Tuesday- We left the apartment at 630 and caught trains until we got to a car rental place we had our eye on. With minimal stress we rented a little manual minivan thing and loaded our backpacks. Morgan is driving while we cruise along in the French countryside. Abe is sleeping which he does alot of the day:) Its quite green here with lots of trees on both sides of the road and the occasional roll of hills, much like Michigan. And sometimes Pennsylvania. It’s sunny and warm, truly an ideal day. We’re on an interstate towards the coast and Omaha Beach. The vehicles here are mostly small, electric or eco-friendly cars. No pickups and no older vehicles. The cars have been seen pulling anything from a camper to a boat so they apparently have more guts than it appears. We stopped in an obscure little village just off our route looking for a Cafe and instead found a local market where no one spoke English. It was exactly what we were looking for so we spent half an hour strolling and trying to use expressive hand motions to portray which sandwich we wanted. Morgan got some paella that was so so good and then we were back on the road.
The first stop was in a decent sized town called Caen. You can easily find it on a map. We went to a big WW2 museum called Memorial de Caen and spent several hours watching films and reading and going through artifacts. I never cease to be amazed at the senseless loss of life all for the love of power. I left the museum feeling a little blue at humanity. We drove our sweet van over to Omaha Beach after the museum and spent some time walking on the sand at low tide, looking for seashells and remembering the past. The countryside is beautiful here on the coast. Overgrown bushes all over and vintagey brick houses that come right to the road. Small curving one-lane roads wind through the little villages that are full of French country charm that people at home pay HomeGoods for to get the look. Against the old brick houses grow holly hocks and hydrangeas in abundance. Roses spring over gates that hang ajar and jersey cows graze when we reach countryside again. It is idyllic. After the beach exploring, Morgan, Madison, and I drove over to Point du Hoc, a 5 minute drive from the Omaha Beach memorial. Point du Hoc are where the US Rangers took the cliffs and German bunkers step by step in the bloodiest battle of D-Day. We walked out on a gravel path. The sight is preserved simply with a waist high fence around it and small signs. The area we walked along the top of the cliffs was littered with huge craters from the fighting. We explored the bunkers that are left sitting quiet and empty, the rusted barbed wire still strewn along as a last effort of defense, and the cliffs with chunks missing for hundreds of yards. When you look out at the beautiful English channel, its hard to imagine such a lovely place once so full of sadness.
For supper I got a very mediocre Margherita pizza, with melted cheese and missing the basil if that tells you anything. We found a cheap Airbnb 20 minutes down the road so drove there and found ourselves in an old French farmhouse of stone and exposed beams. Hans and Myriam welcomed us with open arms and now we are in the attic room with 5 beds and a church bell that chimes outside our window.
Wednesday- This morning we visited with Hans as we breakfasted on marmalade and croissants and French baguettes and coffee. He knows and is personally friends with many veterans from D-Day. 800 veterans have came to stay at their little house BnB so he had lots of stories. There is one old gentleman that was on the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day that he is good friends with. Hans recommended a couple places to us so away we went. We stopped at some old bunkers and then the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. On our way out of the area we stopped to see a church steeple that an American paratrooper had landed on, getting caught by his parachute. Here’s an article about it 🙂 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Steele_(paratrooper) We got sausage sandwiches from a little street vendor and ate them on the way back into Paris. We also stopped at a rest area on the way back. See below picture. So you do the hover over the floor toilet, and scuttle out of the stall because when you’re finished it flushes and then water shoots from three sides of the stall and “self-cleans”. If you are still standing there when it starts, you’re legs are toast. Its a process alright.
Morgan dropped us off and went to return the van when we got back to the city. Madison went to the Musee d’Orsay to see some Van Gogh paintings, the guys went walking, and I walked along the Seine and people watched. We all got supper together yet and then bid Levi and Abe farewells and they caught a bus back to London to fly home. We are sitting in a FlixBus waiting to leave Paris, and we are bound for Prague. This double decker bus has wifi and charging ports that work so thats a step up from our last one. Its an overnight bus so we will sleep hopefully and we get into Prague around noon! Ciao.