normandy: mont-saint-michel

Monday, July 3, 2006:  We have another lovely breakfast at Le Manoir.  This time we sit with the other American couple and they’re a little more friendly — the man in particular.  They’re from the Baltimore area.  They bought a Saab here and are having it shipped back to the States.  They’ve been driving it during their 3-week stay, all around France, Germany and Austria.

After breakfast, we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay.  It’s quite an impressive sight rising up from the water across the flat farmland.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

Considered the “Wonder of the West,” the Gothic-style Benedictine abbey, dedicated to the archangel St. Michael, is perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks; these are exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany. The village below grew up in the shadow of the abbey, which was built between the 11th and 16th centuries.  Says UNESCO: “The abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.” (UNESCO: Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay)

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

We arrive early enough so the crowds aren’t too bad, but they multiply rapidly after our arrival.  As usual, only two ticket windows are open to the abbey, so we have to wait quite a while in a long line.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel
Adam, Alex and Mike in front of Mont Saint-Michel
Adam, Alex and Mike in front of Mont Saint-Michel
me at Mont Saint-Michel
me at Mont Saint-Michel

The structural composition of the town represents the feudal society that constructed it. On top God, the abbey and monastery, below this Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen’s and farmers’ housing.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

We avoid the town and climb directly up the steps to the abbey, which is lovely and has a fantastic view of the sand flats, the water and farmlands.  Inside the stone walls is sometimes cool and breezy, other times damp and sultry.  It’s quite a warm, sultry day overall.

inside Mont Saint-Michel
inside Mont Saint-Michel
tower at Mont Saint-Michel
tower at Mont Saint-Michel

The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 46 ft (14 metres) between high and low water marks. Popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims making their way across the flats, the mount can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast. (Wikipedia: Mont Saint-Michel)

looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
the bay at Mont Saint-Michel
the bay at Mont Saint-Michel
me on top of the monastery
me on top of the monastery
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
cloister at Mont Saint-Michel
cloister at Mont Saint-Michel
cloister
cloister
cloister
cloister
statues at Mont Saint-Michel
statues at Mont Saint-Michel
Statues at Mont Saint-Michel
Statues at Mont Saint-Michel

We grab baguettes in the tacky tourist town on the way down.  Alex wants to buy a big sword in one of the gift shops, but we convince him that taking it home will be problematic.

I fall asleep on the way back to Le Manoir, as does Adam, but Mike and Alex stop at a market to get fruit and water.  Back at Le Manoir, Adam and I continue to nap while Mike and Alex take pictures around the Manoir grounds. The owners have a lot of aging, blind and deaf animals.  There’s Ozzie the rooster who prefers human to chicken company; Purdy, the white lab; Gimble, an English spaniel blind in one eye and tied up outside because he ran away 9 km once; Twinkle, the youngest white cat; and two 20-year-old cats.  One black Cocker Spaniel is blind and deaf.  Lizzy had worked at the SPCA for a long time and picked up lots of animals.

Mike and I go to see the Bayeaux Tapestry while the boys walk around Bayeaux.  The film presentation about the tapestry is fascinating.  We don’t have enough time there because we told the boys to meet us in front of the Cathedral at 5:15.  We wander around the town.  I am hoping to find some jewelry stores open but none were.  I do buy a cute black and white dress at SUD Express.

Bayeaux
Bayeaux
Bayeaux Cathedral
Bayeaux Cathedral
Alex and Adam in Bayeaux
Alex and Adam in Bayeaux

We go to Arromanches for dinner, where we sit outside at Le Bistro.

Creperie in Bayeaux
Creperie in Arromanches
beach near Bayeaux
beach near Arromanches
Advertisements

the normandy american cemetery and memorial

Sunday, July 2, 2006:  We have breakfast outdoors in the hot sun at the Manoir.  It is actually miserable in the sun, but we don’t want to complain, so we simply sweat profusely as we eat: granola, yogurt with blackberries, boiled eggs, croissants with lemon curd, and coffee.  We try conversing with another couple from the D.C. area, but they don’t seem open to chatting.  We leave them alone to enjoy their meal in peace.

Today, Mike and I leave the boys behind in the Pigeonnier to watch videos while we visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.  It’s situated on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The 172-acre cemetery contains the graves of 9,387 of American military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified (American Battle Monuments Commission: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial).

the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The cemetery sits on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach (one of the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion) and the English Channel. Included are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942 (Wikipedia: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial).

