The Magnificent Mont Saint-Michel and its Beautiful Bay

The Mont Saint-Michel is such a magical and interesting place that even seeing it from afar evokes feelings of awe. When my husband first took me there in July 2011, I was captivated by its incredible story. I must admit that seeing pictures of Mont Saint-Michel is fascinating, but experiencing it in person is jaw-dropping. So, without a doubt, we took our son to Mont Saint-Michel during our summer vacation in Bretagne this year to experience its enthralling beauty.

This foreboding-looking granite island protruding into the North Atlantic is located about half a mile off France’s Northwestern Normandy coastline. It rises 302 feet above sea level, is 247 acres in size, and is 3,150 feet in circumference. It is one of the most inspiring landmarks in France, Europe, and the world, and due to its historical and cultural significance, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is undoubtedly one of our favorite places in France.

The magnificent Mont Saint Michel

When our son spotted Mont Saint-Michel from a distance, he was wowed! “Papa, why would anyone want to build anything on such an inhospitable piece of rock, constantly battered by the wind and waves of the North Atlantic?” As we walked from the parking lot to the entrance, my husband was happily explaining to him about the history and how it all began as a dream. It’s a majestic, spectacular sight when you’re walking down the path toward the island (cars aren’t allowed past a certain point), and you look up and see the island with the abbey and its magnificent cathedral crowning the top, rising above you, framed by the steel-blue sky of Normandy.

So, here are nine interesting facts why Mont Saint-Michel takes our breath away:

1. It started from a dream. According to the legend, Mont Saint-Michel was conceived in a dream in 708 when the archangel Michael appeared to bishop Aubert of Avranches and told him to build a church on the rocky islet. Bishop Aubert ignored him the first time and the second times, but when archangel appeared in his dream the third time, he took it seriously and began construction on the church. So, it started as a small church and evolved over the centuries into the magnificent abbey that we see today.

The statue of archangel Michael

2.It is a Medieval Village with residents. Mont Saint-Michel is a treasure trove for history lovers, dating back to 709. As we entered through the main paved street, the “Grand Rue,” which was lined with around sixty charming old houses we were ecstatically startled. Then, we got lost in the medieval backstreets, and strolled along the ramparts that surrounded Mont Saint-Michel, which were built in the 14th and 15th centuries. The ramparts at the island’s base, made up of numerous towers, were built to keep the English forces out and provided a breathtaking view of the bay as well as an excellent location for viewing the wonderful show of the tide coming in. Then we made our way up to the Abbaye and explored every nook and cranny. We then went to the hidden La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert. And on our way out of the village, we stopped for ice cream while admiring the bay and waiting for our transfer to the parking area. Although Mont Saint-Michel is a small medieval village with less than fifty residents, it offers a lot of things to discover, including the Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel, Fortifications, Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre, Tour du Nord (ramparts), Terrasse de l’Ouest, La Grande Rue, Tour Gabriel, La Porte du Roy, Maison de Bertrand du Guesclin, La Poste, and many more. Also, some of the fine buildings that line the steep village street are now converted into museums, restaurants, hotels and shops for today’s tourists. The village is also known for having the world’s most expensive omelet at La Mère Poulard.

3.The Magnificent Abbey. The Abbaye is our favorite part of Mont Saint-Michel. It has been a prestigious site since ancient times. The incredible Abbey’s 1300-year construction is a living testament to French history and culture. It is divided into two parts: the church-abbey and the Merveille. The Merveille, which means “The Wonder,” where the monk lived has three levels and was built over 25 years. The east side has three rooms: the chaplaincy, the hosts room and the dining hall. The west side has three rooms as well: the wine cellar, the Knights room and the cloister. One of the areas that we like there is the charming cloister with glass windows and a little garden in the middle, which was built at the top of the hill in the thirteenth century. It adds a surprising soft domestic touch to a dramatic setting with dramatic views. It encapsulates the enchantment of the whole place. Despite Mont’s turbulent history and the destruction of the earlier part of the church, the site and abbey remain intact. It is now a monument to the Christian past, preserved by a small monastic community. The buildings of the Abbey and its surrounding village have been meticulously maintained, restored, or renewed over time in accordance with their histories. For us, we think that your visit to Mont-Saint-Michel will be incomplete if you do not see the abbey. I’ve heard that not all tourists who visit the place get to explore the abbey because the climb up to the top is steep, narrow, and cobblestoned. Plus, there are also several flights of stairs that you need to climb.

4. A diversity of architectural styles. The beautiful Benedictine Abbey, built on a rocky island, is a striking example of a diversity of authentic architectural styles, an evidence of the mastery and expertise of several generations of builders, and a symbol of an undisputed technical and artistic feat. One of the areas that we liked is the church as it is where the Romanesque meets Gothic. The nave of the abbey church also shown a Romanesque architecture. The Merveille is a splendid illustration of the spirit of Gothic art that was popular throughout Western Europe at that time. Its bold architecture consists of three layered levels, culminating at a height of 35m, supported by sixteen powerful buttresses. The oldest part of the Abbey is Notre-Dame-sous-Terre, a small pre-Romanesque church with a double nave built-in granite masonry and flat brick. Furthermore, the architecture of the stone and timber-framed houses stacked in tiers surrounded by steep, rocky embarkments is beautiful and many of which are classified as historic landmarks.

