Saturday, October 8, 2011

England/France - Day 8 and 9 - D-Day sites and Bayeux

Our first stop for the day was the The Caen Memorial museum.  This museum was brilliant!  I could have spent hours there.  It traces history from the end of World War I through World War II and even delves into events post-WWII.  We had limited time so we only just barely made it through WWII.  Fascinating!  And it was the perfect preparation for the rest of our day where we would be visiting the beaches of Normandy.

We met up with James and Becca in downtown Caen where they had picked up some picnic supplies - yay!  After lunch we drove to Point du Hoc.  This site is at the top of 100 ft cliffs that were scaled on D-Day by the U.S. Rangers.  They used grappling hooks and ladders to ascend these cliffs to take control of what they thought was a major German artillery base at the top.  They knew that from this site - the Germans could do major damage to the other assaults on Omaha beach.  Unfortunately the Germans had moved their big guns and cannons two days before.  But still - only 1/3 of the 300 U.S. Rangers survived the day.
The area had been heavily bombed for weeks before the attack and the huge craters can still be seen.
Several structures still stand - but were heavily damaged from the bombing.
 We walked through these deserted buildings.  It was chilling to think about what happened at this site on that horrible day in June.

Becca and Poppy looking very lovely!

We tried to imagine to some small degree the horrors of that day.  It was tragic, powerful and moving all at the same time.

We drove a ways down the coast to the American Cemetery and Memorial.  Again - we were deeply touched by sea of white crosses and Stars of David.

Sadly we got there right at closing time.  But we met a nice American caretaker that told us of another place where we could explore a German bunker and have access to Omaha beach.
Darling Poppy in a darling raincoat.

Weston could not get enough of these sites and wanted to explore every remaining structure.
Omaha Beach.
It was getting late and the weather was getting worse so we drove back to the Blairs where a warm fire and dinner was waiting.
It was another wonderful evening spent with wonderful friends.

Wes looking pretty awesome in his Bear Grylls shirt.
Freshly cracked walnuts and yummy French chocolate.
The next morning Ben made a "pastry run."  He brought back croissants, pan au chocolat, tartelettes and fresh milk - straight from a local farm.
Having these delightful children around made me miss mine just a little bit less - not that we didn't miss them terribly!
June and Poppy are just about the same age and both completely adorable!
We spent the first part of the day in Bayeux.  And believe it or not - we didn't take time to see the tapestry!  Oh well - we couldn't see everything.
It was a lovely little town.
With a beautiful cathedral.
Lunch is a big deal in France - many shops close from 12-2pm.  So we decided to take a break and eat at a little corner cafe.  Becca and I stayed safe with foods like quiche and a ham and cheese panini.  James, on the other hand, asked the waiter to recommend something very French.  He ordered the andouillette with fries.  When our food arrived - it just looked like a large sausage - just a little more...jiggly.  But once he sliced down the middle to expose the contents - oh my - the smell alone just about made me lose my lunch!  I don't know what it was filled with but it didn't look appetizing.  I am sorry to be so frank (pun?) but it was disgusting.  The only person that dared taste it was Wes and he said it was gross.  Ugh...I can even smell it now.
We couldn't pass up on a French pastry to redeem ourselves from our lunch experience.
We drove to Caen and visited two chocolateries and some darling children's clothing stores.  I have never seen such darling children's clothing as I did in Europe!  If only I could justify spending that much money on my kids' clothes!

Sitting right in the middle of the city is the ancient castle of William the Conqueror.  We walked around the outer walls and moats.
Notice the skyline - dotted with cathedral spires.

Even though we didn't do as much site-seeing on this day, we completed most of our gift shopping.  So that was good!  We drove back to the Blairs to spend our last evening at La Cressonniere.  We had a few minutes before dinner so I showed Betty how to make hollyhock dolls out of the flowers they had blooming in their yard.  Hollyhocks are one of my favorite flowers and I love these dolls - my mom taught me how to make them when I was a little girl.  It was a nice compliment to my mom when Gabby posted about these dolls on  Check it out!
Our last meal with the Blairs was, again, one of the best meals of the entire trip!  Simple, rustic and delicious!  Chicken with mushroom cream sauce, spinach soup and a fresh baguette.  Ben says they key to making yummy French food is - lots of butter!
Oh how we loved staying with the Blairs at La Cressonniere!  It was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Just a few of the random memories of our time here:
-No microwave!
-Apple tree, walnut tree, raspberries, blackberries, lavender, roses, hollyhocks, wisteria, etc.
-Opening and closing shutters each morning and night
-Big spider on the ceiling in our room!  Evidence that we really were in the country!
-"Paris Mix" CDs that Ben lent us to listen to on our daytrips
-Blair kids skyping with my kids
-Yummy drink with peach syrup and carbonated water
-Watching the Blair's episode of International House Hunters
-Watching Ralph's movies on youtube
-Listening to the Blair kids pray in French
-Within 15 minutes of arriving - Wes and the Blair kids belting out the song from Nacho Libre..."Incarnation!!"
-Driving the trash to the local dumpster
-The mermaid bathtub
-Dozens and dozens of stacked empty yogurt jars
-Betty singing little French songs
-Wes climbing up the rock wall and yelling, "Viva La Cressionniere!!!"

Next up...Paris!


Anna said...

Amazing, amazing, amazing! Now that you have seen all the WWII sights I highly recommend you read Citizens of London.

squeezeme said...

Matt and I have just poured over your entries about the trip! Honestly, I started to cry as I looked at your photos and read your experiences. (Now you know I am a big baby!) But truly, the memories your brought back are treasures for us. Here's to history, simple & fresh food, markets, delicious chocolate and moss on stone shingles!