The verdant grass juxtaposed against the marble crosses, along with the cemetery’s manicured trees and shrubs, makes for a lovely setting.  It’s incredibly sad to think of all the young men who gave up their lives for the greater good.  The sheer number of crosses is enough to take my breath away.  The setting, high on a hilltop overlooking the English Channel, renders it a perfect resting place for those noble young men who fought hard and won the battle, but lost their lives.

view of the English channel from the the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
view of the English channel from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
me at thethe Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
me at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Mike at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Mike at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

I have packed a bathing suit, sunscreen and beach towel, and at the cemetery I see a lovely beach down below.  I decide on a whim to have Mike leave me at the beach at St. Laurent while he and the boys go to La Grignotiere for Sunday lunch.  I want some time alone because everyone is getting on my nerves and I want some beach time.  Besides, the thought of sitting in that stuffy restaurant doesn’t appeal to me.  I spend about 3 1/2 hours alone on the beach, having a gruyere buerre sandwich and a Coke Light on the sand.  It’s just the break I need.

Back at the Manoir, I go for a three-mile run; it’s a hot and miserable undertaking.

For dinner, we go back to Bayeaux and eat once again at Le Florentin.  We end up here mainly because none of us can agree on anything else.  The waitress gets upset because Mike and I want to share a pizza; she says in a restaurant one person must have one plate.  I protest: “But I can’t eat a whole pizza myself!”  She finally lets Mike order a green salad and we share a delicious pizza with andouille sausage, apples and lots of cheese.  We have glaces for dessert.

me in front of a cathedral
me in front of a cathedral
in the village
in the village

le manoir d’hérouville: our bed & breakfast in normandy

Saturday, July 1, 2006:  We love our hotel in Normandy,  Le Manoir d’Hérouville, set in 17 acres of landscaped gardens and rural fields. Carefully restored to retain the feel of a pre-revolutionary Manoir, today it is an informal family home. We stay in Le Pigeonnier at Le Manoir d’Hérouville.

Our turret-room at our bed and breakfast
Le Pigeonnier
Bed and breakfast in Normandy
Le Manoir d’Hérouville
rooster?
rooster?

Le Manoir d’ Hérouville is midway between the Norman towns of Bayeux and St Lo. Dated 1744, Le Pigeonnier was the manor dovecote; the tower-like building is charming and unique. The accommodation is spread over three floors for 2 to 5 people.

A lavender-bordered path leads gently up to the door of the round and quirky building, separated from the main house by the gravel courtyard.

I adore this tranquil, beautiful and welcoming place, where we stay four nights while we explore the Normandy area.

IMG_0438
grounds of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0439
grounds of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0440
grounds of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0444
Mike at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0447
WWII vehicles in the barn of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0448
WWII vehicles in the barn of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0451
WWII vehicles in the barn of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0455
gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0456
gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0457
gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0458
cows at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0459
the family dog at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0461
gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0466
grounds at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
IMG_0485
Adam at the door to Le Pigeonnier at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
Enhanced by Zemanta

normandy: the caen peace memorial & the d-day landing sites

Saturday, July 1, 2006: We have a wonderful breakfast at Le Manoir served by Sue Roberts and her sister Lizzy: granola with hazelnuts, yogurt with berries, fruit salad with sugared lime, boiled egg, croissants with lemon curd.  We chat with a nice Australian family from Sydney; the boys enjoy their 16-year-old son.  The couple tells us their favorite site in Normandy is the 360 degree film at Arromanches.

Today we explore the Normandy D-Day landing beaches.  We head to the Caen Peace Memorial then some of the D-Day landing sites: Arromanches-les-Bains, The Batterie de Longues, and Omaha Beach.

The film about the invasion is excellent, bringing tears to my eyes.  The museum traces the growth of fascism in Germany.  Fifty million people died in World War II, 27 million of them Russians.

The 360 degree film at Arromanches, which the Aussie family recommended, is fabulous!  The filmmakers juxtaposed current tranquil scenes of the Normandy countryside and villages with actual violent war footage.  It brings home the fact that much death and destruction once occurred in this peaceful land.

After the film, we eat sandwiches and glaces in Arromanches.

The town of Arromanches-les-Bains lies along the stretch of coastline designated as Gold Beach during the D-Day Landings on 6 June 1944; it was one of the beaches used by British troops in the Allied invasion. Arromanches was selected as one of the sites for two Mulberry Harbours built on the Normandy coast, the other one was built further west at Omaha Beach.

Today Arromanches is mainly a tourist town. Situated in a good location for visiting all of the battle sites and War Cemeteries, there is also a museum at Arromanches with information about Operation Overlord and in particular, the Mulberry harbours (Wikipedia: Arromanches-les-Bains).

At Mulberry harbour was a portable temporary harbor developed by the British in World War II to facilitate rapid offloading of cargo onto the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy (Wikipedia: Mulberry Harbour).

Alex and the Caen Peace Memorial
Alex and the Caen Peace Memorial
Normandy battlefields
Normandy battlefields
Normandy landing beaches
Normandy landing beaches
me in Normandy
me in Normandy
Caen Memorial
Caen Memorial
Caen Memorial
Caen Memorial

At Pointe du Hoc, the boys have a good time running in and out of bomb craters and old German bunkers. The boys chalk some graffiti on the walls of a bunker.  The weather is gorgeous, cool and quite breezy.

Bunker
Bunker
The boys make their marks on the German bunkers
The boys make their marks on the German bunkers
Adam... hmmm.
Adam… hmmm.
bunker
bunker
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Adam
Adam
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Adam
Adam
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
Normandy
Normandy
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
me and Normandy beaches
me and Normandy beaches
Adam in a bunker
Adam in a bunker
Normandy
Normandy
Normandy
Normandy
Alex: Appropriate T-shirt??
Alex: Appropriate T-shirt??
Normandy coast
Normandy coast

We come across a wedding taking place on the battlefield.

a wedding takes place on the battlefield
a wedding takes place on the battlefield
Mike
Mike
Adam in Normandy
Adam in Normandy
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
Normandy coast

We then head to Bayeux where we encounter a Medieval festival with Middle Age reenactors.

Street performers in Caen
Street performers in Caen
more street performers
more street performers

Mike and I eat pasta and Alex eats pizza at Le Florentin, which is quite warm and close, despite the cool breeze blowing through the streets.  We get some small glaces in Bayeux too.

We then head back to the Manoir.  Mike and I sit in the main house setting room for a while to read.  The couches are huge and fluffy; we sink right into them.  I’m reading Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, which I’m enjoying.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

france: arrival in normandy

Friday, June 30, 2006:  This morning, we run to a patisserie for pain de raisins and then to Starbucks, where we sit at outdoor tables and enjoy watching fashionable Parisians stroll past.  After gathering our bags, we take a taxi to the Hotel Invalides to Europcar, where we pick up our blue Renault Laguna, squeeze our luggage into the trunk, and take off for Normandy.

The drive is straightforward and uneventful, although I’ll never get used to the speeds on European roadways.  We stop for a nice lunch at a roadside stop: for me, a salad with chicken, corn and cheese.  We have trouble locking the driver’s side door, and after finally figuring it out, we realize we have to do it manually every time.  What a pain!

We make a stop in Arromanches before heading to our hotel in Normandy, the northern region of France corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy.  This area grew out of various invasions of West Francia by the Danish, Norwegians, Vikings, and the Anglo-Danish in the 9th century. Normandy began in 911 as a fief, probably a county, in the sense that it was held by a count (Wikipedia: Duchy of Normandy).

The name is derived from the Vikings (“Northmen”), who settled the territory from the 9th century. For a century and a half following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Normandy and England were linked by Norman and Frankish rulers (Wikipedia: Normandy).

We see the artificial port remnants from the Normandy campaign in World War II.  We have 1664 beers at an outdoor cafe then stroll through the little town.  We also treat ourselves to eclairs and croissants at a boulangerie/patisserie.

me with Mike on the beach in Normandy
me with Mike on the beach in Normandy

During the Second World War, the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches, under the code name Operation Overlord, started the lengthy Battle of Normandy, eventually liberating Paris and restoring the French Republic. These landings were a significant turning point in the war.

One of the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy
One of the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy

Normandy’s population is around 3.45 million, accounting for 5.5% of France’s total population (in 2005) (Wikipedia: Normandy).

Normandy beach
Normandy beach

Lower Normandy is predominantly agricultural in character, with cattle breeding the most important sector (although in decline from the peak levels of the 1970s and 1980s). The bocage is a patchwork of small fields with high hedges, typical of western areas. Upper Normandy contains a higher concentration of industry. Normandy is a significant cider-producing region, and produces calvados, a distilled cider or apple brandy. Other activities of economic importance are dairy produce, flax (60% of production in France), horse breeding (including two French national stud farms), fishing, seafood, and tourism (Wikipedia: Normandy).

The region is bordered along the northern coasts by the English Channel. There are granite cliffs in the west and limestone cliffs in the east. There are also long stretches of beach in the centre of the region. The bocage typical of the western areas caused problems for the invading forces in the Battle of Normandy (Wikipedia: Normandy).

We drive on to the Manoir d’Hérouville and check in to the pigieonnier.  After moving into our rooms, we take naps, since we feel a little drowsy after our long drive and the beers in Arromanches.

In the evening, we go out for dinner at a lovely French restaurant called La Grignotiere, where the chef greets us personally.  We have Picot biere accompanied by mackerel and salmon spread on bread.  My meal is wonderful: noix de lotte au chou vert et au lard fume (walnuts with green cabbage and smoked bacon).  The boys loved their brochettes of beef.  Alex liked his profiteroles (cream puffs), but Adam didn’t care for them.

me at dinner in Normandy
me at dinner in Normandy

Back at the pigieonnier, the boys encounter a “huge” spider, so they’re afraid to sleep upstairs in their loft.  Mike brings a mattress downstairs and the boys camp out watching the video Cool Runnings.  We fall asleep with a cool breeze whispering over our heads.

Adam's self portrait
Adam’s self-portrait
Enhanced by Zemanta