This week’s letter is ‘N‘
– ‘N’ for Normandy France –
By now you have probably realized that when ever it is Alphabet Thursday, I am taking you with me on one of my travels. This particular one took place almost exactly five years ago, while I was still living in Germany with my partner. Yes, back then we had not been married, and it was also the time before the windsurfing bug bit us and every vacation is spent windsurfing. We decided to take his new (used) car for a spin and drove about 10 hours west from Mannheim, Germany to Normandy France.
For one week we had rented a small cottage with a thatched roof in the middle of nowhere a.k.a. lots of country. But we found it alright and as expected the landlady was extremely nice, but did not speak a single word in any other language, but French. Oh well, so, I got to practice my extremely limited and rusty school French and we got by. It was a very small and cute old cottage, but absolutely sufficient for us. And it had a fireplace, a little pond and a beautiful, wild garden with lots of blooming flowers. And an abandoned pool, with a few rain puddles in it, which the frogs seemed to love. Every morning and evening we had the loudest and longest imaginable croaking concert – quite soothing really, once you got used to it. The mosquitoes are another story.
Being a ‘good tourist’ in Normandy France, I might add ‘good American tourist’, and my now-husband/then partner is American, there are two must sees. 1) Everybody should visit the old monastery on the rocky tidal island ‘Le Mont Saint Michel’ and 2) the beaches and reminders of D-Day in World War II.
Needless to say that I, as a woman, was more interested in Le Mont St. Michel. So, one day David and I drove up small country roads to the coast and followed the signs to this attraction. I had been there many years ago on a school student exchange and noticed that it had not changed much. From the distance it is still the same impressively massive, architectural structure built – seemingly on nothing. It is in fact a tidal rock island, which at ebb tide is surrounded by marshland and during high tide by water. As you can see on the photos, it was ebb tide while we were there. This also gives you the opportunity to walk around the monastery. However you will get wet or dirty/sandy feet doing so. Le Mont St. Michel itself consists of the lower levels, which back in time, just like today, were inhabited by merchants and craftsmen. In other words – you cannot possibly buy all the souvenirs that are on offer here. But once you get through the very narrow and winding streets you are rewarded with a beautiful view, both of the monastery up above and the land and ocean surrounding the island. You can take the path way up to the top of the hill and wander all around outside and inside. It is truly a day trip and tourist traps aside we enjoyed it a lot.
A few days later when David’s best friend visited us, we decided to also cross off tourist-must-see #2 in Normandy France and drove up to Arromanches Les Bains. In 1944 this was part of ‘Gold Beach’. You can still see lots of old military items e.g. bunker, tanks etc. in smaller, as well as in bigger museums. And you will learn a lot of history just by wandering the streets, some named after the allied units, of all the little towns and villages. Keep looking for markers of notable incidents. I found it particularly interesting that, I believe only at ebb tide, you can still see the remnants of the artificial harbor built by the allies. Amazing after over 60 years. Obviously there are also a lot of cemeteries, of all countries involved, immaculately kept, with people visiting and paying their respects. A very memorable area both for Americans or Allies and Germans.