Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Coast of Normandy

The last weekend of May was a long weekend for the whole of Romania, So, the husband (he of the restless feet) decided to surprise us by planning a trip (yes, no surprises there, all surprises will include travel of some sort) to Normandy. Well, it was supposed to be a surprise, that is until I started making weekend plans with the kids and the friends and he was kind of pushed into telling me about the trip. Also because I needed to pack. Much as he loves to plan trips, packing is just not his thing.
But, things with us are never straightforward are they? So it's not a simple matter of hopping on a flight and landing somewhere in the coast of Normandy. Oh no. That is for the normal people. And those that don't live in Bucharest- A city that doesn't have direct connections to most of the world. So, it was a flight to Brussels at unGodly hours and then about 5 hours by car to Caen.
As few minutes of resting and we headed off to Omaha beach. (Yes, we do tend to move quickly. The resting can continue in the car, is our line of thinking.)
But I'm so glad we made the effort...
Some of the rations the WWII soldiers at the Memorial


The French resistance, apparently they had their own insignia :)
The Memorial itself had a load of stuff that really brought home the conditions under which the d-day landing took place and the bravery of the individual soldiers. But it was the outside that robbed you of your speech. And really spoke about the price of the war. 

Rows upon rows of crosses- or the start of David, all lives lost, just over a span of a few days. 

They've let nature take its course beyond the few metres of beach now. Nature, the eternal healer. 

One of the WWII tanks on display. 


Omaha beach - the actual site of the D-Day  landings. 
We spend a good few hours here - almost until closing time before he head back to Caen for the night. I'm not sure if it was coincidence or planning on the part of the husband to have us visit the place so close to the D-day landing anniversary, but it made the visit a bit more poignant. A vast majority of those buried there didn't even get to live to be as old as me.
Loved the graffiti on this Caen wall.
The next day, we though of heading out to Le Mont Saint-Michel. The place is a Monastery on the coast of Normandy which becomes an island when the tide comes in. Parts of the structure are as old as the 8th Century and it is one of the most beautiful UNESCO heritage sites I've seen. As with all things beautiful and vaguely architectural, I went shutter crazy.
Le Mont Saint-Michele. You can see how it would become an island when the tide comes in



I loved the narrow cobbled streets.


Steps of the Abbey

View from up top

Inside the abbey. It had a lovely rose garden

Such lovely, tall windows.

The slender double colonnade makes for a lovely play of light and shadow (that's my quota of 'lovely's done for this post, then) 

Not much of the original tiling remains, but what remains of it is beautiful. (See? No more 'lovely')
I really loved the light inside the Abbey, from the stain glass to the skylights to the arched windows and oriels.







Taps with character

An old well wheel. Don't know what it is with people and wells, but we found plenty of coins here as well. 
The little town below the Abbey (permanent population 44) was so policturesque.
The once-drawbridge now serves as a scenic backdrop to a coffee house
The tourist shops

This was inside a small church in town. perhaps not as old (17-18th Century), but just as beautiful.

A perfectly moulded wooden stopper for a stone vat

The stain glass depicting Saint Pierre, Patron saint of the local Parish
Our next stop was Pont de Normandie. Actually, This wasn't something on the tourist map, but as we were driving to Caen, we just loved how the two bridges looked, and decided to take a closer look on our way back. The impending storm served as a perfect backdrop too!
This place houses the names of all the engineers associated with building this structural masterpiece

getting to the bridge

Spotted some wildlife on our way across




Do you not love the Purple Minon staring at you? 

This also served as a driving break on our way to √Čtretat. We'd heard lovely things about the place. Especially about the cliff side hike along the coast. But the weather was a tad inclement to put it mildly. Lets just say that its a good thing we had a tight grip on my little one, otherwise we were looking at the very real possibility of a human kite.
The view however, was still beautiful.
The cliffs of Etretat. 

And the town below


The town of Etretat itself was really pretty too. Unfortunately it was also French. Which meant everything was shut on a Sunday evening. But we did discover one wonderful chocolaterie which did the most yummy pastries, and that's what we ended up having for dinner. That and Pizza. We also fell in love with a local brand of crisps which did a delish mustard and pickle flavour. So yeah, totally healthy food options.

The local Hotel. They didn't do early dinners. 

Neither did this restaurant



Empty wine bottles. Carted like one would cart milk in India. 
I only wish we'd gotten to spend and extra day in Normandy - the countryside was beautiful and there was much to see. But I suppose that is for another day, another trip. 

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