Normandy after Paris

France's flag
Europe » France » Lower Normandy
July 8th 2006
Published: July 8th 2006
Edit Blog Post


A perfect daylily in Monet's garden.Mor eof that later in the blog
Bonjour, notre fils et notre filles et tout les enfants. Aussi, bonjour nos amie's et nos ami's,

The Paris we visited was different from our previous experience, where we stayed in a hotel near the Arc de Triumph and followed the museum trail. This time our apartment near St Germaine was in a narrow back street, behind huge wooden doors. We were about 8 steps up on a mezzanine floor and when we entered, we went up another 6 steps with a petite bathroom on one side and a smaller kitchenette on the other. That left just enough room for a bed, a small table and a TV.

But the real Paris was outside our door. A bar on the corner and another across the road, our own boulangerie and boucherie, fruit market and just along the street more of the same. We were a few blocks from the Seine and in another direction Odeon and the Latin Quarter. Our metro station was a block away and we had a good bus service across the river (and to Gare St Lazare - a blessing when we left for Normandy as we avoided the stairs at the Metro).
Paris addressParis addressParis address

Our little street on the left bank

What did we do? Not much, we just ambled about and tried to emulate the Parisians - up late, lots of coffee and food and drink and late nights. Cheered for Togo in their match against France, fairly demurely, as we were in a bar with lots of noisy French supporters, and cried quietly at home at the end of the last Australian match. It was great to be in the right time zone, even if the commentary was in French.

We met up with Bronwyn Mclean in Paris before she was to join us in Normandy and enjoyed a lovely time in the Luxemburg Gardens and at a great resturant near the Pantheon. The next afternoon, the three of us visited the Picasso museum, walked leisurely throgh the Marais and went on to a choral Mass at Notre Dame. We had tried to visit the cathedral a couple of days before (to compare it with those we had visited in Riemmes and Chartres) but could only join the crowd outside and watch on giant screens a service to ordain 8 new priests. The music was so powerful, we decided then to come back for the evening Mass on
Paris courtyardParis courtyardParis courtyard

Entry to our little home. It was a bustling street but very quiet once inside
the Sunday. We arrived early, had good seats and were feeling relaxed when the giant organ began a fanfare for the procession of the choir, the clergy and the Archbishop. The music just built up and immersed you. When the service started, the organ played and through the music we could hear the amazing sound of a boy soprano and then the full choir (children, teens and adults).

We were met on Tuesday at Caen Station by our host Sara and as we travelled through the city and out to our new home in Hermanville sur Mer, she was able to make us feel comfortable with our surroundings. Then we met the rest of the family, Patrice, Eva (7) and Yanis (6) who were about to undertake an amazing journey through Singapore to Harvy Bay (home exchange), Darwin (h/e), on the Ghan to Alice and by car to Uluru, to Auckland (h/e), Rotarua (h/e), the South Island (mobile home) and to Putney where they will arrive just before we leave for the autumn leaves in Japan. After Putney, they will drive via Canberra to Melbourne and be back home for the New Year.

We had the Wednesday in

The latest in kitchen design for small spaces. It had everything we could want but only one person could work in it at a time
Caen, helped them onto the train to Paris and then drove home on the next stage of our adventures. We were joined the next day by Kylie and Tom (from Canberra and the World Cup in Germany, on their way to London) for a coupe of days and by Bronwyn who stayed a week before leaving by train to Hamburg to catch up with Deanna and Gerd at Karin and Herbert’s in Oersdorf.

This part of the Normandy coast was where the D-Day landings took place on the 6th June 1944.

In the early hours 700 parachute soldiers where dropped near a German battery at Merville. A number of the planes were blown off course and only 150 soldiers, with limited equipment, were left to take the battery. Its big guns covered 12 miles up the beaches and could have prevented the landing taking place. Shortly before dawn, the first gliders landed within metres of the important bridges over the canal (Pegasus) and river, about 3km inland and within 10 minutes they were secured (before the Germans could demolish them.) Other commandoes were dropped further inland to blow up key bridges to stop German tanks and troops being
Notre Dame Notre Dame Notre Dame

Beautiful as always
sent when the landing started. One group were again landed away from their target, commandeered a jeep and trailer, loaded it with explosives, drove at breakneck spead through the ountryside and then through the Germans in the town who shot at them, stopped on the bridge, unhooked the trailer, set a short fuse and drove off the other side as the bridge collapsed. Mission accomplished!!

The area between Ouistreham (where the ferry leaves on its 6 hour trip to Plymouth) and Hermanville was known as Sword Beach and was the site for the British landings. Further along the coast was Juno (Canadians), Gold (British), and Omaha and Utah beaches (the American and French landings). There are memorials, museums and historic sites over the 30kms of the landings, including the artificial harbour at Arromanches that is still visible at low tide. These huge concrete moorings were towed across and sunk to allow heavy equipment to be landed.

Here in our village, we have the well that provided 1.5 million gallons of fresh water to the British troops during the first 4 weeks. One of the bells on our church had been damaged by shellfire, but the BBC was able
Notre Dame serviceNotre Dame serviceNotre Dame service

A special service for the ordination of new priests. We were in the crowd outside where huge screens and amplifiers broadcast the service.
on the 10th of June to broadcast to occupied Europe the peeling of the other two bells and on the 18th of June they broadcast from the church the first Mass held since the German occupation. This caused much excitement in the rest of France. There is a British War Cemetry in the village and as you can understand, we have been very moved by the events of that time.

Another great visit was to the Peace Museum in Caen. It is a huge museum and Kylie (and the res tof us) were impressed with the quality displays and signage throughout the museum. It carried you along with the story of war (particlarly WW2) but was never boring. It probably is a museum to visit over 2 days to see it all. Below the main gallery they have set up the Nobel Peace Prize gallery in a German bunker that was already there and it feels really strange to be in what was the command bunker whilst looking at images of those who have worked for peace.

This has been a great finish to a fantastic trip, to have two weeks in our own French village. One of
The newly ordained priests.The newly ordained priests.The newly ordained priests.

Later we went with Bronwyn to the high choral mass when the grand organ was used.
the features was to be able to hunt and gather, getting our various types of pain, baguettes and pastries from the village, picking the strawberries and rasberries and climbing the tree to collect the cherries as they ripen. The beach has white sand and lots of mussel shells, which caused us to search out the seafood markets. We have read lots, watched English language TV and the football in French and have when moved, gone t the beach or done a little touring.

On our visit to Bayeux to see the tapestry, we were able to join in a medieval pageant and eat traditional food. The tapestry itself is an interesting story about William the bastard or William the Conqueror (depending on your viewpoint) and his invasion of England. On another day we visited Monet’s garden at Giverny which was a real treat. The garden was a picture and the water lily pond was beautiful and just as he painted it.

Last Friday, le Tour de France passed through Caen for the first time since 1978. It was great to see the celebrations and the carnival that goes with it. We may have been better to go out
Luxembourg GardensLuxembourg GardensLuxembourg Gardens

The gardens are like cottage gardens set amidst beautifully groomed lawns. There aren't "keep of the grass" signs but there are signs to say where you can sit on the grass. We saw no-one break the law!
into the countryside, on one of the hills, to see the riders as where we were at the 2km mark near the end of the sprint, we saw them all in a bunch speeding past. Robbie McEwen, in his green shirt, was easily recognisable and with 5 of them having the same time, he was unfortunate to be declared 4th, but it was fun to be in Caen with the crowds and enjoy the atmosphere.

It has been cool the last couple of days with some rain and if it gets warmer, we will spend our last few days on the beach before getting the bus, the tram and the train to Paris on Tuesday. Our next big adventure will be in Sydney and we hope to catch up with everyone as soon as possible.

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 28


Luxembourg Gardens againLuxembourg Gardens again
Luxembourg Gardens again

The palace in the background is where the senate sits now.
Luxembourg Gardens sculptureLuxembourg Gardens sculpture
Luxembourg Gardens sculpture

Catherine de Medici (the one who kicked the mistress out off Chenonceau) under the trees.
Paris OperaParis Opera
Paris Opera

Finally managed to visit the restored Paris Opera building. It is a marvel of marble and decoration.
Paris Opera ceilingParis Opera ceiling
Paris Opera ceiling

The magnificent Chagall painting on the ceiling
Paris Opera vestibuleParis Opera vestibule
Paris Opera vestibule

Sumptuous to say the least!
Caen waterwayCaen waterway
Caen waterway

Caen quay in the centre of the city. We took a canal ride in this boat to Oustreham where the Plymouth ferry leaves from.
Off to AustraliaOff to Australia
Off to Australia

Sara, Patrice, Eva and Yanis at Caen railway station before their big o/s journey of 20,000kms!
Scene in CaenScene in Caen
Scene in Caen

They can really clean the stone -but it seems a slow and painstaking process. Much of Caen was destroyed in June 1944 and it is quite a modern city now.

As part of our D Day tour we came here where the Mulberry harbour was built. 6 days after June 6 they wer unloading men and weapons etc at this temporary floating harbour that was towed from England in bits!

9th July 2006

Nice to read you
Hello ! it's nice to have the latest news ! You've done quite a lot of interesting things. It's an excellent description of our area, and it's great you managed to have some friends with you. I'm glad to see you enjoyed the garden and the fruits. We wish you now a safe trip back home. Sara, Patrice, Eva and Yanis (who are enjoying a lot in Hervey Bay, and who will be very happy to see you again in a few months).

Tot: 0.129s; Tpl: 0.014s; cc: 14; qc: 54; dbt: 0.0686s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb