Internet is feeling a little slow on the Fondation this evening (though the laundry situation remains my biggest grievance against the dorms at the moment) so pictures of delectable delights devoured on Valentine’s Day and this past weekend will be posted soon. For now, a little journey through my first weekend spent outside of Paris.
The bus to Normandy departed bright and early on Saturday morning, headed first for the D-Day museum in Arromanches, a small town that rests on Gold Beach. From the windows of the museum, you can look out into the ocean and see the remains of Mulberry Harbour B, brainchild of Winston Churchill and one of two artificial harbors that helped the Allies to successfully launch their invasion of France.
The next stop was Omaha Beach, which is where the Americans landed during the invasion of Normandy. Along a vast, breathtaking and serenely empty coastline stands the American Cemetery, a beautiful memorial commemorating the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. Walking through the endless white grave markers in France’s largest military cemetery, with the American flag flapping high above in the wind, was definitely a powerful experience. The structure of the cemetery and its monuments within are reminiscent of Washington D.C., almost making you feel like you’re back home in the states. In a way, you are- the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is managed by the U.S. government and considered to be American soil.
Our last World War II monument was a quick jaunt to the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, home to German bunkers that were originally thought to be too strongly fortified to invade. That was, at least, until Texan Lieutenant Colonel James E. Rudder came along. Under his command, the 2nd Ranger Battalion successfully took over Pointe du Hoc as part of the D-Day invasion. The whole site was really interesting to explore, if a little eery. Huge craters from aerial attacks dot the surface of the whole cliff, forcing you to take a step back and truly consider what went down on that very ground.
Our Saturday of sightseeing concluded in the town of Saint-Malo, located just inside Brittany. This, because of its dual small-town/seaside qualities, was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Before settling into the best night’s sleep I’ve gotten in quite some time, a few friends and I took a walk along the water with cups of delicious, hot mulled wine. A wonderful end to a busy day.
Today, there was yet more sightseeing to be done. First, we kicked off a gorgeous morning with a walk along the city walls of Saint-Malo. I’ve seen many beautiful beaches before, but this one just may have taken the cake. I couldn’t stop snapping picture after picture of the coastline as the morning sun rose.
This was followed by (almost done, I promise) heading back into Normandy for a tour of Mont Saint-Michel, significant both as a religious and military site. The story (almost) as our guide told it: Archangel Michael appears before St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, and asks him very nicely to build a church. “If you build it, they will come,” is the quote, I think. Or something like that. Anyway, ‘ol Aubert doesn’t do it like Mike asks, and the same old song and dance follows: Aubert gets a hole burned through his cranium by the angel’s finger.
Located on an island, it has also been an important point of military signficance: the English had repeatedly, over the centuries, attempted to seize it, but without success.
It is most certainly an incredible architectural feat, and is much more than a few churches: now, the self-contained little village has shops, restaurants and hotels. The true highlight for me was my lunch there today, but I’ll wait to upload the photographic evidence of how delicious it was.
And now, after a wonderfully busy and lovely weekend, I’m off to bed!