Sunday, May 29, 2011
I am making sure that this blog post goes up tonight because I feel that this week will be another world-wind and I want to make sure I don't leave out details from this amazing weekend in France. I think we may be headed to the French Open tomorrow, let's hope! After attempting to watch long videos on D-day and 1066, we headed off to Normandie (Normandy) on a bus early Friday morning. 4 hours and an Americano coffee later, we arrived at the first stop, Caen-Normandie Memorial. It was filled with WWII items and history. The interior of the museum was very neat, with pieces of old walls placed within, showing some of the damage done to structures and the graffiti written on the walls. This is also where the famous "Non-violence" statue of a knotted gun is, positioned right outside of the museum behind an array of different flags. After the museum, we headed to Omaha Beach, known for the date of June 6, 1944. It is a beautiful beach, but very eerie. No one is really "playing" on the sand, but rather taking the time to reflect in silence or by strolling down the once blood red beaches to remember the lives lost and the unimaginable bravery displayed by every man that stepped foot on that very place. After climbing back up the steep hills that lead down to the beach, we visited the American cemetery. It is hard to describe in words the shock that you feel when you see how many graves are located there. There is no seeing the end, only white crosses that go on forever. There are some graves that belong to the unknown, and a large amount of men were taken back to their homes by request of their family. It was beautifully designed, and a place where they can truly be respected. Finally, as far as WWII sites go, we visited Point du Hoc, which sits on a very steep cliff on the ocean. It is littered with large craters, twisted wires, and dark, deep shelters. This is where you see the lasting effects of war on a landscape. Our "surprise" for the day was to visit an orchard that is known for their calvados and apple cider (essentially similar to an apple-flavored wine). The calvados was strong, but sweet, and the apple cider and apple juice we tasted was refreshing. I ended up buying a bottle of the cider, which is in a pretty blue bottle and the traditional wire covered cork. Finally, it was time to go to our hotel and eat a long awaited meal in Normandie. At Cafe Bois Charbon, I ordered the Salade Terre et Mer, which was sauteed mushrooms, bacon, smoked salmon, and foie gras (fattened duck liver). This was the first time I have tried it, and it was not too bad. Definitely different, but I decided taking some risks in food while here is the right thing to do. I also had a sample of escargot, which turned out to be better than I remembered. We also ordered red wine to go with the rest of the meal, which involved Confit de Canard (duck with potatoes), and Moulleux ay Chocolat (chocolate cake). I was so full from our meal that I practically rolled myself back to the hotel. After a nice sleep but then waking up to a piercing phone ring, we headed to the British cemetery, which contained very different headstones from the American cemetery. The inscriptions and seeing the young ages of soldiers brought me to tears. There was also a large structure across the main cemetery that commemorated the 1,807 soldiers who have no known grave. This Bayeux (pronounced Bayou) War Cemetery is the largest commonwealth cemetery, and contains soldiers from not just Britain, but Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Poland, etc... We then went to the Musee Memorial 1944 Bataille de Normandie. It provided very similar information to the other museums, but it also had tanks and other vehicles used out on display. We managed to get a picture with one of the tanks outside, and then headed to see the very old history of Normandie, which involved the war of 1066. Inside this next museum contained the Tapisserie de Bayeux, a 70 meter long tapestry that depicted the story of the battle of 1066, or the Battle of Hastings which was the Norman conquest England. The artwork is almost 1000 years old, being done during the High Middle Ages. We finally headed back to Paris, and got ready for an amazing night out. We returned to the Irish Pub on St.Denis, and walked into a bar packed full of futbol loving men watching the Barcelona- Manchester United game. After a 3-1 win by Barcelona and being jammed packed in a sea of foreign men (some not too fresh smelling), we finally found an area to dance in the basement. It had the strobe lights and DJ and everything that we had been looking for, rather than just sitting and enjoying a beer. Everyone was out, and I think everyone can say they had one of the best nights on the town thus far.