5.It has served so many purposes

It was an important pilgrimage destination. Around the 10th century, Mont Saint-Michel became one of the important pilgrimage destinations in Europe. Back then, the journey was very difficult as there was no bridge connecting the island to the mainland, so anyone who wanted to visit had to wait for the low tides to cross. Being able to complete this trip was a proof of your commitment to God.

It was an undefeated fortress. Mont Saint-Michel has become a symbol of French resilience because the English troops, in spite of a full-scale attack in 1433, were unable to conquer it during the Hundred Years War due to its strong fortifications and natural defense (tides and quicksand). It is a heavily fortified tidal island surrounded by water with strong high tides everywhere, making it difficult for the attackers to invade. Even at low tide, the area around is too sandy, and the surrounding quicksand trapped and drowned the English troops, making them easy targets for the French troops on Mont Saint-Michel.

It was once a prison. In the 17th century, the king of France, Louis XIV, started using part of the island into a political prison. Also, in the 18th century, during the French Revolution, the abbey got closed and converted into a prison known as “Bastille of the Sea” that held about 14,000 prisoners. The prison was closed in 1863 due to massive campaign by many influential figures, including Victor Hugo to restore the island and save this architectural treasure.

6.The beautiful bay, dangerous quicksand, and powerful tides. The tides at Mont Saint-Michel rise quickly and can reach almost 14 meters high, which is considered one of the largest tides in Europe. It is forbidden to cross the sand on your own, unless you are accompanied by a certified guide, because you might get trapped by quicksand and sink.

7.The wind is gravity-defying. Mont-Saint-Michel is very exposed to the sea winds as it is situated off the French coast right between Normandy and Brittany – two regions known in France for harsh winds and in general tough weather. During our visit on a windy summer day, we encountered a very fascinating phenomenon, as we saw water falling from the gutters.

8.It inspired so many movie castles. The Mont Saint-Michel is breathtaking to see in reality and has fascinated many people. Thus, it is no surprise that it was chosen as a wonderful inspiration for the castle of Rapunzel’s parents in Tangled, for Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings, and for Mickey, Donald, and Goofy: The Three Musketeers.

9.It is a top cultural attraction. Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most visited places in France. The residents welcome three million visitors each year, who are enchanted by the old roots of the monastery, the religious significance of this medieval masterpiece, and to see the extraordinary feat of medieval eclectic architecture. Who could blame anyone for wanting to visit this iconic island, with over one thousand years of history under its belt?

My family and I really enjoyed wandering around and spending time in that amazing place, just contemplating its beauty. Thus, I would like to end my post with this inspiring quote from American historian Henry Adams: “Church and State, Soul and Body, God and Man, are all one at Mont Saint-Michel.”

Little Lilly travel tips:

  1. Wear comfortable walking shoes because the tour around Mont Saint-Michel is steep, and the path to venture up the abbey is full of stairs.
  2. Bring a good jacket as it is quite windy there even during the summer.

Forty Life Lessons I Have Learned In Life

Each one of us learns so many lessons from life. That is why, to me, birthdays are a time of reflection on how far I’ve come and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. So when I turned forty this year in March, I had the opportunity to look back and reflect on my life, and I realized I had grown into the woman I am today. It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m constantly amazed at what can happen when I approach life with an open heart, a curious mind, and a flaming desire to keep learning and serving.

This is me at 40. It was taken last July 2022 in Bretagne, France.

Here are the 40 life lessons I’ve learned over all these years that have had an impact on my life:

1. God’s plan is far superior to anything you have planned. Humble yourself to God because He takes your messes, rearranges them, and always creates something amazing that you could never have imagined.

2.  Pray and give thanks everyday. Having a thankful heart has changed my entire perspective and outlook on life. And I have learned that one of the best ways to experience the power of thanksgiving is through prayer. In addition, since 2021, I started filling in my gratitude jar with the list of things I am grateful for for that day.

3. Family is everything. While the world is becoming more modern and advanced, my husband and I teach our son that the meaning of family and what it represents remains the same — it is the strongest unit in one’s life because, no matter what situation you are in, your family will never leave you and will always stand alongside you to overcome the hardships in life; and it is the fundamental unit of society because communities thrive when families are strong. Families are the first school, and the teachings strengthen our bonds and give us reasons to stand by each other as we share the same values. It has shaped our lives by instilling values of love, respect, faith, hope, compassion, trust, loyalty, happiness, and belonging. I am blessed that I have a big, loving, and supportive family, and growing up in a loving home provides a solid foundation for anyone. 

4. Parenting is easy. It has been a blissful and joy-filled experience for me to be a parent to my one and only child for the past fifteen years. I tried to balance everything — the relationship with my son, his academics, him learning a new skill, and so on — and set the right priorities. I discovered that having a close relationship and a secure attachment to him made everything else easier. 

