Vacation in France – Part 2

Day 4: Bernieres-sur-mer – Utah Beach, 110 km

Today was war-day. We drove along the D-day beaches and visited several war-related places. First up was the Batterie du Longues, a place with a row of bunkers with cannons at a very strategic point along the coast.P7200189

They were all damaged but most of them were still in one piece though. The Boyfriend, the 5 year old that he is, had to climb on top of one, of course.

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Next was the largest American War Cemetery of the region. It was very impressive with rows and rows of perfectly aligned white crosses. 9.386 soldiers are buried here.

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It was a really beautiful place, aside of the reason those crosses were there, that is. I totally understand that those men were very brave and that the sacrifices were made for a good cause, but I don’t understand why there needs to be war at all. It always upsets me seeing so many in my eyes unnecessary victims. Wow, I never knew I was such a hippy, LOL.

On to the next site: Pointe du Hoc. At this point the coast is really steep and it’s almost impossible to get up. But they did it anyway. The Germans didn’t expect them, so the allies were able to make a dent in the defense lines. It is just a small rock that symbolizes the courage those soldiers must have had.

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They had bombed the area as well. There are still craters in the grass.

Lastly, we also visited a German War Cemetery, La Cambe where 21.160 soldiers were buried.

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As you can see it is not nearly as fancy (can you say that about a cemetery?), nor as big (despite the huge amount of graves) as the American one, but definitely much more impressive. The upper photo shows the actual grave stones. Each stone holds two or three names. And there were many rows…On top of that in the centre was a mass grave. Again, very impressive. Many Germans didn’t fight and die in Normandy because they wanted to or chose to, so it is just as sad as if it were another nationality.

After this, we arrived at Utah beach and found a camping site. It was a nice place with a really great restaurant and we had a very good dinner!

Day 5: St Mere Eglise, 0 km

We decided to stay another day because we wanted to visit St Mere Eglise (at 15k) and just relax a bit. After a short run we left for St Mere Eglise. We got there and had a look at the infamous church with the doll hanging from it. Don’t know what I am talking about? Go watch The Longuest Day. The allies got dropped accidently right in the middle of the village where the Germans were stationed. Talking about a case of Whoops! One guy’s parachute attached to the church and he got stuck. He got to watch all his fellows get killed while unable to do anything. He ended up surviving and growing old, only deaf from the church bells. Here it is:

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We also visited the museum. Well, actually the Boyfriend scrutinized the place and I was bored half of the time watching all the junk war memorabilia in there. The rest of the day we didn’t really do a lot, just relaxed and had another amazing dinner at the restaurant at the camping. Sorry, forgot to take pictures of all of our meals during the vacation.

Day 6: Utah Beach – Courtils, 140 km

It was time to move on. So we drove across the countryside to Courtils, which is located close to Mt San Michel, our goal. We took our time getting there. Singing in the car:

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Do you see the emotion? I also do this on my way in the traffic jam to work. It must be hilarious for other drivers. Luckily for me, I don’t care too much, I only sing a little softer when standing still to make sure they don’t actually here me…

Anyway, on our way there we finally had a decent crepe! It was at some kind of commercial chain joint we think, but it was fun with lots of stuff hanging from the walls to look at (stuffed animals, an electric train riding close to the roof). We spend the rest of the day lounging at the camping site, hanging by the pool and reading a book. Very relaxing!

Day 7: Mont Saint Michel, 0 km

I had a nice run this morning and I picked up breakfast at a bakery on my way back. The people there looked a bit surprised when I showed up there all sweaty, I wonder why… During breakfast we saw a really cool gadget: a remote controlled caravan! Seriously, this guy had a remote control on his caravan. Normally you see two or more people pushing and pulling the thing (and yelling at each other because their backs hurt) to get it out of the camping place and attached to the car and then you just hope you get the car and the caravan on the main track safely without hitting other tents. But he could just navigate it out of the camping place and onto the main track of the camping, place it right behind his car, attach it, and drive away. After this show and our breakfast we headed to Mont San Michel, the major touristic attraction of the region. Actually it is some kind of semi-island with a huge church on it. It is very old and I think that before they built the road there is now, all the entry ways would flood during high tide, very cool! We could already spot it from far away:

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getting closer:

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even closer:

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Crap…that is what happens when you make pictures from your car. Let’s try again:

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It looks beautiful, doesn’t it?

