushed past on a staircase one person wide) did cause me to ask them politely to allow us a little patience, but the views from the top were rewarding once we finally got there.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to the top the queues to enter the church were at over 45 minutes and with three youngsters it was decided that today wasnt the day to visit, so we continued our trip, climbing back down narrow staircases and then through the maze of cheap tat tourist shops and expensive (captive audience) restaurants before finally being able to once again breathe once we’d left the walled community.
On reading this you may be forgiven for thinking I wouldn’t recommend a visit. Not at all, its a wonderful site but if you can avoid the major tourist times you’ll probably enjoy it more.