Good Morning, Pontorson!

There’s a dynamic in France; people flocking to villages near and far for all things French — cascading florabunda hanging from windows and balconies, quirky pragmatisms that have you look twice, ambiance and glow off a cobblestone walk through a town’s Saturday market — the Old Europa charm France holds and cherishes quintessentially, we thirst and search for endlessly.

And, towns and small villages all over France pour funds into claiming high star ratings from the florabunda artists’ colony in Bazouges-la Pérouse, Brittany, to the copper artisans of Villedieu-les-Poêles in Normandy — to the austere and sublime Mont St Michel.

Then there’s Pontorson, the gateway town, which sits smack on the dividing line between the two regions, and goes tout droit (straight out) to the Abbey.

This town stands still in the flux of old and new; a town not terribly adorned with all things beautifully French, but rather the go-to for all things commerce — banks, groceries, gas; a practical, functional Normandy stone town, sitting on the edge of generations of farmers who have worked the fields surrounding it, and a future just now beginning to be realized.

Over three million visitors flock to the Abbey annually, and nearly all of them come through Pontorson! But you wouldn’t know it as a destination point.

… A ramshackle manor house with whispers of days gone by that won’t want to be lost, sits across from the gare, and after years unkept, it has recently been purchased … word is, it will be a hotel. It holds promise to be a renovated wonder right on the road out to the abbey.

… A local favorite crêperie, Le Grillon, has new owners; he a well-versed chef out of Paris, and she a charming host who by all accounts, have already improved the well-established restaurant as a go-to for regulars and visitors alike. Reservations a must after 1900h.

… a few new hotels right on rue Couesnon, the main street through town … new ownership in small restaurants like La Tour Brette and Le Baroque …

… Growing depositories of beautiful floral arrangements around every corner …

… A perfectly poised boutique shop full of quality French wares for not just the tourists but for residents …

… Even a class-act dépôt vente (2nd hand store) full of chic French clothing and wares at half the price … all these small but signifiant changes, evidence of turning tides.

It’s coming along right into the 21st century!

Still, it’s an odd dynamic.

Bus loads of foreigners arrive with their groups for day trips, tourists scattered throughout the reaches of the baie inevitably come to Pontorson as their go-to for all things practical from the ubiquitous baguette sandwich and a drink (boulangeries are finally serving up their share of take-away faster than they can make them) … to a hopefully grand fine dining experience.

One day soon the process of gentrification will be behind them. But for now, it would appear the new merchants in town are truly gearing up to catch the unending wave that’s been at their doorstep for decades.

Dining in the Baie:


Le Coquillage at Chateau Richeux

Chateau Le Bois Guy, Fougeres

On the Rock