Sunday, September 02, 2007


Scott and I spent drove to Normandy for the Bank Holiday weekend. It still amazes me that whereas before, living in the States, our most exotic 3-day weekend would be on the order of Vermont, it's now France. In 5 hours drive. Just like that.

We stayed in Bayeux, home to the famous Bayeux Tapestry, a 230 foot long, expertly embroidered cloth depicting the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. It is believed to have been embroidered a decade or two after the conquest and is a truly fascinating historical document. I've wanted to see it for quite a while, and was not disappointed.

Bayeux is also home to a stunning 900 year old cathedral. Of course the heads of all statues within reach of several waves of protestant zealots and revolutionaries have long since been lobbed off, but luckily lots of beautiful carvings have survived. And also lots of creepy ones! The kind that I suppose were supposed to help people in 1100 better envision the fires of hell.

And of course there are the D-Day landing beaches. We spent all of Sunday winding through narrow country lanes that have probably changed very little since 1944, following occasional signs pointing to "D-Day Le Choc" (le choc = the impact). Scott was an excellent guide, reading aloud first hand accounts of Allied soldiers who landed at each beach we visited.

I suppose it is inevitable that with the passage of time WWII holds less relevance for people, even here, but I couldn't help feeling that WWII meant little more to people than a means to part tourists from their euros, as opposed to a fascinating aspect of the area's history. The "museums" are nothing more than garages filled with rusted debris, a few heavily made-up 1970s mannequins in army fatigues, and Glen Miller playing over loud speakers. The exception is the American Cemetery which has a thoughtful interpretive center where I actually learned something about the experiences of the soldiers buried there.

Early Monday morning we set off for home, planning to stop for breakfast in Rouen to see the cathedral there. Unfortunately it was closed! But Rouen has a lovely and well preserved medieval town center which we wandered around for a while, and a number of other really excellent churches such as the Abbaye de Saint-Ouen.

Take a look at some photos, either in the slide show below or, for better images, here (and click SLIDESHOW).

No comments: