This was a fairly laid back trip for us. Some things were planned and others were "concepts" that I left open to explore as we wished. In turned out well and we had another great week (and another 200 photos below!).
Our primary destination was Bayeux which was the first liberated city after the allied invasion on D-Day (June 6th, 1944). Though close, it's not necessarily easy to get to as I found out. I decided to do as the Brits would do and drive across (in our right hand drive car, no less). Turned out there was no need to worry as I quickly re-acclimated to driving on the right despite the steering wheel being on the wrong side.
I chose a circular route for a few reasons. Crossing at the Eurotunnel is the quickest way (B to C on map above). That required about a 3.5 hour drive to get there and a 2-hr wait since we were early. From there we drove to Rouen for 1 night and then on to Bayeux for 5. Rather than drive back, we took an overnight ferry from Ouistreham/Caen to Portsmouth (F to G) and made some stops along the way back.
Eurotunnel is because I wanted to try it! To "drive" across the tunnel, one actually takes a train shuttle. Here we are driving down the ramp to the train (my trusty co-pilot is the photographer).
Rouen. Rouen is a decent size city that still has a medieval feel in the historic city center. This older cobblestone street is fortunately pedestrianized.
Rouen has a massive cathedral (also called Notre Dame), which unfortunately is undergoing some repairs (as seemingly most are).
an old clock along the pedestrian street
Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. We visited the new, modern Joan of Arc church on our first day and this (also modern) sculpture was inside.
This is the monument marking the place where she was executed back in 1431 at the age of 19.
a pleasing view of the old market square near the Joan of Arc church
another massive church -- St. Ouen I believe
this was a nice interior courtyard that happened to be an old plague cemetery (1500s)
there was also a nice market on Sunday as well, though not the best photograph of it here
We took a very leisurely route from Rouen to Bayeux with the intention of stopping at a few nearby abbeys. The first was the Abbey of St. Georges de Boscherville.
The collegiate church was replaced in the 12th century by the magnificent abbey church that we see before us. A community of Benedictine monks took up residence there in 1114.
a photo inside the church
a nice photo outside the church
Next stop was the ruined Abbey of Jumieges
we passed a small market and some animals that I assume were to be part of an event later that day
Billy -- future Jay Seppanen facial hair of the month nominee?
full size checkers on the grounds
link) which depicts the story of the 1066 Battle of Hastings that forever changed the course of history.
Recall, that we saw a re-enactment of the 1066 battle in Battle last October (link) so it was quite nice to see this part of the story as well.
Duke William rallying the troops during the battle
Harold takes an arrow in the eye and the Normans eventually overtake the English (Saxons)
Next up, back to the cathedral.
St. Michael -- wings and a sword and a little foreshadowing for things to come
Caen Memorial Museum (Center for the History for Peace).
Up early to make the 1.5 hr drive to Mont St. Michel which you see from the distance above.
In closer. This site has been a pilgrimage since the 8th century.
Massive tide swings here . . . obviously low tide at the moment.
Family shot before going in and up
The abbey church up top.
Statue of St. Authbert who had the vision to build the abbey
hanging out in the Hall of Grand Pillars
St. Michael slaying another one
on the way down
looking back up at the church
many more heading in as we head out
The view of MSM from the cemetery.
link) which was our first choice but unavailable for the first 2 days. The present chateau dates back to the 19th century and is set on an acre plus.
This fat cat was outside our window trying to lull the birds a little closer.
Alex had been nagging me for a crepe and we finally got him one that night for dinner.
Today was the big day reserved for touring (some of) the D-Day beach sites. I placed it in the middle of the week so we could see the Caen Memorial first while also leaving some extra time if we wanted more than 1 day.
There are many options for tours or one can go at it alone. I decided to go with a private guide for the day and that worked out well.
We drove about 45 minutes toward the western most flank of the D-Day invasion to Ste. Mere Eglise. The 700 year old church is shown above. The 82nd and 101st Airborne paratroopers landed here early in the morning of June 6th. They had some early misfortune as a house had caught on fire which brought out the townspeople and German soldiers in the middle of the night to spoil the surprise and confuse the paratroopers.
One paratrooper, John Steele, got caught on the church steeple and is he is commemorated today by the dummy paratrooper.
Despite the early issues, the town, an important strategic location, was taken the first day.
The nearby Airborne Museum, also in Ste. Mere Eglise.
in front of a C-47 and some "paratroopers"
look at all the stuff they had to jump (and land) with
very thankful, very proud
Our guide mentioned that this area was private farmland and was not reconstructed after the war. As a result, bombing craters abound. Alex is at the bottom of one above. This was one of our favorite sites.
Climbing out a machine gun defense post (with our guide Lucy).
The reason for moving the guns was to construct newer, more protected gun bunkers like above.
The bomb craters at Pointe du Hoc and a peak at the English Channel in the distance.
monument to the brave Rangers
a view of the nearby cliffs (but not the ones scaled)
up the beach on the other side
looking back at Pointe du Hoc and an idea of the cliffs that were scaled
break for lunch with a restaurant/hotel with a ping pong table (a nice break)
Note: there were 5 beach landing operations that occurred more or less simultaneously. Americans landed at Utah and Omaha which is where we focused our tour. Juno, Gold and Sword were the others.
family shot at Omaha Beach
earlier memorial at Omaha Beach
grave of unknown soldier
Random grave to shown the detail on the marble cross
As I said, very impressive and somber.
an important message
looking down at Omaha Beach
It is a vast wall. Over 1500 names according to my guidebook.
solemn display in the visitor's center
Thursday was set aside for the French countryside to search out cheese, cider and small villages.
First stop was the small village of Cambremer which had a church will really loud bells!
There we sampled apple juice, apple cider, pommeau and calvados (apple brandy). Pommeau is unique to the region and is a 2:1 mixture of cider and calvados that is aged in the blended configuration. It's 18% alcohol and consumed chilled as an aperitif. We purchased some juice, cider and pommeau and left the calvados behind.
Chateau de Crevecoeur, a well preserved (or restored) small lord's castle from the middle ages.
link). I must say it was a little odd to have that combination and privatized view considering all the English Heritage and National Trust sites we've grown accustomed to.
Nicole near the same buildings from the other side.
bridge and moat
re-created animal pens (from 2005 -- again we've grown accustomed to slightly older items)
plants for women -- they need their own help you know
the actual castle in the inner courtyard
protective wall between inner/outer
interesting horse pitcher inside
Next stop Beuvron-en-Auge, a small picturesque village along the cider trail.
kids happily playing along
We decided we didn't need to try all the cider stops so we ventured a little further to find some cheese (we saw an ad for this at lunch -- talk about spontaneous). We drove to Livarot to visit the Graindorge facility.
They had a nice self-guided tour set up with various videos to teach you about their wonderful Normand cows. Kuk wanted a photo of one but it was never convenient. Click here instead.
Cheese, cheese, cheese. Alex said it would probably take a million rats to eat all of that.
One of their cheeses, nicknames The Colonel, is hand-bound by reeds (makes it look like a Big Mac).
The meal was gourmet, multi-course and multi-drink. Outstanding food and the conversation was fantastic. So, so glad we were able to do this. Highly recommended!
Looking out at the remaining bits of the harbor.
Family shot. Low tide with some remaining bits of the pontoon road supports.
another diorama from the German point of view
poor photo by me of an older photo showing what it looked like
I can't imagine what it would have been like to storm the beaches -- imagine the fear and adrenaline
another beach shot at Arromanches
and one more
Normandy Bridge near Le Harve & Honfleur.
