Bayeux & the Normandy Beaches

21 Sep

“The trusty steed” below the castle of Falaise, birthplace of William the Conqueror, Falaise, near Bayeux.

I’ve been entrusted with the road map. This is something I’m taking very seriously. As we’ve plenty of time and no set destination, we’ve decided to navigate the old-fashioned way: with a paper map & road signs. Amazingly, this technology still works. However, let me advise that you bring a good pair of glasses & familiarize yourself with the surrounding area.

Pick a direction.

See, once you’re in a French roundabout, there are not necessarily road names nor numbers – there are only city destination directions – and since I have no idea in which direction any of the surrounding villages are located, this amounts to some quick map studying (and since our free AAA map didn’t have many of the road numbers nor villages anyway, this made for extra-interesting navigation). 

The scene looks like this:

 

  • the blue roads cost (quite a bit) of money in tolls but are fast and well-maintained,

 

 

  • the green roads are free, fast, and well-maintained but are big not-so-scenic freeways,

 

 

  • the orange roads that are slightly more bordered on the map (read: hardly distinguishable, until we were on one of them & wondered why it was so much better) are divided, fast-moving roads,

 

 

  • the orange roads are fantastically scenic but your driver will very quickly get tired of driving (in circles, literally) around roundabouts,

 

 

  • the yellow roads are small & winding & you’ll never, ever get there,

 

 

  • and the white roads aren’t really roads, more like a path that might get a car in the right direction, only one lane.

 

 

The American Cemetery, Omaha Beach.

We paid tribute at the Normandy beaches. SendMoneyPlease has posted many more photos. We visited Omaha Beach, one of the least rebuilt. Ruined German bunkers and barbed wire still lay quietly behind beautiful, vast, sandy beaches. The cars parked in the grass parking lot are mostly for beach-going locals & tourists, hauling picnics and towels and sunscreen. There’s a really well done and impeccably maintained American cemetery, park & war museum. It was calm; the monuments and rolling grass at the cemetery above drop off to the expansive beaches below, and eventually, the blue water beyond. It’s an impressive vista. 

Omaha Beach.

At first, it was shocking to see swimsuit-clad beachgoers laughing and sunbathing on such a symbolic site. It was like any beach scene anywhere: kitesurfers, ice cream, kids yelling back and forth; I wondered if we were indeed at Omaha Beach. How can these vacationers skip around and build sandcastles on this ground? Isn’t that sacrilege? But after spending some time there, I was left with the feeling that these soldiers were still watching over the inhabitants below enjoying their leisure time, and that was exactly why they were there in the first place. The beach has become what they were fighting for. 

Bayeux.

We spent the night in charming Bayeux, home of the famous Bayeux Tapestry you learned about in school. Typical Normand houses & buildings, a tiny canal, a view of the cathedral from our hotel window. We spent an evening along the cobblestone square, lunched in the market, then continued south. . . 

Fish kraut. Hmmm. Yeah. Didn’t really sound like a good idea at the time either. Market, Bayeux.

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