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Offbeat Traveler: Mont St. Michel, France

Up until a few years ago, quirky Mont St. Michel, a tidal island (tides vary as much as 50 feet) located off the coast of Normandy, France, was in danger of losing its maritime identity. In the 8th century, a bishop established a small chapel there. A Gothic abbey, used during the French Revolution as a prison, followed a few centuries later. Then in the 19th century a causeway connecting the island to the mainland was built, preventing the sea from washing away silt that collected around the island. A dam that rose in 1969 had a similar effect. Land slowly crept up on the island. Now Mont St. Michel, which receives almost two and a half million visitors a year, is undergoing a face-lift aimed at turning back the accumulated sands of time. In 2009, a new dam was completed. This one pushes sediment back into the sea. In April, the parking lot that rested on the causeway was closed and a new lot on the mainland opened. Construction on a bridge connecting the island to the mainland is underway. After it's completed in 2014, the existing causeway will be demolished, allowing water to flow around the island. See also a 360° view from the Eiffel Tower
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