5. Empower your child to dream big by not making your goals and dreams his or hers. Passion, I believe, fuels purpose. My son will be more motivated to work harder to make his dreams come true if they are anchored to a clear vision and driven by his interests. And when failure, discouragement, and fear keep him from pursuing, my husband and I can be the voice of reason that encourages him to embrace the challenges ahead. As parents, we play a vital role in inspiring him to have the courage, confidence, and certainty to dream by championing his passion, teaching him the value of resilience, and equipping him with the tools he needs to succeed, such as the right knowledge and skills, and providing him with learning opportunities that broaden his perspective of the world.

6. Living below your means is essential for your health and well-being. When you manage your money properly, you avoid debts, reduce financial worries and general stress, and enjoy the peace that comes with financial freedom and security, as well as enjoy family life. For me, “living below your means” simply means spending less than what I earn each month by making a budget, tracking my expenses and spending, not using credit cards, avoiding loans, and cutting out unnecessary spending, all while enjoying all the things I love in life. I also make sure that my budget covers my daily expenses, that I can pay for any unexpected expenses, and that I plan for the future.

7. Keep the spark alive. Whatever life throws at you and your partner, it’s important that you both make time to date each other, connect with each other, and seek new shared experiences in order to keep your relationship exciting, healthy, and the spark alive.

8. Live a life of service. Help others as much as you can. Volunteering as a family is even better because it brings your family members closer together and allows your children to connect to things larger than themselves and allows them to see the world through the eyes of others. Sharing our time and other resources motivates me and my family to put our shared values and beliefs into action while making a positive impact in our community through the services we provide and being a significant source of inspiration for others.

9. Celebrate life everyday and everywhere. It is important because it is a sign of hope and a triumph over adversity. It also reminds me to enjoy the journey and boosts my confidence. I consider it as a mindset that allows me to pursue big things in life, without sacrificing the small things that make life worth living. 

10. Be a good friend. I’d like to think I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to friendships. Good friendships require effort and give-and-take to develop, maintain, and nurture, because good friends are good for your health and well-being. Good friends keep me from feeling isolated and lonely, and they allow me to provide much-needed companionship. Although having a diverse network of friends and acquaintances is beneficial, I feel a greater sense when I cultivate close, meaningful relationships that will support me through thick and thin — celebrate in good times and provide support during bad times. It’s important that I am a good friend and that I surround myself with good friends by being kind, being a good listener, opening up, showing that I can be trusted, making myself available, and managing my nerves with mindfulness.

11. Commit yourself to lifelong learning. Life is better when you are open to new experiences. It is the self-motivated pursuit of knowledge, new skills, or professional development. I make it a point to never stop learning; I seek to grow and take advantage of every opportunity to learn, whether personally or professionally, by learning a skill or a hobby outside of my profession, because it not only enhances my social inclusion, active citizenship, and individual development, it also increases my competitiveness and employability. Plus, learning something new is also more enjoyable and fulfilling. So, say yes to the things that will make your soul come alive, because learning makes life interesting!

12. Satisfaction comes from within. I realized that you cannot buy, borrow, or steal satisfaction. Every person experiences it differently, and it is important to understand that what makes you satisfied may not make another satisfied. It allows me to reframe my thinking, refocus, and look at situations from other perspectives in order to achieve satisfaction. I realized that greater satisfaction in all aspects of life leads to greater productivity, success, and happiness.

13. Fall in love with the process. Everything we do seems to be measured by our instant results. Our goals, we believe, are all about the end result. But don’t become too fixated on your goals because the only way to achieve them is to fall in love with the process of what you do — work hard, be consistent, and be patient — because the process will help you refocus your energy, pay attention, and appreciate the results. One of my goals is to stay fit, so I may need to lose a few pounds. But the only way for me to get there is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently. Also, if you are an athlete, the thought of practice does not always seem as glamorous as game day, when there’s no one cheering you on as you take that foul shot. Taking time to appreciate the endless hours of practice while eventually developing a process will make those moments even more worthwhile and exciting. So, take pleasure in the process as well as the outcome.

14. Don’t sweat over small stuff. Instead, I streamline — simplify, organize, and reduce. I write down the things that bother me or cause me stress throughout the day or week. Then, I cross out the minor items on my list and reduce my world to the major issues that matter. Then, I embrace them and focus on dealing with them in a stress-free fashion. What about the small stuff? I just simply let it go…

15. Simplicity is always best! It makes things easy, brings clarity instead of confusion and a decision instead of doubt. Living simply entails getting rid of the unnecessary and focusing your time and energy on the things that are most important to you. I have realized that when I simplify, I am left with a meaningful life — a life lived on my own terms, as I have the time and space to pursue my passions and interests and create the life I truly desire. Furthermore, living a simple life allows me to be free, and true happiness is often found in the simplest things.

16. Learn to say no. And avoid being overcommitted to people or things. We all have limited energy, time, and resources, and it is our responsibility to use them wisely. Saying no allows me to direct my time and energy toward the people and aspects of my life that truly deserve it. I have realized that some people are actually grateful for our clarity and honesty, and they respect our boundaries. Those who do not are not worth my time and energy.

