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Published: August 8th 2007
Looks unassuming herem but just picture thousands and thousands of troops storming the beach amidst a downpour of machine gun fire. Yikes. I can't imagine.
We're in Paris now, but I think it's important for me to report on the Juno Beach center where we spent two days after leaving the ski hill. If you don't know (and you SHOULD if you are a Canadian citizen!), Juno Beach is the name for the 8km stretch of Normandy coast line where the Canadians landed during the Allied Forces D-Day invasion. The Canadians did great and penetrated farther into occupied territory than any other group that day (although, looking around the area, I had to wonder if that was due to a more forgiving landing site). At any rate, they did great, although at a very high casualty price.
Now, in 2003, a Canadian Museum (sponsored by Walmart. Raaandom) is open at the site of the Juno Beach landing and does a create job of not only talking about the D-Day exploits of Canadian soldiers, but also the imprortance of Canadian troops in the war in general. It also did a really wonderfuly job of outlining how WWII helped, for the better, to shape our country into what it is today. I thought the museum was really well done and therefore spent 1 1/2 days exploring
60 years later, it's still here. Must have been built well.
it! (and it's really not that big). Apparantly we win the award for longest visit, by far, since January this year. Hehehe, Derek and I seem to take waaaay longer in museums than "normal" people, but I just don't know how people go through them so quickly! I like to learn and get as much out of a museum as I can. Generally, I wouldn't go to a museum if I wasn't interested in the topic, so there is always good incentive for me to get really in to the subject material.
I'll tell you a bit about our odyssey to get to the center, first. So, as I mentioned in my last entry, we took an overnight train to Paris with our friend Mo from high school, how was also in Meribel with us before. Mo is working on a co-op term as a guide at the Juno Beach Center and we were hoping to stay with him. I didn't get a LOT of sleep, but it was easily the best overnight journey of World Tour for me. Once in Paris, we had a frantic cross-city metro excursion, involving running with packs, to get to our connecting train
Me in the bunker
Now all it needs to protect me against is the wind and the rain. Thank goodness for that.
on time. We made it, though, and once in the city of Caens we boarded 1 hour long bus for Courselles-Sur-Mer, where the museum is located. The bus was slightly late and we accidently got off one stop early, so we had to seriously high tail it to the Juno Beach Center since Mo was already going to be a bit late for work. The plan was for Mo to give us his house key and show us on a map how to get to the house where the museum guides lived, then Derek and I would just take it easy for the day and come back to the museum to explore the next. Unfortunately, however, upon arrival we discovered the Mo's bosses where quite mad at him for being 15 minutes later than he said he would be, even though it was quite out of his control, and therefore where not very warm to the idea of Derek and I just showing up and expecting a place to stay (normally guides are supposed to fill out a form ahead of time if they have guests arriving). I was afraid of this, but Mo initially thought that it would be
Unfortunately my pictures of the Spitfire are kind of blurry, which is really too bad because Spitfires are my second favourite type of plane and this one had such a cool story attached
OK. While we waited for the dust to settle a bit, Derek and I entered the museum and began exploring. Taking as long to see everything as we normally do, we had only JUST finished "Canada in the 1930's" and entered the actual war exhibit when we began experiencing serious waves of faintness due to intense hunger. We didn't know how to get out, though, since we had to go through a media show to get IN in the first place. Luckily, though, Mo came by to see how we were doing and led us out to salvation.
We decided to go a few blocks to a sandwhich place to get lunch. I should mention at this point that there was a massive storm outside, with probably the strongest winds and rain we've experienced on our trip (and we were in Europe for that super crazy storm in January that caused havoc all over). Coupled with the highest tide of the year in an area that experiences really, really huge tide changes, it made for a dramatic scene. The trip to the sandwhich shop was a wet adventure, and in the end we found out that it was closed
TAKE THE BROCHURE!
Mo lets out his frustration on the unassuming visitor (just kidding, the picture is obviously staged).
on Tuesdays! Noooo! Who closes on Tuesdays? I can't understand the European shop keeper. Anyways, we pushed through the wet gale to reach the JBC once again and fended for ourselves from the vending machines. Nothing like a Snickers bar and mass produced muffins when you've been eating gourmet french food for the past few days. Mmmm.
Then Derek and I re-entered the museum, where we stayed until closing. In the end, it all worked out and we were allowed to stay in the guides' house, which was very nice indeed. We also got to meet the older French man (I forget his name) who locks the doors of the JBC. The next day I was looking at postcards in the gift shop and I picked up one of a soldier looking at a little boy in a stroller, being pushed by his mom. "That's Monsieur ________, who was locking up last night!" Mo told me. Cool! And now, here he is, all grown up, taking care of the monument to those same soldiers. I bought the postcard.
There were signs all around of the town's appreciation to Canadians. There were roads named things like "Avenue des Allies"
That's the real smiling, young, Canadian face that will greet you upon entry to the JBC.
and "Rue du Quebec," and when we were on the bus a man beside us saw our Canadian flags on our packs and started talking to us and pointing out all the important Canadian landmarks, like the first house in Normandy to be liberated by the Canadians (Mo said that he got to go inside, and the people were really friendly). I never met any young people during our time there. I wonder if they have the same appreciation as the older generation? Probably the museum would help instill it, if it was lacking.
The museum and the guides' house was quite the Canadian oasis for us. First of all, the museum had a section called "Canada Today" which was full of Canadiana like a real curling stone, and videos from The Nature of Things and The National. The kitchen of the house had essentials like "Magic Baking Powder" (you know, the one in the yellow and brown container) and "Club House Montreal Steak Spice." Rumor has it that there was even a pack of Tim Horton's coffee somewhere in the cuboard. It was fun. I was glad we were just about at the end of the trip because
Smiling Face #2
This is Sam, a guide from Toronto. The final guide of the trio, Katya, had that day off. There's pics of them on the JBC website, though, if you reallly want to see her!
so many videos of beautiful BC was enough to make a girl homesick (just a bit).
The museum had a special exhibit on highlighting the RCAF. That's why we had to come back for day 2, because I hadn't even touched it during our first visit. It was really neat, and included the super cool remains of an entire Spitefire plane that crash landed way back in WWII, and then was somehow only unearthed in 1989. Don't ask me how an entire airplane could go unnoticed for over 40 years.... But the neatest part, for me, was a book that contained a little writeup on every single RCAF member who died in the war and also had a section listing the names, numbers, and rank of RCAF POWs--and I found my grandpa! C.R. Page, Warrent Officer Second Class, St. Catherine's, Ont. I took about a billion pictures of the page in case they came out blurry.
We enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time in a true small, French town, but after two nights there we were ready to head to Paris for our final 5 nights before our flight home to Victoria. We are staying in
It was really nice to spend some time in a small French town. This picture isn't very good, but hopefully you get the idea. It was really quite a nice little sea side village. I couldn't help picturing allied troops around the corner and German snipers in the church towers and stuff, though... I can thank Saving Private Ryan for that. Plus our first night I went to sleep with thunder all around me, which I could have sworn was artillery shells...
a cheap hotel because we weren't able to find any available hostel rooms, but when we checked in on Thursday night it seemed to be pretty nice. The bathroom was as small as it could physically be and still fit a toilette, sink, and shower in, but it was clean and everything was in order. Sort of. The next morning I woke up to the sound of water pouring into a puddle and Derek saying, "there's been a major flood." Uh oh. Turns out that Derek is actually completely blind without his glasses and was unaware that he was creating a massive flood of our room when he was in the shower. He sort of had an idea at one point and waited a bit for the water to clear, but he didn't know it was as bad as it was. The tile floor of our room wasn't just wet, it was actually flooded. Luckily we had packed everything up pretty tightly the night before, so none of our things were damaged (although my iPod fell on the floor in the night and barely escaped a drenching). Nevertheless, it was a rough wake up to spend the first 20 minutes
My grandpa's name in the book listing RCAF POWs
soaking up water from your bedroom floor and ringing the towels out into the shower. I was scared we'd get charged for damages, but the staff were pretty friendly about the whole incident. There haven't been any floods since, so hopefully the dry spell will continue...
After drying out, we went to the Gallery of Modern Art, where I discovered that I absolutely hate Picasso's work. All of it. Hate it. If I ever saw something that made me roll up my nose in disgust it was ALWAYS by Picasso. OK, I admit there was one painting and a sculpture I kind of liked. But other than that.... Each to their own, I guess. Our admission price included entry to this special exhibit of Samuel Beckett, so we went to check it out. Bad idea. I am emotionally scarred and may never recover. The entire thing was just sooo disturbing. It was really multimedia and there were all kinds of creepy videos with strange sound effects playing all over the place. And the whole thing was set with realllly low, dark, disturbing lighting which really added to its creepiness. How could all that come from one man's head? That was the most disturbing part for me. *shudder* That was one museum exhibit where I made a point of not reading everything and just made my way through it as quickly as possible.
Today Derek and I parted ways so that he could check out famous sites like Notre Dam and the Ile de Paris while I went to the "Science Center to end all Science Centers!" (as we read in a guidebook in a bookstore). I didn't disappoint. It was HUGE with really high budget exhibits, but unfortunately not all of them were in English. My french has improved a lot and I could make out quite a bit if I tried really hard, but most of the time I couldn't be bothered. I won't go into all the glorious details because it would just bore everyone, but I can say that I really, REALLY love science! I just love it soooo much! There's no other way to describe it. Sitting and watching these little movies on how new advances in micro and macroscopic imaging techniques have provided insight into all facets of science just filled me with such joy. I'm glad I was in a dark section by myself because I was sitting there grinning like an idiot. I also got to see an amazing planaterium show and 3-D movie on the deep sea, which were both great. Although they were both in French the commentary was in that sloooow dooomsday voice that all science shows are in, so I could understand most of it. Not that it mattered--the amazing images could speak for themselves. All in all, a good day.
Afterwards Derek and I met up to go to the huge cathedral of Sacre Couer, which is supposed to have an unbeatable view since it's up on a hill, but there has been rain and fog our whole time here in Paris, so we couldn't see much. We also checked out Moulin Rouge, which was neat.
Tommorow, we fight the crowds at the Louvre! I really can't stress enough how excited I am to be shortly leaving a dense population area. I think some time in the sparsly populated Yukon will be juuuust the ticket for me. Derek said he went to a mall today which was so busy he couldn't move at some points. I'm glad I wasn't there. Mall crowds drive me crazy at the best of times!
OK, hopefully I'll be able to upload some pictures now, but Derek's camera didn't work here so I'm not sure if mine will. Later!
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