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It was kind of busy, but so cute! We spent the morning walking around the place. We didn’t go into the church because the line was way too long.

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Can you see me? I am in 1 of the pictures only .

Finally a quiet street.

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Total verdict: really cute and cool with all the steep streets and stairs. But very very touristic.
We spent the rest of the day just hanging around on the camping side. We did some groceries and decided to actually cook. Well…we heated up some canned ravioli. Anyway, it was really good! Also, more wine was consumed…

Day 8: Courtils – Lost, 320 km

Wow, did we drive a lot today! Our goal today was to visit Argentan and to see from there. The Boyfriend wanted to see the church because it had snipers in there during WWII (great reason, I know) so we did.

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Just so you know, I did not take that incredibly tilted picture…I am not sure how much beer the Boyfriend had during lunch.

Before Argentan we had coffee in a really cute little village and we saw a whole lot more of these villages on our way to Rouen after lunch. We were doing pretty great and got closer and closer and closer to Rouen, the biggest city of Normandy. When we got real close we decided to drive until the next camping site and stop there for the day. However….after that no other camping site showed up. We were already in the suburbs of Rouen, during rush hour and we had no idea where to go. We figured there weren’t going to be camping sites in the city centre, but our map totally lacked all details so we weren’t sure which signs to follow. So we got lost, bahaha. We ended up asking at some bakery. The woman looked at me like I was a lunatic (no dear, there are no camping sites here) and she didn’t really know how to get to the highway (to at least get out of the city) either. So we decided to go to downtown to ask at the tourist office. Just before we got there we saw a sign that said: camping site! so we followed that. But after a while there were no more signs. We did manage to get out of Rouen though, so we kept driving. After a while we came to a village with a touristic map. It showed that the camping site was way back, but there was another one further ahead. We didn’t really want to go back into rush hour agáin, so we moved on. We ended up in at a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (‘are you sure this is the right road?’ ‘yes dear, just shut up and drive ok?’ We had driven over 300k already and had had it for the day so were pretty cranky not in the mood to get lost again). And there was actually a camping site there. The owner wasn’t there, and not really anybody else was either. Most of the camping site was used for seasonal places: people actually made gardens with garden midgets next to their caravans, it was hilarious. We finally found some French people sitting beside their motor home. They told us they couldn’t find the owner either, but that we should just put up our tent and that he would show up. So we did. Then the owner came and asked us a ridiculously low price for the night. It a third of what we had paid at other sites! We asked him for a place to have dinner and he gave us directions to the next village where there was a restaurant where we could eat ‘very well’. So we went. When we came to the village we only saw one brasserie that looked kind of weird. We decided to move on, but found nothing else in the village. We were too tired to go some place else, so we went for the brasserie. But the owner told us we could not eat there. But there was another restaurant, just 100m further. It turned out that we passed it on our way into the village. Now, don’t think we are blind cows or something. It turned out, this was the restaurant:

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When we came in we only saw a bar. But in the back of the joint was a sign that said ‘restaurant’. We passed a curtain hanging in a doorway and entered a cozy restaurant with a couple of tables. There were two Englishmen there. We were like: where the hell did we end up, but hey what the heck, let’s have dinner.

The woman serving us was of indefinable age, somewhere between 70ish and 85, probably. And she served us our best dinner of the whole vacation. Seriously. It was DELICIOUS! It was all home made with a lot of love, and everything was superfresh and supertasty. And it was really cheap too! It was all totally authentic French and we loved it. It was a really special night. First you get lost, and then you end up in the freaking middle of nowhere eating one of the best dinners ever!

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More to come in my next post on the last part of our trip. Be back soon!

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