17. Travel more. Traveling is one of the important parts of my life because it allows me to get away from my hectic schedule. In addition to exploring new places, cultures, cuisines, and ways of life, traveling allows me to broaden my horizons and move me in new directions, recharge my energy, unplug from the pulls and pushes of daily life, improve my mental health and well-being, and forget my worries, frustrations, and fears. Because life is too short, why not travel the world and make memories?

18. Read more books and read them everyday. I have noticed that putting time aside to lose myself in a good book regularly has far-reaching and life-changing effects. Reading is a healthy part of my daily routine because it relaxes me, improves the quality of my sleep, makes me more emphatic, broadens my knowledge, and gives me pleasure. In 2018, I started setting my reading goal of one book per week, and I’m glad I’m sticking to it despite my hectic schedule.

19. Commit yourself to regular physical activity. Staying active is a natural mood booster that keeps the doctors away, and it is one of the best ways to keep our bodies healthy and improve our quality of life by making us feel, look, and live better. I am an advocate of staying fit for free by doing my daily morning exercise (at least 15 minutes walk-at-home and yoga) in our tiny living room! It does not necessitate going to the gym or purchasing a fancy workout suit; instead, all that is required is consistency and determination. I have noticed that when I am fit, I have a lot of energy throughout the day.

20. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes and work out why your choice was wrong. It demonstrates that you’re human, that you have the ability to reflect on your actions, that you have the moral courage to step into the breach and hold your hands up, and it says a lot about your character — acting with integrity. I believe that having the courage to actually admit a mistake and take action is essential to achieving success. Also, I have learned that people will empathize and understand more than you think if you admit that you make mistakes.

21. Unplug, and take a break from screens. Powering down from time to time promotes a healthier and happier lifestyle because it allows you to reset and refocus on appreciation and gratitude for all you’ve been given, paves the way for simple pleasures like reading, walking, or building a puzzle, and urges you to connect to the natural world. In my home, we make mealtimes a no-phone zone and phones should be silenced before you keep it somewhere because notifications are distracting, so that we can savor the meal, converse naturally, and make each mealtime a wonderful event. Furthermore, we make sure that we do not use electronic devices at least 15 minutes before going to bed.

22. You can’t make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try. You must know when people need your help and when they simply want to take advantage of your selflessness and generosity. Also, if you base your entire self-worth on other people’s happiness with you, you’re doomed to fail because it’s exhausting and unhealthy, and it is simply impossible to make everyone happy all the time. I have learned to accept that not everyone will agree with what I do or say or stand for. Furthermore, while external validation feels great, it’s only temporary because it wears off quickly and you need it again. It’s filling a void where confidence and self-worth should be. After all, even if you’re not everyone’s cup of tea, you’re still pretty.

23. Happiness is really a choice. It is about how you view life, and that perspective determines everything. Sometimes you see your present life as either worse than you expected or better than you deserve. Also, money and happiness are not the same thing. Because money can satisfy both needs and wants and can afford you luxury and comfort. Well, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in luxuries, just as there’s nothing wrong with being poor. However, over the years, I have realized that the only luxury I have is the ability to wake up every morning, and when I start my day with a grateful heart, happiness comes from within.

24. Self-confidence is only gained. Through the years, I have realized that self-confidence is a very important aspect in life because it is about being more positive, valuing yourself, trusting your judgment, admitting and learning from your failures and mistakes, and feeling your worth regardless of any imperfections or what others think about you. And I’ve learned over the years that the only way to build my confidence is to always keep on trying. It’s like trying and failing. Please try again. Fail yet again. More attempts equals fewer failures. Try one more time, and then you succeed.

25. You will make mistakes, you will fail, but learn from them. Change is one of the few constants in our world, may it be in your career, where you live, whom you love, technology, and what you value. Change brings about unfamiliar situations, which bring about mistakes. Plus, life is hard but a beautiful adventure — you will experience highs and lows, but your situation will get better. So, no matter what you do, making mistakes is an unavoidable part of life, and they can be excellent learning opportunities that lead to success. Even if it is a difficult lesson to learn because you have to confront your bruised ego and hurt pride, you will grow, flourish, and become a better person, and it will undoubtedly make all the difference.

26. Home-cooked meals are the best! Home-cooked food not only provides comfort food and inspires creativity, it also strengthens family bonds and connects us to our roots. There is a sense of security that sometimes brings tears to my eyes when I smell a familiar aroma in the air or taste that particular spiciness in the air. Food, indeed, brings us together.

27. Seven hours of sleep and a short nap after lunch are a must! It’s the foundation of good health; it gives me energy, and improves my mood. Without enough sleep and a nap, I am weak and grumpy!

28. Spend quality time with family. My family will only be a happy one if I give it time, such as eating dinner together, discovering new things, volunteering as a family, etc. Spending quality time with family increases happiness and satisfaction, helps cope with challenges, inculcates family values, instills a feeling of security and confidence in children, and so much more. It encourages me to live a healthier lifestyle and motivates me to be the best version of myself.

