Storming the Beaches of Normandy

We left Ghent, Belgium on 19 August, and boarded what was supposed to be an uneventful, no connection changes train ride to Lille, France. After we settled ourselves for a 90-minute ride, and arrived at the trains first stop, the train agent walked around checking tickets – no worries, this always happens. When he checked ours, he told us that this train splits and we are in the compartments going to the wrong city. Mind you, there was no information about this fact prior; but nonetheless, he suggested we go now and go fast to the proper car at the far end of the train. Out we go, D checks when the train is supposed to leave and we had 2 minutes. We fly with our bags down the platform and throw them into the proper car hefting ourselves up 3 very steep steps. Then we settled once again. At the next stop, we had an 11-minute wait and could have changed cars then as the train separated just before departure!!! Oh well, so much for an uneventful train ride.

We love France and have traveled to Paris a number of times, as well as the Alsace in the northeast, Provence, the French Alps, and the Mediterranean in the south and southeast prior to selling our home. This is our first time traveling here in the summer months and look forward to exploring the west side of France.

In Lille, we picked up a rental car and D was once again driving on the right side of the road – much relief to moi (me). It was a long drive to Normandy Getaways at Mis Harand where we stayed for 4 nights. Our hosts, Chris and Jenny, had prepared a lovely three-course meal for us. We all sat down to dinner for a pleasant way to get to know them and end our day. While staying at Mis Harand, Chris and Jenny helped us determine what the best use of our time would be regarding sights in Bayeux and the D-Day landing beaches of World War II. Chris is an expert on the history of the area and provided us with valuable insight as we attempted to storm the beaches of Normandy. A big thanks to Chris and Jenny for the good food, home stay, and for insuring we had seen what we needed to see to understand more fully what we were witnessing as we toured the beaches of today, and absorbed the incredible history that took place there.

 
 

Bayeux
Bayeux was a 20-minute drive from our Normandy home. We enjoyed a day checking out the 11th century tapestry depicting the 1066 William the Conqueror’s Norman invasion of England. The Bayeux Tapestry (actually an embroidery) is housed in an 18th century seminary and is 224 feet long. Anyone we knew who had been to this area always said we must see this tapestry. We really weren’t sure about seeing this as we knew the main presentation was limited to the audio guide 25-minute walk-thru, but we not only saw it, we were amazed by the presentation. This museum did a fantastic job of educating us on the history of the tapestry as well as the historical depiction on the tapestry. Très bien (very good).

 
 

D-Day Beaches
We all know the history of the area, so it was fascinating, serious, and we came away from the area feeling as if all the people who gave their lives in this land, would be glad to see how the beaches are used today - people of all ages playing in the sand and water off the coast of France. Isn't that what it was all about...

Calvados
And now for a taste of Normandy. While the area is known for its seafood, butter, milk, and cheese (one see’s tranquil reddish-brown splotched and spotted cows everywhere), it is also well known for Calvados - the traditional apple brandy of Normandy. We saw Calvados tasting signs all over the Normandy countryside but stopped in at Lebrec’s 10th century fortified farm that Bernard Lebrec’s grandfather purchased in the early 1900s. It was requisitioned as an allied base in 1944. Bernard showed us photos from that time and we were allowed to walk around the grounds and see the war memorial after enjoying the tasting. It was a 3-part tasting of hard cider (fermented apple juice), Pommeau (apple juice mixed w/Calvados), and 6-year old Calvados. How was it? The cider was a brut (dry) and nicely refreshing, the Pommeau (which is meant to be an aperitif was more like a richer rosé wine, and the Calvados was smooth, very smooth.

Mont Ste. Michel
We left our Mis Harand home on 23 August and drove south to our next Normandy home at Domaine de Belleville. We stayed 2 nights at this location so we would be closer to Mont Ste. Michele. Upon our arrival, our host, Florence, gave us a passionate rundown on events of the area with a, “you must do...,” and “you must see....” We followed her suggestions which gave us a thorough feel for the region of Britany across the bay and moments of awe on Mont Ste. Michele. Thank you, Florence, for the personal insights, good food, and for taking care of our laundry so we would have more time to spend doing “what one must do, and see," and I might add - feel. After following her suggested itinerary, we had a great appreciation for how revered the tides of the day are to the local citizens. And, as these things seem to happen for us, we were able to stand on the cliffs across from Mont St. Michel, with our little community, watching the first wave of high tide move in and engulf the bay around the Mont. Funny thing, it wasn’t just a sight, it became a feeling! Voila!

 
 

Anyone who is a WWII history buff could spend weeks in these regions, not just seeing the main event, but the little moments that are seemingly around every corner. We wouldn’t hesitate to return and stay longer in Normandy and Britany so we may engage in what we enjoy the most – becoming temporary locals!

Thanks for joining our journey.
Stay tuned,
DaM