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Published: December 31st 2019
The trip continues and we move ever onward towards Christmas. The weather apart from the rain and wind of last night is being particularly kind to us . So where in the world is Gabby the motorhome? She left her quiet overnight spot and we drove the quiet empty roads to a massive parking area at the Battle of Normandy museum at Caen. We had a plan. Free to park, plenty of space , easy walking to the museum and then a bus ride into Caen. An overnight stop if we wanted it. All for free. We had made the plan to visit the museum as this year is the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings. Caen also had two magnificent abbeys - one built by William I for men and the other by his wife not to be outdone for women . There was also another castle . Having missed out on Falais the plan was to see this one come hell or high water .
There is a Zen saying that interested me "Knowledge is learning some every day " We find all our travels give us a certain amount of new information or fills in gaps
in our knowledge. "Wisdom is letting go of something every day " completes the saying . Sounds pretty good to me. Wandering round this battlescarred land we wonder if we ever have learned anything at all since the war ended . Do we have wisdom? I doubt it .
The museum opened at 9.30 a quite respectable hour. Entrance fee was extortionate in comparison to many we have been to . 17 euros 50 each and that was discounted for us as we were pensioners . It also gave us a euro off entry to the Cinema Circulaire at Arromanches which was likely to be closed by the time we got there. A euro off the Falais memorial which we were not going back to and a euro off a visit to the Guerre des civils which is closed for the season . We knew that we would hit problems with opening times whichever way we approached this trip. Christmas would come in the way .
We entered the foyer area and noticed that everything was well signed . You could not get lost . Green arrows showed the route to take. A route that would take us
through the world before and during the Second World War, the world after the war ended , the Cold War and much more . This all made a change from abbeys open and closed , great cathedrals and pretty scenery. The displays were housed in a purpose made dome. The story of the landings was shown through photographs, artifacts and films . We were to become immersed in the history of the landings over the next week or so. It was hard to get away from it . The allies launched the largest amphibious invasion in history when they attacked th German positions in Normandy on the 6th June 1944. We would soon be visiting the beaches - Juno , Sword . Omaha , Gold and Utah but today we were getting an overview. The dome curled round and round like a giant snail and along its walls were photographs of showing the destruction of cities across the part of France. City after city , personal items in cases . We saw small items , guns, ammunition, items collected from the Restistance movement . British , German and American uniforms and kit and even the most disturbing minature wooden coffin
sent to a collaborater. Such was the depth of feeling that it still had the ability to make us stop and wonder what the recipient must have felt when they recieved it . Cigarette packets , coca cola bottles . All items that told their own story . Running behind this was a continual commentary . Sometimes Winston Churchill , other times music from the period . Occaisionally the sounds of air raids and warnings . All things we saw told us of everyday life at an extraordinary time. Films were running showing the landings and a range of 1940's radios each played some newsreel from the period . We were immersed in it .
Round and round the snail like building we walked and entered the Balance of Power - a British fighter plan hung from the ceiling. Tanks filled the empty voids beneath us . It was all beautifully set out and told a story of untold misery and savageness . Sections of walls were preserved and leaning against them a bicycle . An everyday scene. Two living rooms set out as they would have been in the USA just after the war . Huge blue refrigerator
The war in the Far East
General Slim said of the war in the Far East - We are not forgotten nobody knows we are bloody here
- the sight of which people in the UK would never have seen or been able to imagine . Colourful furniture and TV's with images of Kennedy and the Soviet Union . We were coming up to the Cold War , newsreels and films showed the threat thought to be coming from the Soviet Union . Missile stockpiling and then a piece of Berlin Wall covered in grafitti.
Outside were the British and Canadian Gardens . Closed . Perhaps they close in Winter as it was too wet to open them. Perhaps we had just come on the wrong day. All the cafes were shut even though the museum was busy. WE came away feeling blown away by it all . We know the history . We have read about it , we have seen the films but yet seeing all this destruction in front of us made it seem more real. If I were to say to you come and visit one museum that tells you the history of the D D landings then this would be the one to see . So far anyway although over the next few days we will be visiting more of the
We had done our research Camper Contact again - told us of a parking area in Caen right next to the castle . Google EArth had confirmed it so what could possibly go wrong? Nothing . We had failed at Falais we were not going to fail at Caen surely not .
Caen was chaotic . Cars everywhere , buses and trams . We could have stayed where we were and walked in . 40 minutes would have taken us to the heart of the city . But now we drove . We came off one roundabout straight into a bus lane. No signs beforehand to warn us . Off the roundabout and into an area we should not have been in. The only clue the word BUS in big letters on the road . Trying to get out was not easy .Caen drivers were not going to do the decent thing and let us out , We await the ticket for our traffic violation . I spotted the parking signs for the castle . We signalled left and crossed the tram lanes only to find the parking shown on Google Earth did not exist anymore
and we were heading for underground parking . Underground parking and motorhomes do not go together . I had to watch behind as we slowly but surely reversed back across the tram lines praying a tram would not come and that the drivers would be kind enough to let us out before we were squashed to oblivion, No Caen drivers are not that kind . Eventually our girl Gabby found herself back on the road with nowhere to go . We couldnt park for the castle . Shortsighted of them. We could get nowhere near the abbey for men nor the one for the women of Normandy. We cursed Google . We cursed Camper contact . We cursed Caen for not thinking about the camping car fraternity who wanted to spend money in the city, Caen had to be missed but at least we got to see one of the things we had earmarked .
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