29. Work-life balance is a key. There is a need to maintain a work-life balance in which your personal and professional lives are separated without allowing one to interfere with the other because both are important and should not be neglected. When you spend too much time at work, you will begin to neglect important people in your life. Also, you need to take care of yourself, your wellbeing, and your family. And by organizing yourself and managing your time effectively, you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish in less time.

30. Find a hobby that you enjoy. Having a hobby that you enjoy brings you joy and enriches your life by providing you with something fun to do in your leisure time, allowing you to learn new skills, and reducing your boredom. For me, it’s my blog, reading, baking and cooking, photography, and homemaking. I’ve discovered that once you find a hobby that you truly enjoy and are passionate about, you become hooked on it, and it becomes a part of your life that captivates you in a very personal way. Furthermore, my husband and I learned that finding a hobby and trying new things together that we both enjoy is the best way to reignite the spark and spice up our love for each other. In our case, we both like cooking and walking in the woods together.

31. Let go of grudges and bitterness! Because holding on to unforgiveness and hurt will only steal your joy. In my opinion, forgiveness doesn’t absolve someone of guilt and doesn’t mean what they did is right and acceptable. It means you’re letting go of resentment and thoughts of revenge and moving on. Learning to leave the past in the past and look to the future with hope for the best is the way to move forward. By accepting forgiveness, you accept peace and joy. 

32. You must have systems in place for everything. A system for managing multiple tasks, information, and responsibilities that allows you to manage work in a coherent and structured manner while also creating an efficient workflow structure. I’m sure no one wants to wake up excited about systems, but I believe that without a system, you will fail.

33. For every action, there is a reaction. Choose your words and actions carefully. It is critical to consider the consequences and ensure that it will not have a negative impact on those around you before saying something, acting, or posting on social media. People may also be caught off guard by your message or fail to respond appropriately to your gestures. By thinking before you speak, you can save yourself from trouble and avoid hurting someone.

34. Patience is a virtue. In life, you will have to wait for a lot of things without feeling negative and frustrated. Great things take time and you need to learn to give time. When you become patient you will achieve your biggest goals and avoid making hasty decisions. Patience makes you a better person because you overcome any challenging situation with more flexibility. 

35. Don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate what you have before it is gone — health, your family and friends, a job, business, possessions, and so on — because nothing in your life, including the people you love, is guaranteed to be there tomorrow. Circumstances such as pandemics, wars, climate change, etc. have thrown the world into a state of uncertainty, replacing the usual sense of collective security with omnipresent fears of losing what you have, including a loved one. 

36. Every problem has a solution. Life is a beautiful journey — watch it unfold and be open to the shocks and surprises it may bring. Life can be difficult at times because of what you expected and what it has given you. There are some things we can control, while others are beyond our control. But every problem has a solution, just as every lock has a key. The best part is that everyone has an equal right to solve any problem that is thrown at them. While good times make your heart sing, bad times should make you tough enough to face life’s challenges. So enjoy life — believe and work hard that everything you desire will come true and that every problem has a solution; you just need to discover it.

37. Live life to the fullest! Life is short, and you never know what tomorrow will bring. So live life to the fullest by filling your life with gratitude and doing things that make you happy, such as traveling, trying out new things, raising a family, performing random acts of kindness, or anything else that involves finding meaning or purpose in what you do or how you spend your time.

38. Find beauty and joy in the little things. Life is made of little things. Every day, allow yourself to see and enjoy the beauty and joy in small things — a walk in the woods, a chilly breeze, an unexpected compliment, money found in your trouser pocket, a colorful butterfly, your favorite song playing on the radio, a little child’s giggle, a cute little street, a cup of tea with a good book, or sand on your toes — they’re the precious moments that fill our lives with meaning and happiness. 

39. Be kind and nice to people. Being nice to others every day is an important way to spread kindness and positivity. Showing kindness to others does not have to be doing something big or life-changing. In fact, the smallest acts of kindness, such as a moment of support in a time of need, a word of encouragement, a helping hand to carry a heavy load, or simply a smile, can often have the greatest impact. Kindness makes you smarter because it requires you to think about others as well as yourself.

40. Embrace all your quirks. It’s liberating to embrace the full me and know that is what makes me so unique. I have met people who told me, “You are the shortest woman I have met.” “Why are you so small?” “You are weird” or “You are interesting” or “You are one of a kind”, I am grateful, because at least I am not a carbon copy of everyone else. 

I may have a few gray hairs now, but these life lessons serve as a constant reminder of my life story. I celebrate and turn a new page in my life’s book. I can’t wait to learn even more over the next ten years, and I’m thrilled to have you all along on this journey.

Discovering the Devil’s Bridge in Lannilis

After visiting some famous charming castles and very old, enormous churches, my family and I thought of heading to some off-the-beaten locations in order to go on adventures and enjoy discovering odd bits of history. So, we got in the car and started driving.

