Normandy: Saltwater Toes and the Middle Ages

Work for the next 5 days after Prague was a total blur. Our schedule was made until the 5th, and because myself and four of the other guides – Allison, Derek, Sao-Mai, and Jess – all had two days off we planned our own little adventure to Normandy, Northern France.

A car was rented, an endless supply of cookies was acquired, and a few maps were briefly glanced at. We left right after work on the 1st, and drove straight for 3 hours to the city of Caen. Our plan was to do both Juno Beach and Mont St-Michel in one day and then the second day take our sweet time back to Arras.

We stayed in the crappy French motel chain, Formule 1. Never, again. So much smoke, no ensuite bathroom, bunk beds. But, you know what, it did the job but did not deserved to be commemorated in photo form.

Wake up was 8h30, and we made it to the beach after a slow morning but quick drive right in time for the 10h00 tour at Juno Beach. Juno was the site of Canada’s landing on D-Day.


Tetrahedrons used on the beach to make it hard for tanks to pass through.


Inside a German Bunker.

Needless to say, we were those people on the tour. Asking questions, doddling, taking pictures of the tour guide… basically the people we were the people we ourselves hate on our tours. Tant pis.


The beach.

After doing the tour, we went through the museum, and being me I was really just interested in all the really cool war propaganda.

Exhibit A:

Half of the centre was just trying to explain Canada to Europeans. They even used a Métis from The Pas, MB to explain what the Métis nation is. Family lineage represent!

After the tour and visitor centre, and spending 20 euros on postcards (nice one Allison), we made our way back to the beach.


The beach seems impossibly small, but it was about 8km long and 300-500m from sea to shore. The tide was at its highest when we were at the beach so it was hard to get a really good feeling of what the beach was like on D-Day. Nonetheless, very cool. Also, another fact that only I will appreciate, where are tour was and where these pictures were taken was where the Winnipeg Rifles landed! (Ya, no one else cares…).

After Juno, we drove along the ocean over to Omaha Beach, the American war cemetery and memorial. Man, the Americans sure can do memorials. I was pretty blown away.

Part of the Omaha Memorial


Typical

Exploring some WWII bunkers. Green sludge was a little too much.

Afterward we grabbed some great lunch in a little cafe right on the ocean. We all got eggs and toast, but I decided to ask for mine scrambled which was a trial in itself trying to explain scrambled eggs to a French speaker. Lots of “briser” et “scrambellled”.

Once we were all ready to go, we hopped in the car and took about 3 hours to get to Mont St-Michel due to some misdirections but no matter, we made it and can definitely say we saw Normandy.

One problem was that we thought we had until 11pm to see the Abbey but unfortunately it was closed at 6pm, and since we didn’t make it there until 6, no dice. Although I was pretty disappointed, we ended up wandering around the old little town at the base of the Abbey, walked in the ocean and watched the tide come time, pretty nice.

The lovely Allison soaking up a day's travel

We were starving after the whole day and of course because it was a Thursday the French took that to be a holiday and closed almost every restaurant at 9pm. I’ll never understand their culture. Eat late, close early. The only place that was open was the French version of Swiss Chalet so we grabbed some bread and poulet roti and mowed down.

The next morning we had planned to take it slow, so we drove around the city of Caen. Downtown, an excellent creperie/breakfast cafe was eaten at. I had delish toasted baguette, the best tea I’ve had in France and some fresh OJ. Everyone else got crepes or omlettes. The woman who served us also owned the tiny cafe and it was without doubt the best service I’ve had while being in the country.

Our plan had been to drive over to Bayeux to see the longest tapestry in the world, from the 11th century, outlining William the Conqueror’s conquest of England. Really, really cool. (Dane you would have lost your mind here…) They gave you an audio guide so it actually told you the story of what was going on in the tapestry. Oh by the way did I mention it was 77metres long? Yea. Those peasants weren’t joking around.

Look at that hand of God about to smote himself some peasants.

There was also a lame-ish exhibit made back in the ’80s for when Prince Charles visited. I had fun with my Macro setting. There were so many miniatures…

Behind Allison is the longest Cathedral in France. It was designed to fit the whole tapestry laid out, so the illiterate peasants to look at William conquoring England.

We wandered for a bit around the downtown of Bayeux (very quaint and pretty), then hopped back in the car to again, very slowly make our way back to Arras. We decided to take the really scenic route along the ocean. Eventually the cute little beach towns became too much to handle and we stopped in Deauville. Deauville is the big-ish resort town that many Parisian’s frequent on their days off. Picturesque.


Derek showing off his guide pose, psyched to be there.

Finally, we wrapped up the day on the beach, wadding and jumping in the waves. Here’s the gang, minus Sao-Mai who was lovely enough to take the picture.

We continued our slow trip back to Arras, all the while listening to Britney Spears. Pretty solid end to a great couple of days.

– N

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One Response to Normandy: Saltwater Toes and the Middle Ages

  1. alx24 says:

    Awww Nat, it sounds like you’re having so much fun! I wish I could go back to Europe and hang out with you in France!! Miss you! xoxo

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