Normandy | Travel Diary

Day One

9:30 AM in France is 2:30 AM on the time to which I'm accustomed. As our plane lazily taxies into our gate, I feel nauseous, but also excited (maybe it's the excited-ness that's making me nauseous? I'm not sure) at the prospect of what lies ahead. We clear our way through customs and claim our bags with ease, but have to wait a while at Enterprise to get our car. An extremely friendly French woman helps us get our car, and her name is Justine. When Justine speaks French on the phone and to her boss, I am soothed. Both her calming lull and cheerful heartedness, even after getting little to none sleep, make me smile.

11:30AM we pull into the quaint town of Giverny, located in Normandy, France. Giverny is the famous site that inspired Claude Monet's lilies and many other works, and was also home to the French painter. My family should've known as soon as we pulled into a completely vacant parking lot, but my mom later claims, "we thought we had just beaten the tourists". In the words of my wise father, "that place was closed up tighter than a drum". We found that Giverny was closed from November all the way until April, and we were unable to enter his house, see the gardens, visit the Impressionist museum, or even eat. Giverny was practically dead.

1:00PM we drive into the town of Rouen, capital of Normandy. Known for its many cathedrals and being the execution spot of Joan of Arc (Badass!! Feminism!!! Empowerment!!! Hell yeah!!). It's the first major city we've been in for the few hours we've been in France. We stop at cute restaurant and eat a contemporary meal, which does more than satisfy our rumbling stomachs. As we chat in English, a middle-aged French woman judges us throughout almost the entirety of our time. But hey, she was the one wearing a cheetah print scrunchie. We visit the main cathedral in Rouen, and even though I am far from Christian, I can't help but revel in the incredible architecture and stunning design. (Apparently, it was the tallest Cathedral in the world for a good four years in the 1800s. Nice run.) My sister and I step into many shops in boutiques in the bustling town, and I come away with a sweater and some knee high tights. After a unanimous census that we should begin the haul to Bayeux, we get in our car and make our way there. I sleep the entire time.

Rouen Cathedral
Flower shop in Rouen

7PM we begin our meal at La Rapiere, a traditional French restaurant and (little did we know) prepare ourselves for the best dinner of our lives. Endless bread, fantastic tomato soup, delightful oysters, perfectly cooked game bird, and the most tasty apple crumble I have ever eaten in my entire life are the staples of an evening to remember. I mean, I knew French food was good, but I had completely forgotten it was this good. I went to sleep fairly early with a full stomach and content heart.

Apple crumble that I was #blessed enough to have at La Rapiere

Day Two

8:30AM I wake up to the unwelcome sound of my mom knocking on my hotel room I share with my sister to wake us up. Our bodies feel like they want to sleep for another year, because of the jet lag, so her wake-up call is not appreciated. We quickly get ready for a gloomy, cold, and rainy day and eat a quick breakfast filled with dried apricots and pan chocolate. We zipper up our rain jackets and make our way to our car. In our own way, each of us get ready to take on the emotional load that will come with visiting the site of D Day.

D Day took place on June 6, 1944, and was the largest, amphibious invasion of all time. This opened up Europe to the Allied Troops, and is recognized as the turning point in World War II. 

It was 10:00AM and at any other time, one would describe the weather we were experiencing as absolutely unbearable, but to me it just felt right. To go and immerse myself in such a horrible part of history did not require the sun and blue skies — the moody atmosphere and sea-salt rain in my hair was an element I found almost vital to the experience. 
   And when I cried, the salty rain just mixed with my tears, and helped me hide my overflowing emotions. It was all so real. Walking through thousands upon thousands of gleaming white tombstones, so fresh and pearly faced as the men that once lived, I cried for those people. I cried for all the people that had been killed in WWII. I cried for all the people that had been killed in any war. I cried for all the people that would be killed in conflict. But most of all, I cried for the people who fought for liberty and lost their lives for liberty. Without the men that fought in World War II, the ones who fought against oppression and prejudice, and especially the ones who never stopped battling on the bloody coast of Normandy, I would not be here today. Many people would not be here today. With that settling on my skin as I stared out into the dark English Channel, I held my Dad's hand, and I said thank you.

Later, I would find out that my first cousin twice removed is buried in the American Cemetery, and it was too late to go back and try to find his tomb. My whole family was stunned. 

Omaha beach ft. my dad and one of the give D Day beaches
Around 12:30PM we make our way to Pointe du Hoc, another important D Day site. It's gotten colder since we left the American Cemetery, and the wind bites our faces. Because I am so small, I feel as though I am about to fall over. My family learns more about D Day and the people that fought there, and we leave, searching for a meal.

A remnant of Mulberry Harbor ft. me, and a showcase of my smallness to some, or my dad's (lack of) photography skills, to others
Dinner around 7:30 is somewhat of a nonevent. It is better than the food back home, but I make a mistake of ordering an entree I'm not in love with, and I don't eat much of it. My sister and I make our way back to our hotel, and I sink into sleep around midnight.

Day Three

Tomb of D.T. Moffat | Epithet reads:
he gave his tomorrow for our today
Today, we are up at 8:00 to make sure we have time to eat, pack, and make our way over the Bayeux Tapestry. Around 70 meters in length, the tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century. It's especially remarkable because, let's remember, art was really lacking around that time period.

At 12:00 PM we make our way to the British Cemetery. Yet again, I am stunned at the amount of men lost their lives fighting the battle against oppression. They did not die in vain, and they died so that we could live. Now we just have to make sure they are never forgotten, and that somehow, they live on.
For the rest of the day, we drive to Paris in more depressing weather. 

Tomb of fallen British soldier | Epithet reads:
he died that we might live

Tomb of L. Paul | Epithet reads:
here lies a man who died so you might live
Sorry for all of the heavy stuff, Citizens. Stay tuned for Paris and Versailles coming soon...

No comments:

Post a Comment