We were ecstatic to see a sign for the Devil’s Bridge (Pont-Krac’h / Pont du Diable) after navigating along those winding, narrow roads. This very old bridge, which spans a confined section of the Aber Wrac’h, is perched atop a sizable rock in the center of the riverbed. It is submerged by each incoming tide. It has seven vaulted tunnels – three on the Plougerneau side, two in the middle, and two small ones on the Lannilis side – that are spanned by the structure, which is 78 meters long and 5 to 6 meters wide.

The use of the site evolved over time. At the end of the Middle Ages (although some date the bridge back to the Iron Age), a passageway was made in the middle of the bridge to allow boats to get past. Then, at the start of the 19th century, a mill was constructed on the Plougerneau side, obstructing access. The bridge was eventually reopened to traffic in the middle of the 1850s, and locals continued to use it until 1960. It then became derelict, but it was restored in 2008. It is impressive to know that this medieval bridge is thought to have been around since the Roman era.

When we arrived, nobody was there. However, a few minutes later, an elderly couple and another family of three came. It was low tide then, so we were able to cross the bridge, and we leisurely strolled the nice forest on the other side.

It was a great escape, and it was wonderful to put down the electronics, unplug for a while, and just enjoy the moment. With no internet and no phone, we were disconnected from the outside world and fully savored our experiences. And the farther we got from the trail, the more thrilled and happier we were.

If you are in Bretagne/Brittany and looking for an adventure, and off-the-beaten path to wanderlust, Le Pont du Diable is for you!

Exploring the Château de Kérouzéré

Beautiful Brittany in France is home to fairytale-like castles. Luckily for me, my husband and my son also enjoy exploring old buildings and architecture. So, one of our favorite things to do here is to go from one castle to the other, because there is truly something breathtakingly beautiful about castles and palaces. We like history, we admire architecture, and we enjoy looking at art. And in castles, it all comes together perfectly. 

For us, visiting a castle is like stepping into another historical era. Every room has a story to tell and every stone has a tale to tell — a story of war and of peace; a story of honor and of romance, among other things. And many pieces on display also whisper their own secrets of a bygone era.

One of the castles that caught our attention was the magnificent feudal Chateau de Kerouzéré overlooking the countryside in Sibiril, in the northern Finistere of Brittany, which was built in Roman architecture in the late Middle Ages, or medieval era, in 1425. It was besieged in 1590 during the French Wars of Religion, and it was rebuilt around 1600. In 1883, it was listed as a historic monument, and it is one of the last castles in the region to be in very good condition.

We were on a group tour along with other European travelers, and our guide was excellent. He explained well the details of the castle. He told us that in three years time, the castle is going to celebrate its 600 years! The Chateau de Kérouzéré is magnificent! 

Every castle is unique, and our visit to the castle of Kérouzéré was a fascinating escape. What are you waiting for? Push the door of Chateau de Kérouzéré if you are in the northern Finistere of Brittany; it is waiting for you to share some of its secrets and magnificence.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  1. Entrance fees: 5 euros for 18+ years old, 3 euros for 10 to 18 years old and free for children under 10 years old.
  2. People with mobility problems can only visit the ground. It is impossible to go up due to so many steep stairs.
  3. The castle park can be visited free of charge all year round.
  4. It is possible to visit the interior of the castle all year round and it is also possible to rent some rooms of the castle for special events like weddings. Here’s the castle website for more information: https://www.kerouzere.fr/Chateau_de_Kerouzer_1./Visites.html

The charming Chapelle du Grouanec

It was a beautiful day with nice weather—sunny but breezy and chilly. So we decided to visit the Chapelle du Grouanec, a place we hadn’t seen before. 

Chapelle du Grouanec
Chapelle du Grouanec

According to old documents, the chapel of Grouanec was built in 1503, and was dedicated to Our Lady. It was constructed in the Gothic style, and the chapel as a whole is magnificent— both the superb interior decorations and a lovely garden as well as a nice forest surrounding it. 

It has a well-balanced and comprehensive chapel ensemble. A stunning stained-glass window that is located above the high altar gives the church’s interior its opulent feel. Along with other stained-glass windows and beautiful jewel-like paintings on panelings, there was also a frieze that was carved out of wood and painted. The holy fountain and the cavalry are all connected to the enclosure’s religious history. Also, its statuary offers a vivid palette of Breton sculptors’ work. Undeniably, the entire location exudes an alluring charm that permeates the chapel’s sanctuary. It goes without saying that it encourages the quiet pause that is secretly desired.

When we went there, they were preparing for a wedding. I really adored the wedding decoration – very simple, yet very classy and symbolic. Can you imagine exchanging vows in a centuries-old structure with a rich history?

If you are in the area, the 519-year-old Chapelle du Grouanec is one of the hidden little gems that we would highly recommend. It is definitely worth a visit! 

The Rohan Bridge: A bridge inhabited for more than 500 years

We explored the town of Landerneau, Bretagne, which has a remarkable architectural heritage. One of its architectural gems is the famed 70-meter-long Rohan bridge, which was built by Jean II de Rohan in 1510 (16th century), replacing a wooden structure dating back to the 12th century. For many years, it was the only way to cross the Elorn at Landerneau, which gave it strategic importance for trade.

