Normandy

I woke up this morning rested and refreshed. Lena didn’t mention it in her previous mail (probably because she slept right through the whole thing) but the crossing over from Rosslare to Cherbourg was pretty choppy and I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. Our cabin was at the very front of the ship and at one stage I looked out the window and was faced with a wall of water as the ship dramatically rose up and out of the ocean. Anyway, we survived – and Lena slept.

We arrived into Honfleur late yesterday evening having driven down the coast after disembarking. On the way we stopped off at Omaha Beach of D Day fame and I have to say it’s a very dramatic place. While there’s not much there in terms of physical remains of the Allied landing, you are immediately reminded of scenes from movies like Saving Private Ryan when you walk the broad beach. The Allies – in fact, they were all US GIs at Omaha – decided to land here because it is so long and could take an amphibious landing on the scale needed. The Americans then made their way up behind the stone promenade and eventually up over the steep cliffs that rise precipitously just a 100 or so metres inland onto a plateau. The cliffs of course had been dug into by the Germans and the GIs were mown down in huge numbers in what must be one of the great human sacrifices of all military history.

Honfleur is a beautiful little seaside town on the western bank of the Seine Estuary. The town is famous as the birthplace of the composer Erik Satie, a man who gave the world such delights as the Gnossienne variations. The town is filled with restaurants that are mainly seafood focussed. After we arrived, we ate in a fairly basic place called the Le Cafe du Port, which was cheap and almost cheerful. We both got the Menu du Jour for €15.90 and so because of the price, I couldn’t bring myself to complain about the toughest cut of beef that has ever graced the insides of my mouth. To say it was shoe-like would have been to belittle the comfort of a good shoe. Nice cheeses and chocolate crepe for dessert though.

After a high fat/high dairy/high sugar breakfast at our guesthouse, we decided to revisit the town’s historical centre in the light of day with Lenny on the lead. These are interesting days for the little man as he deals with hours lying in a semi stupor in the backseat surrounded by guitars and deep fat friers. But we both feel it will be the making of him. He’ll be telling stories of the long march across Europe to his grandkids when he reaches the lofty age of 10 or eleven. Anyway, he seemed to enjoy saying hello to dogs who barked with a slightly different accent and generally having a sniff around.

I bought a little bottle of the local cider after having a taster – dry as a Cretan summer just the way I like it – and I convinced Lena to spend an obscene amount of money given the amount of it on some flavoured salt. Bretagne is famous for the crazy things its people do with salt apparently. We took a couple of photos of the really interesting architecture on the streets – they use wood and slate shingles on the outside walls of most of the mainly wooden and brick houses. Basically, Honfluer is a throwback to the Middle Ages in its centre. Check out the Church of Saint Catherine in the centre of town as it’s one of the largest extent early wooden churches in Europe – before heading back to the car and setting off on the next leg.

I type this as Lena drives along the road from Reim to Metz. I had heard talk before of the price of the tolls on French roads but my god we weren’t expecting the amount and frequency of them. By the first hour I think we had gone through about five and so far (and we still have a few more miles to drive today), we’ve spent€32.90. I thought that it might be because we were using Google Maps and we were on the sharp end of a grand conspiracy between Google and the tax generating arm of the French civil service but having switched to old-school map mode, I can confirm there is no conspiracy but France may well be the most expensive place I have ever driven in.

Roll on Deutschland.

Comments

  1. Caroline

    I think these places ( beaches ) towns can be very atmospheric. Maybe because of all the deaths that took place there you get a special feeling.

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