France: Day 3 – Normandy

Friday morning Richard and Gordon went to get our rental car and the rest of us took it easy and watched cartoons in French.  (Kids never mind a language barrier when it comes to television.) 

By the time we had everything situated and hit  the road it was nearly lunch time.  Once we got out of the city, and waited in a ridiculously long toll queue, we stopped for lunch.  At McDonald’s of course.  Isn’t that where you are supposed to eat in France?  Let’s just say we were in a hurry.  But they did have kiosk ordering, which was a huge relief.  (Language barrier.)  We got back on the road and continued our drive through a gorgeous autumn French countryside.  It was so lovely.   It was different than driving through the English countryside, because in England often the trees come right up to the motorway so you can’t see beyond them, or there are tall hedges.  In France there was so much farm land, and hills that you could see all around.  

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This bad boy was our transportation. Oh yeah. Party van.

Our first stop was Omaha Beach, where American troops landed on D-Day.  It was gorgeous at the beach, so warm that people were swimming. It was hallowed ground for sure. In fact, it felt weird to me to see people splashing about, but I don’t think those who lost their lives there would have it any other way.  It was the French people they fought for, and in my short visit I saw many expressions of gratitude from the French people.   In fact, the monument, Les Braves, was commissioned by the French government in 2004 in honor of the Americans who liberated France.  
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Just getting some wiggles out after the long drive.

After spending some time on the beach we walked up the road to a small museum that gave those of us (me) with little WWII knowledge a little background and information.  It also had life-size displays, which gave great visualizations of the events in the area surrounding D-Day.  
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Cameron identified the proper name for this tank the minute he saw it. Little history buff with an impeccable memory.

After we left the museum we drove over to the American cemetary, but it had barely closed.  So we did a little walking down to another monument, and around the countryside above the beach.  The kids found some old war tunnels and bunkers and played while the adults reflected and admired.  

Despite good efforts, I think each generation beyond the generation most affected by the war, feels it less personally.  Visiting these places with Gordon was a blessing because I can tell that the events of that day, and those years, mean more to him than they do to me. My one hope is that taking the kids to these places will increase the likelihood that they will value and reverence the tragedy that was WWII.  

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Dusk love.

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Not many buildings in the French villages along the coastline survived the war, German officers ordered them destroyed to clear the skyline for a better view of the beaches. The few that did survive were often used as hospitals, which was the case with this old Victorian beauty.

When it got cool and dark enough we rounded up the kids and loaded up the white van.  It was a drive back to the hotel, which was in a quaint little town.  We checked into our rooms and then ventured back out to find a place to eat and buy an electrical adapter since our little hotel didn’t have one for us to use.  

It took much longer than it should have to find a place to eat because we were trying to conserve Gordon’s iPhone battery.  We knew we would be literally lost without the iPhone.  Which we were, later.  But we found a tasty Italian place and I told Richard when we went in that I had a good feeling about it.  Which turned out to be legit, the food was really good.  But I did find myself wishing I had ordered what Richard ordered.  (That seems to happen a lot…) 

We didn’t have any luck finding a place to buy an electrical adapter so we were once again trying to conserve iPhone battery.  This meant that I made a bad judgment call as primary navigator to the driver, against the driver’s better judgment, which resulted in a really long detour.  And it was late and we were all tired.  Thankfully no one heckled me about it and eventually we made it back to the hotel, safe and exhausted.  

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Mim was thrilled to have a real bed, and to be in a London themed room.

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