This medieval bridge has six stone arches standing in saltwater. The buildings, which stand on granite piles, have been home to generations of wealthy artisans and linen merchants. It now has lively shops, restaurants, and cafes. So, up until now, it is one of Europe’s inhabited bridges, along with the iconic Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Another oddity of the Rohan Bridge is that beneath it, the Elorn River’s freshwater and the Atlantic Ocean’s saltwater both pass through the bridge, with a fascinating history to tell. 

As we strolled along the banks of the river Elorn, we passed a succession of beautiful residences dating from the 16th to 19th centuries and nice gardens on the quaysides. Also, we saw some shops closed, due to the pandemic, and some people eating very peacefully on the pavements of restaurants. 

If you enjoy searching out very old and quirky bits of history, this 512-year-old ancient inhabited bridge is for you! It’s a gentle beauty! 

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • In the the summer, you can gently canoe down the Elorn.

A Visit at Saint-Goulven Church in Goulven

After a leisurely lunch and a good nap, we hopped into the car and drove to Goulven to visit Eglise de Saint Goulven Church. It has stood since the 16th century, or roughly 450 years. It was constructed in the Gothic style and features a fabulous Renaissance bell tower adorned with four small towers. Everything is remarkable and finely decorated and beautiful to see both outside and inside.

The magnificent Saint-Goulven church

As soon as we arrived in Goulven, we were greeted by the impressive and striking sight of the church’s huge bell tower, with a sharp spire dominating the whole town and even the vast bay which separates it from the peninsula of Plouneour-Trez. And we were astounded by the church’s enormous size as we walked around it. It is incredibly large for a town of only 449 inhabitants.

The stunning Renaissance bell tower of Saint-Goulven church

In the background, you can see baptismaux fonts where babies are baptized.

Stained-glass window depicting the life of Saint Goulven.

On the south side, a small old altar in the Gothic style of the 15th century. 

A naive painting on the paneling of the north transept. 

The beautiful organ gallery, work from the Flamboyant Gothic period. 

An ossuary in the cemetery from 1707. 

Saint-Goulven Church is truly emblematic of the parish enclosures. If you are in the area, do not hesitate to make a detour on this site. It’s worth a visit! 

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • It is free.
  • The visit lasts at least an hour.

Perfect Afternoon Stroll at Meneham

One of the places that we enjoyed the most in Finistère, north of Brest, Brittany, is Meneham. It spans 387.42 hectares and includes several beaches, a dunes strip, meadows, enormous boulders in evocative shapes, fabulous architecture, and an ancient village.

The lovely little authentic fishing village built in the 18th century is charming and quaint. The old coastguard house of Meneham is engulfed between two huge natural granite rocks and is stunning. The historical village behind is now perfectly restored into a village of thatched cottages that offers an ideal setting for family outings such as museums, exhibitions, entertainment, craftsmen’s workshops d’art, stopover lodges, and inns.

We climbed the boulders surrounding the old guardhouse, and the views were beautiful although the wind was cold. Then we walked down through the dunes and onto the most perfect beach! We spent plenty of time there, both at high tide and low tide. The walk on the nearby beaches is just breathtaking, with turquoise water, white sand, and a coastline here literally strewn with huge, house-sized granite rocks. Everywhere. At low tide, the boulders are out and both adults and kids can clamber onto them; they are really cool to explore and climb. The massive rocks make this location so unique in a rugged landscape.

After wandering about, you can always stop for a leisurely lunch at the restaurant there or a beer in the wooden bar. 

This extraordinary natural site has been protected since 1975 and will surely delight both history enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. It’s an intriguing and picturesque place with very quiet beaches and it has something for all the family. If you are in the area, it is worth a visit and a stroll. 

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • It is free and quiet.
  • Wrap up warm if it’s breezy, as it’s quite open and breezy!
  • We usually spent at least an hour plus another hour leisurely walking on the nearby beaches. 

Why I Love Table Setting

Even on an ordinary day, I enjoy setting the table. I believe that a thoughtfully decorated table can be just as important as the feast itself in creating a memorable meal with my family and friends.

To me, setting the table is not a chore; instead it’s an expression of love. I want the time we spend together at the table to make everyone feel special — that they (family and guests) matter, that they have a space to slow down and fill their stomachs and souls. When my days are swamped with work, I opt for simple and straightforward, but sweet and elegant table arrangements. 

My family hosted a dinner party for our eight friends.
Another group friends joined us for lunch.
Brunch with friends

Aside from enjoying good food, we also enjoy our mealtime conversation, which is important to me and my family. Indeed, some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had took place at our family’s dining table — talking about our feelings and thoughts, sharing stories and experiences, debating important issues and current events, and discussing topics we’re interested in, such as books, music, movies, history, food, and travel, among other things. It’s also a great chance for our son to practice good manners by listening and taking turns in the conversation, allowing each member to speak and share.

Besides the various designs and amount of tableware and cutlery that vary with each occasion, here’s how I set our dining table:

1. As a rule of thumb, the height of the centerpiece is always based on me since I’m the shortest/smallest in the family — keeping it low and narrow — ensures we can make eye contact while talking and see each other across the table.

