Sidetracked! Le Reptilarium in Normandy, France.

Most people don’t go to France to see alligators.  We are not most people.

side·track (sīd´trăk): n. 1. A diversion from the main course.  2. A detour taken with children that you would never, ever take without them.


Travel Savvy Mom founder Jamie Pearson, her husband, and their children (then 1 and 3, so set your time machines to “way back”).  This was our first ever sidetrack.

What and Where:
Le Reptilarium Mont St Michel (since renamed “Alligator Bay”).  Normandy, France.  A reptile zoo with tortoises, snakes, and (according to their breathless brochure copy) the biggest group of alligators in Europe. At least that’s what we think it said, it was in French.

Mont St Michel is one of those absolutely gorgeous, but entirely pointless, destinations that are so depressingly common in Europe (see also: Carcassone, San Gimignano, and Montmartre).  You go.  You admire it from afar.  You make the fatal mistake of actually entering it, and instantly regret it.

Maybe you love these places.  If so, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

After battling the huge crowds on this rocky tidal island (formerly a monastery, now wall-to-wall souvenir shops and restaurants serving obscenely overpriced omelets), we carried our exhausted kids through the city gates and back to our car.

We had driven two hours to get there, and were done in twenty minutes.  Then we saw a billboard for Le Reptilarium, and our fate was sealed.

The Low Point:
Being dressed in winter clothing in a warm, steamy, stinky, crowded place for two hours.  Did I mention it smelled bad?

The Kids’ Take:
Ten thumbs up!  Approximately 1,000 times better than stupid omelet island.

The Bottom Line:
If you think your kids would enjoy crawling through plexiglass tunnels that allow them to get up close and personal with boa constrictors, this is the place for you.

During the tortoise feeding, they can also go into the pen and give lettuce to giant reptiles.

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