The destination was Etratat, almost 2 hours away (a little crazy, but we'd heard good things). There's a small town and a beach nestled between two impressive cliffs. Cliff on the left.
and the right . . . we decided to climb this one to look at the other one
it was a short, but vertical walk to the top -- great view
more cliffs further along to the right (north?)
the small church at the top
nice one (not sure about Alex's smile on this one though)
it's been awhile since I had a animal photo so seagull on a ledge it is
side view of church
had to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, throw the rocks (no sand on this beach)
an old building in the harbor (and some of the most disgusting public toilets)
We ticked off a few sites while walking around the city. Here's St. Leonard's church.
another war memorial
a building near Ste Catherine's church
inside Ste Catherine's church -- it had a unique double-nave
We tried for an early (before 7) dinner and all that was open were the touristy places along the harbor. We chose one and we chose incorrectly. Horrible service and horrible food. We actually settled up and left before the last course because I was fed up. Honfleur was expensive too. Sodas were about $7 -- the kids fortunately agreed that water was okay this time. Yuck. Perhaps we didn't give it a fair shake, but we all preferred Etratat over Honfleur (by a mile).
I thought the kids might like it, and they did. Here's Alex peering over his bunk down at me.
Winchester. Winchester was the capital of England way, way back and is home to a massive cathedral. The cathedral has the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in England.
As with Derby and I imagine other cities, there is a jumbotron/tv setup for the Olympic activities. We chatted with a nice couple who was setting up for a prime location for the upcoming cycling competition.
Another claim to fame is that Jane Austen is buried here. She grew up in the country and then wrote/finished most of her novels in Bath. She got sick at a relatively early age and went to Winchester for the medical opportunities but eventually died there. [our stuffy guide didn't mention any of this]
an old (11th-12th century) painting (fresco?)
stone carvings inside the church -- I think it was also used as support
flooded crypts -- not sure how regular an occurrence this is or if it is due to the recent heavy rains
William Walker, packing the foundations with more than 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 bricks. Walker worked six hours a day from 1906 to 1912 in total darkness at depths up to 6 metres (20 ft), and is credited with saving the cathedral from total collapse. Cool, huh?
partial outside view -- too large for much more
font from 11th-12th century (for baptisms)
an earlier Roman design inside the cathedral
Another interesting connection -- Isaac Walton is also buried here. He is an English author most famous for writing the Compleat Angler (still in print), a fishing guide of sorts with some portions based in Dovedale (Derbyshire).
Next stop: Stratford-upon-Avon.
I did like the curse that he put near his grave: Good friend for Jesus sake forbear, to dig the dust enclosed here, bless by the man that spare these stones, and curse be he that moves my bones.
It was somewhat common practice for crypts to get full and the bones moved and burned (bonefire/bonfire origin according to the docent/guide) and Bill didn't want any of that for his bones.
inside the Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried
outside shot of church
random poem in the park -- several where hanging on a tree -- not exactly Shakespeare-esque
the relatively new Royal Shakespeare Company theatre
We off course had to visit the birthplace too. Interesting painting in the waiting area.
outside (and behind) the birthplace
and the front -- it was a neat bit of history, though a little pricey with only seeing the one museum (others were included but we ran out of time)
Our first night in France? Why, sushi of course. We knew we'd get plenty of French food later and we (okay mainly Kuk) have been craving it so we had some in Rouen. It was quite good, actually.
Kuk had a nice stuffed smoke salmon starter.
duck (canard) main for me -- okay
steak for Kuk (why? that's not their thing) -- she really had to wrestle with it
Next night at La Fringale -- escargot for me (and the kids each tried one). The only time Nicole likes snails is on the end of a fork. :-)
trout with cream sauce (a regional specialty)
More casual fare on the next night in Bayeux. Alex got his crepe and I tried an interesting one with chopped steak, egg, potatoes and cheese. The savory (as opposed to sweet) dinner crepes are made with a darker (I assume buckwheat) flour. Not bad.
All and all a good trip. It was different than most in that it was fairly relaxed with only a few must sees (Mont St Michel, D-Day tour, Bayeux tapestry, etc.) and plenty of time to explore. I wouldn't want every vacation that way but we enjoyed this one. As always, it's good to experience new things and learn a little along the way.
Have a good week everyone.