2. Since our table is small, I keep the centerpieces to a minimum: a small vase with fresh flowers, salt and pepper shakers, and a scented candle. After all, the food and wine are the stars of the show.

Leisurely lunch with hubby while our son was at school
Lunch date with hubby on Valentine’s Day

3. I light a different candle for each occasion because the table must be perfumed and sprinkled with the opulent, romantic, and wonderful fragrance of a scented candle. Also, the flicker of candlelight creates a cozy atmosphere in the room, making it feel warm and welcoming. We enjoy lighting a scented candle on our dinner table because it completes the table, no matter how beautifully decorated it is. 

4. Generally, I place two glasses at each place setting. It’s always nice to have a refreshing glass of water alongside a fancy beverage.

5. Most of the time, we use our rattan placemat because it adds another natural element to our table and creates a more relaxed and un-fussy look.

6. Depending on the occasion, I like to gorgeously dress our table with a simple and classic all-over pattern tablecloth or plain tablecloth. 

7. I use table napkins that match the table cloth or are appropriate for the theme. Sometimes I fold the napkin nicely, use a napkin ring, or finish it with a cute bow around it.

Pete Turned 15

Our son, Pete turned 15 on April 4th. For us parents, he is our pride and joy. When he does something adorable, our hearts skip a beat. When he faces difficulty, our muscles tense up. When he accomplishes something new, our eyes gleam with delight.

Pete blew the candles on his 15th birthday cake

Pete’s birthday this year was more fun than in the last two years as we got to celebrate it outside with some of his friends, in 2020 though, it was the time when the government decided to close all schools, and in 2021, it was the time when the government put the whole city on lockdown due to the pandemic.

Pre-birthday dinner at Brasserie Louis Restaurant

On April 3rd, we took Pete to Rosewood’s Brasserie Louis Restaurant for a pre-birthday gourmet dinner. It was a beautiful Sunday as the afternoon sun bathed the buildings in its warm light, allowing tons of tiny specks of dust to dance in the shaft of afternoon sunlight. We had a reservation for three at 6 p.m., and our table was strategically placed near the glass wall in the corner. The restaurant was tastefully decorated, creating a relaxed, welcoming ambience. While there, we enjoyed the clear and quiet atmosphere, the sunset, the night sky aglow with bright city lights, and the stunning views of Phnom Penh’s cityscape, Tonle Sap, and Mekong River from the 35th floor. The service and staff were good. The starters and main courses that we had were good, although the portions were small and the menu selection was limited.

View from Brasserie Louis Restaurant

On the way home, we decided to stop at Samaky Bistro near Wat Langka because we wanted a more chill atmosphere and their delicious crepes with chocolate and lemon while watching people passing by and listening to the live band nearby. This fun side trip made the entire evening much more enjoyable!

birthday breakfast board

The next day, my husband and I surprised Pete with a birthday breakfast board, which he devoured happily! Alan made beef stew for his home lunch, while I packed it and scribbled down a short lunchbox note.

birthday home lunch with a note

In the evening, we prepared a simple and sumptuous seafood birthday dinner at home, complete with a well-planned menu that satisfied all of our cravings! The salmon and saucisson board was fantastic with pickled cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and fresh green olives. It was delicious. After the delectable starter, we took a 15-minute break to empty our stomachs for the main course, which was classic lobster thermidor cooked in rich white wine, gruyere cheese, mustard, and homemade béchamel sauce served with pasta, baked tomatoes with sliced garlic, freshly sliced red radish, and blanched asparagus! It was a five-star rating!

A family photo using a selfie stick

I baked Pete his 15th birthday cake – a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries. I also made chocolate cakes for his friends at school to enjoy.

Pete enjoys music and plays the guitar as his favorite instrument. As he can now play his acoustic guitar well, Alan and I decided to grant his birthday wish – a new electric guitar – as a way of showing him our full support in helping him improve his abilities in music. While we were having a birthday dinner at home, Alan told Pete that we would take him to the instrument shop on the 11th of April so he could choose an electric guitar he liked with a beginner’s set. He was over the moon!

On April 10th, we took Pete and five of his friends to spend the day at the Garden City Waterpark for a fun post-birthday celebration! The teens were buzzing on the way and couldn’t wait to get to the waterpark. They tried all the slides and almost every activity in the park as soon as we got there. After lunch, we enjoyed floating on the slow-moving Mekong River. It was more relaxing and enjoyable! Pete and his friends were exhilarated and had so much fun the whole day. Certainly, it was a joy to see them having a good time together!

On the way home from the waterpark, our friends treated us to a pizza at Brooklyn Pizza. The pizza was good, and we all gobbled it down as soon as it was served. It was a sweet treat before we departed for our homes.

pizza at Brooklyn Pizza

It was definitely a birthday that Pete will remember for the rest of his life. Time slips away quickly, and he inevitably grows older year after year. And each year brings new challenges that help him grow, as well as happy memories like this one that he will cherish for many years to come. Happy 15th, our Pete! Papa and I love you!