Normandy, France

May 22, 2007

Overall Landscape at Normandy

–When we last left our little adventures, we had rocked England hard enough that they were ready to see us take our little road show across the Channel into France, and that’s exactly what we did.  On Tuesday, we took the Chunnel over to Paris , and from there we hopped a train to Bayeaux.  Needless to say, Bayeaux was not the biggest of cities, and we took a wrong turn from the train station.   As we wandered around this small French city with our suitcases rolling along behind us and people staring, we decided to defy all forms of “man laws” and ask someone for directions.   We sent my friend Matt into this friendly-looking little pub because he had A French class in high school (yes that was our reasoning), and boy, was he successful!  Before we knew it, Matt emerged from the pub smiling and said that he thought he not only had directions, but that some guy was going to give us a ride!   AWESOME, right?  Well, that depends on where you were sitting in the car.  We gave “shotgun privileges” to Matt because that was the only decent thing to do for a man that had maximized his knowledge of the French language and managed to bum us a ride, but my dad and I were in the back seat of this TINY car with the SMELLIEST dog your nose has ever dreamt about smelling.   Words cannot express to you how God-awful this dog smelled; I am still waking up with nightmares about it!  Nonetheless, we arrived at our bed and breakfast just fine…stinking, but fine.   We were greeted by the sweetest French lady in the world, and she showed us to our room.

Dad and I between the Cemetery ad Omaha Beach

After we sat our bags down and our stomachs recovered from the nausea caused by that foul-smelling beast, we realized that it had been about 12 hours since our last meal.   So, out to the streets of Bayeaux we went.  We found a small restaurant on this picturesque French street, and declared that it was the place that was going to break our hunger.   BOY, was that an understatement!  It may have been that we hadn’t eaten in 12 hours; it may have been that everything “local” we tried in Britain promptly led to gagging; it may have been that McDonald’s was actually starting to taste good; or, it may have been that this food was actually that good; whatever the reason, this was THE best meal that I have ever eaten in my 22 years of living!   We started with salads, cheeses, and cold-cuts.  Then, we moved onto the main courses (a crab dish for Dad, a croque monsieur for Matt, and a beef dish for me).   Then, we all got dessert.  I don’t remember what the other guys got because I kind of blacked out when that first bite of apple ice cream hit my lips.  I am pretty sure they are going to serve that ice cream in heaven one day.  If I lived here, I would weigh over 500-lbs!   Ok, enough about the food, but it is amazing!

American Cemetery
Omaha Beach: D-Day Landing

May 23, 2007–This morning we got up and had some breakfast (I would tell you how good those croissants were, but I fear this journal would get a little redundant), and headed out to the American Cemetery just above the D-Day landing point, Omaha Beach.  When we got there, it was apparent that this place stirs some type of emotion inside people.  As I walked through the cemetery and looked at over 9000 graves of soldiers that had died in France in WWII, I’ll be honest; I couldn’t hold back my tears.   It was absolutely breathtaking to see all of these graves, note the years in which they lived, think about the terror that they lived through during their last few minutes, and realize that most of them were my age or younger.   All of these guys (I consider people my age to be guys…too old to be a boy, but not old/experienced enough to be a man) sacrificed themselves for people not only of our country, but for the future of the world as we know it.   

I realize that the American-French rivalry is famous and well-documented, but I cannot tell you how many homes and buildings in Bayeaux had American and British flags flying.   Not only that, they genuinely seemed appreciative to every American that they came across, as if I was one of the guys that liberated their small towns from Nazi tyranny.  Far be it from me to take credit for something that those heroes did years ago.  After the cemetery, we went down and walked the actual beaches that these heroes fought on and won during arguably the most successful battle in American history.   It was mind-blowing, and I wish my words could describe my emotions.  I guess I can best sum it up by saying that I have never been more proud of being an American.

Pointe Du Hoc-These were pretty powerful bombs.

After the Omaha beaches, we decided to go see Pointe du Hoc, another great point of American history.   There were only two problems with going out there: it was 10 miles away and we had missed the only bus!  As we asked the guy at the information desk if there was any other way to get out there, a young American couple came up to us, said that they had a car, and declared that they would give us a ride!   So, into the back seat we piled, and got another free ride!  Pointed du Hoc was cool because there were actual German bunkers, tunnels, and guns silos.   Also, the ground resembled what I envision the surface of the moon looking like because the Allied bombers wreaked havoc on it during several bombing raids.   Seriously, these craters were 10-20 feet deep!  As we walked around, the question of how we were going to get back to Bayeaux (now over 25 miles away) happened to come up.   There was no bus leaving for the rest of the day, and the only option we had were the two feet we were standing on!  As fate would have it, we spotted the aforementioned couple that gave us a ride out there walking about 50 yards away.   “Conveniently,” our paths crossed on their way out.  They asked us if we had a ride back to the bus station, and I am proud to say that we told them that we didn’t want to impose before practically jumping in their backseat! So, back to the bus stop at the American Cemetery we rode, and we caught the last bus to Bayeaux of the day with about 20 seconds to spare!   So, at the end of that day, we were 3-for-3 in our hitchhiking efforts during our Great Ideas Tour!