Published: June 16th 2012June 16th 2012
Ah Caen, the city that... I know nothing about. It was close to the beaches and easily accessible.
Making it to the correct address was a relief. But I did not have the key to the apartment that I was renting for the weekend. The owner's mother was to meet me there and give me the key. Looking at the call button list and having no clue what his last name was, or what floor he was on, I got a little nervous. An elderly woman was about to enter the building, so in broken French I asked if she knew a Chris that lived there. Blank stare. Then she started rambling away. I skipped trying to find a middle language and showed her the name on my phone. Still nothing. Shortly after that, another woman walked towards the door. I asked her the same question and thankfully she knew the name and correct floor that this apartment was on, she let me. I walked up to the 2nd floor (3rd floor in American terms), knocked on the door and was warmly greeted by an middle aged woman and an old man. They showed me around, gave me their phone
Men over looking the sea and the land.
number and were off to dinner. Smooth sailing from here, so I thought.
Standing in a large apartment, with huge French windows, and fresh air is a liberating feeling. The host had also turned on an ancient radio that was playing classical music which seemed fitting. I left it on for the remainder of the evening. Standing out on the balcony, which over looked the city center and marina, I heard distant cheers from a bar, and car horns blaring. Le blue (the French National Futbol team) had just scored a goal. I had forgotten that they were playing! I raced down the stairs and found the nearest cafe to watch the remainder of the game with the locals. They won 2-0, and the cafe was jubilant. Tired from a long day of traveling, sleep seemed to be the best option.
The next morning, the sun coming through the thin curtains awoke me earlier than I had planned. But I had some research to do. Where to go was the question of the day. I had a sense, but not enough to be totally confident. After awhile of scouring over endless amounts of too much information on the
d-day beaches and all that it has to offer, I packed my bag and headed out for another unstructured quest. The market seemed like a good start. Fresh banana and apple was the simple breakfast of the day. Coffee is essential as well. I walked around town to find a nice spot with lots of other people to sit and enjoy a tiny, tiny cup of coffee. For that is how the French do it, a shot of coffee.
Finding the perfect cafe where the morning sun and hot coffee warmed my core, I was finally ready to find my way to the beaches. My research suggested that the bus verte was the easiest way to get there. Buying a ticket, I was finally ready to go see some history.
But before I got to the beaches I was pleasantly surprised. The country side was something I wasn't prepared for. Picturesque towns surrounded with stone walls with no building younger than 300 hundred years old, or so it seemed, the drive was almost out of a movie. It was stunning. If only the bus windows were clean, and we stopped for a minute, I could have taken a
nice picture. However that was not the case.
Side note, apparently being French means never being warm. On the bus ride, every person aboard was wearing a coat. Two were even wearing parkas with fur hoods, plus the heat was cranked up! I was sweating like a pig shedding every article of clothing I could. It was insane! Not the first time a situation like this has happened either.
Anyway. After this beautiful, but stifling bus ride, the beaches of Normandy finally came into view. And slowly but surely I began realizing that my morning research was a failure. Juno beach was my final destination. I could have gone further, but the chances of making it home on time were slim. Not willing to take the chance Juno beach would have to do. For those of you who are history buffs, Juno beach was which site? The site where the Canadians stormed on Normandy. It is also probably the only time you hear the nation of Canada involved in WWII. Not that I have anything wrong with the Canadians or their contribution towards the war, but I would have much rather seen an American, French or even German
A red glow covered the walls representing the effects that the rapid change of supply and demand had on the world. This toppled Europe's vulnerable economy as well.
site. History has presented many more stories involving these nations compared to Canada in the war. Walking into the museum that was proudly labeled "Canada's ONE Museum "
I had high hopes. It couldn't be that bad.
Well, it was pretty bad. The scattered stories, data, and random information was hard to read. There was no flow in the exhibits. Some of the videos were out of service and there were only a few artifacts recovered from the beach that was literally 100 yards away. It was really disappointing, I came all this way for mediocre museum? Oh Canada.
I waited for next bus, to my disappear, with the same bus driver who had the heat on just as high despite the obvious change in temperature. Regardless I headed back to Caen. Now, you are probably questioning why I choose Caen to visit the d-day beaches. It is because they have one of the greatest WWII museums in the world. Le Memorial de Caen. This museum better be good, I kept telling myself.
And by all means it was. Nothing could have prepared me it. The museum begun with a spiral ramp called paths of memory, beginning
Juden werden hier nicht bedient
Signs similar this were posted at German institutions outlawing Jews to that establishment.
in 1914. As the exhibit progressed, the hall became more morbid and dark as you walked along a time line that took you deeper and deeper into the world of the 1920's and 30's. You could actually feel like something was going to erupt. A timeline described main events that created high tension throughout Europe and the United States. The sounds of soldiers marching and Hitlers rattling voice made for a eerie ambiance.
For the next 3 hours, yes it took three hours to go through, I was mesmerized by charts, information, pictures, videos, and artifacts which made the whole thing very personal. It was like being transported back to this horrific era of massacre. Sad-that is the only word I can use. The whole thing, the war, the suffering, the deaths, the stories and I wasn't even there. Almost reduced to tears after a video showing Jewish men running into a pre-dug mass grave in Latvia, I had take a breath. This graphic video was unimaginable. The whole thing was incredible. It is hard to find words for it.
Wrapped up in this world of war, I finally found the exit feeling mentally exhausted. If you are
ever in the area of Caen, or you know someone who is, tell them to visit this museum. It is life rendering. That is why Caen was the city of choice. I will never forget my three hours spent in that museum.
So as for the d-day beaches, not so much. But I got more than enough history of the world through one tremendous museum. It was WELL worth the trip.