Our final attempt to ditch the hot and sticky summer 2021 weather in Nice led us to breezy and cool Normandy for two weeks. We’d never been, and I was excited to finally — since freshman year in high school — see the Bayeux Tapestry. We planned to visit the D-Day landing beaches and cemeteries too, and to roam the countryside as usual to find pastoral serenity and charming villages.
The Tapestry was indeed a marvel to see. It is 70 meters long, like piece of film reel, that pictorially tells the story of the 11th century Norman Conquest. Poor Harold of England. He gets an arrow in the eye.
The landing beaches and the contemplation of the bravery of those WWII soldiers make for a sobering experience. In Arromanches, remnants of the breakwaters and artificial harbor miraculously placed in position by the British remain. German bunkers and bomb craters dot the coastline. The silence contrasts with the sounds of war blasting in our imaginations.
At the American cemetery, where 10,000 tombs face in the direction of the US, we heard Taps as we were leaving, then the Star-Spangled banner as we approached the parking lot, and the roar of a fighter jet overhead as we got into our car. As it turned out, the liberation was being celebrated that week. This part of France is one of the few where Americans can experience an open welcome, to this day.
I thought I liked colorful Honfleur a lot, but then I saw Barfleur. In terms of mood, it was more my liking. It’s gray, like the Norman sea and sky, with the largest lighthouse in France, and a stretch of lonely beach to make my heart sing.
If you stay out of the big (although not unpleasant) cities of Caen and Rouen, and avoid the boring, slightly trashy upscale beach resorts like Deauville, there are few people. There are almost as many cows.
This is French dairyland! Vegans be warned, every dish comes smothered in cream and butter. It is a very traditional culinary region, so there are plenty of hearty meat dishes to choose from too. Luckily for me, there are markets galore with plenty of alternatives available. I admit I overdid it with the slabs of wood fired sourdough bread and fresh market butter, but I’m recovering well.
Our explorations were mostly restricted to the Calvados region of Normandy, known for apple ciders and brandies. Stopping at a creperie on our way to Beuvron en Auge, I did a double-sip of the glass of cider served. We were on the Route de Cidre as it turned out. It was the only thing about Normandy that topped Brittany in my experience.
Ah, yes. Normandy did not disappoint. But, Brittany. There’s next summer for that.
you captured the essence quite well …in this short post!
Wonderful post, Kathleeen! Love the photos — the cow — magnificent!
So beautifully told, Kathleen, with just enough stunning photos. A grand viewing of life abroad.
Thanks for sharing with us!
Hugs to you and David,
I’m so happy to see you back writing about French excursions!
I visited the Normandy beaches in 1970, one of a group of young American students. The wind was whipping the waves around, making it noisy, though the WWII relics resonated. I had seen them in old photos, and could feel what it must have felt like all those years ago. Calvados! It’s apple season here in Vermont, and we have at least two Calvados bottles in the cabinet, waiting to lend flavor to some apple dumpling sauce.
Are the Covid restrictions any looser in the countryside? Has the infection rate subsided there? Vermont, one of the least affected last year, is now getting higher infection rates than ever before, mostly due to the more infectious Delta variant.
Hugs to you both!
France is now 81% vaccinated, and a health pass/proof of vaccination is required to enter restaurants, museums and entertainment venues. Masks are worn indoors.
Kathleen, Normandy really comes to life through your excellent prose and photos. What a place! I regret very much never to have been there myself but hope to make up for lost time if the pandemic ever ends. You and David are covering a lot of ground in France, the virus notwithstanding, and I am wondering where you will go next, in addition to Brittany? Happy travels!
Thoroughly enjoyed 🥰
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