A Weekend in Normandy

In France, Photo, Travel 2011 on May 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

One of my favorite parts of my travels so far has most certainly been the people I’ve been meeting and the hospitality they’ve shown to me.

Stéphane, my lovely new friend in Paris, has been absolutely fabulous, playing host to me for the last week, and taking me to Normandy this weekend

We had a fabulous time, kicking off the weekend with a little Friday driving lesson in Paris from his very trusting mother (thanks!). Stéphane’s still finishing up his hours to get his full license (you have to do extra in Paris because traffic is so crazy). So, I did the driving.

We stayed in Cabourg, which is a beautiful little town, exactly as you’d picture it, with cute houses, a beautiful hotel on the beach, and those lovely steely gray northern beach waters. His family has a house there. So we had a simple home base for our little weekend adventures.

Knowing how I love a market, Stéphane was smart enough to take me to one on Saturday morning so we could stock up on all sorts of goodies – fish, oysters, duck, potatoes, strawberries, baguette, cheese, cheese and more cheese.

Then, we cooked. Well to be more specific, Stéphane cooked – and I watched, and learned a bit.

Lunch was delicious, with one minor mishap. After indulging on everything, we settled in for a little late afternoon nap, only to have me up and sick about an hour later. I figure it was a bad oyster, despite how yummy they were; but no worries. Stéphane’s quick trip to the pharmacy sorted me out, and after a bit of sleep while watching rugby, I was perfectly well enough for a walk on the beach and dinner….. Which was the duck and was delicious.

Side note: I will still eat oysters. I’m not giving them up. They’re worth the risk.

On Sunday, we made up for lost time. There’s a lot to see in Normandy, and since I spent most of Saturday laying down, we had to get to quite a bit done in one afternoon.

All along the coast are, of course, the remnants of World War II and particularly D-Day and the Invasion of Normandy. The history that you can actually visit and see in Europe really never ceases to amaze me – not to mention to cause me to ask a zillion questions.

We spent the day traveling from location to location. The most recognizable is, of course, Omaha beach and the American cemetery that is there now.

Standing up above the beach you can almost see the soldiers emptying out on D-Day. The coast really has a ethereal feel about it – one of those “if walls could talk” places.

We walked through the small visitors center there, which basically explains the logistics of the Invasion of Normandy and screens a very tasteful video presentation interviewing families of some of the boys who died there as well as members of the communities in Normandy that the invasion helped to liberate.

The cemetery itself is something to see. It was raining, so we had to wait out the weather while eating lunch in the car, but the precipitation finally let up to a light drizzle. So we braved it and ventured in.

Quite like Arlington, the headstones stretch out with white crosses and stars of David. Walking amongst them in the drizzle, it was interesting to see dates of death, where they were from, and the very common “comrade in arms known only but to God.”

I wish everyone could visit this site, as well as the other locations we went to, just to understand a bit more of our own past. I think, since the War was mostly off our soil, it is easy to simply think of it as something in history but in places like Normandy, there are reminders everywhere that it wasn’t that long ago, and it is never to be forgotten. It isn’t depressing, it just reminds us where we came from.

After our little driving trip along the coast, and the World War II sites, we enjoyed another delicious dinner before zipping back to Paris the next morning.

Stéphane found it hilarious to let me think that he was putting me on l’Etoile – the terrifying roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe – while directing me back in. Thank God there is a turn off just before you get to it.

Other than that, he made it to work on time, sort of, and I made it back to his apartment to do laundry and pack up to head to San Remo and Baiardo.

Will most certainly be sad to leave Paris, and especially Justin, Kelsey and Stéphane. I loved this city the first time I visited, and I’ve only gotten more and more comfortable here by the minute.

Just as a side note, I am looking at opportunities to move here, but we’ll leave that for a later update.

This is not Omaha beach. This is simply a beach along the coast that happens to have remnants of a bridging structure leftover from the War. that’s what I mean when I say there are reminders everywhere.

Stéphane at the cemetery. The structure behind him is the memorial with maps of the war and the statue. I’ll upload more pics to the gallery soon.

One of the headstones.


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