Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Le Tour de France: Bayeux

Tuesday, June 17
At breakfast in Giverny we met another guest who was going to Bayeux, but the trains were not running because of the strike. Her husband was biking from Paris (he had started several days prior) and she was going to meet him there. So we gave her a ride! We stopped in Honfleur, a coastal town on the way. We parked the car in a lot near the water, and walked to the city center to see the cathedral. It is a wooden church, so different from the many stone churches we have seen throughout Europe. A funeral was in progress, and there were uniformed gentlemen in the square. After the procession, we went inside the church and saw many seafaring decorations on the altar and hung on the walls. Dan thought the person who passed away was a sailor, and had served in the military.

The houses along the water in Honfleur reminded me of Copenhagen. Also, just about every town in France seems to have a carousel.

Honfleur

Carousel

Dan and I hiked up the Côte de Grâce to see the views over Honfleur, while our new friend explored town and did some shopping. We took a few wrong turns, but eventually found the trail. The day was cool and overcast, but still a nice view of town and the water. On the way down we passed a house decorated with a giant boat made of paper streamers. We wondered if it was the home of the person whose funeral had taken place earlier. 

Dan on the trail

Our Giverny B&B host Sandrine had recommended having moules marinière avec creme in Honfleur, so after the hike we met up with our friend and had mussels for lunch, then set off for Bayeux. We dropped off our friend at her hotel, and met her husband who had arrived by bike. They shared their contact information in New York (my brother is moving there next month), and we said farewell. Then Dan and I went to see the Bayeux tapestry. We had to wait in line for about half an hour, because the number of visitors is controlled. I enjoyed the audioguide that accompanied the viewing. The tapestry is very, very old and shows the battle at Hastings when a Norman duke fought and became the king of England. The details of the embroidery are really lovely, I especially liked the horses on the ships and the meat on skewers for the feast before the battle. Then we toured the museum, and watched a film about the tapestry. I may have dozed off during the movie.

Then we drove to Hotel de Sainte Croix and checked in. Our room on the third floor was purple-themed, with a small balcony overlooking the garden. The bathroom was huge! We unpacked, I had a cup of tea on the balcony, and Dan checked his baseball scores. Then it was off to dinner at Le Nonan'T, a restaurant our host Florence recommended, just around the corner from the B&B. The decor was orange-themed, but the food was very good. Our server at dinner gave us a brochure about some events at the cathedral. June 6 was the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, so there were events commemorating the occasion. We saw flags all over during our stay in Normandy. I wonder if its just for the 70th anniversary, or all the time. 

Flags

We were very full from dinner and decided to walk along the river path, which reminded me of the canals in Bruges, with flowers and ivy growing on the walls.

Bayeux

Eventually we made our way to the cathedral, which was lit up for a light show that was happening later. A big mulberry tree in the courtyard that apparently is quite old was illuminated as well. We had just missed a concert of a visiting choir, but we went inside the cathedral and also down into the crypt. Since it was late and we were both tired, we skipped the light show and went to bed.

Cathedrale Notre Dame

Wednesday, June 18
Breakfast was croissants, a crepe with caramel sauce, brioche with jam, fruit, yogurt, juice, and coffee for me. Dessert for breakfast. We walked across the square to a deli and bakery for picnic food. We saw a produce stand on the drive and got some cherries and apricots. Our first stop was Arromanches, where we saw the remains of the artificial harbor built for D-Day. We walked along the beach, and saw a group of young people in hard hats walking out to the beach. Then we hiked up the path along the cliff, and saw them down below. They seemed to be standing around, waiting for something. Dan said he saw a beagle, but I wasn't able to get a close look. So an unconfirmed beagle sighting. We hiked along the coast for awhile, saw a few other people and a bicyclist. Eventually we turned back.

Arromanches

Dan & Port Winston

Normandy coast
 
Like a Monet painting!

On the way back, just as we approached the spot of the purported beagle sighting, two cars pulled up with reporters and cameramen. They looked down at the the young people in hard hats, who were still standing around on the beach. We walked back down to the beach to see what was happening. Dan asked a cameraman, and from what we understood, the young people were students promoting a project, and a parasailor would fly over them. We watched him try to take off, but the wind was carrying him toward the cliff instead of the ocean.

Beach promotion

We walked to the other side of town, and Dan checked out an American Sherman tank. From there, I saw the parasailor take flight!

Dan checking out a tank

Next we drove to Longues-sur-Mer, the German gun batteries. Dan looked at each one carefully, while I looked at the poppies in the fields and the view of the ocean.

Longues-sur-Mer battery

Longues-sur-Mer gun battery

Normandy coast

We were going to picnic there, but several tour buses arrived, so we drove off and found a picnic table on the road. I also got an eclair at a bakery. Then we continued on to Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. We spent quite a long time there. We watched several films in the visitor center, then saw the markers for the soldiers who sacrificed their lives. I had planned the D-Day part of the trip for Dan, and did not expect to feel emotional, but it was very moving. We also walked down to Omaha beach, where the American soldiers landed.

Unknown soldier

Dan at Omaha Beach

Then we stopped at Ferme de la Sapinière, where we sampled apple ciders. There is even rosé cider, which apparently is quite explosive so you can only buy one bottle if traveling. Or perhaps we misunderstood.

Apple orchard

We continued on to Pointe du Huc, where US Ranger forces scaled tall rock cliffs after crossing the English Channel to take on more German gun batteries.

Pointe du Huc

Pointe du Hoc

After all those D-Day sites (and that is just a few of the many along the Normandy coast), we returned to the B&B for a little rest. Our host Florence made dinner reservations for us at Au Ptit Bistrot, near the cathedral. Dinner was delicious, especially one of the entrees, a puff pastry filled with seafood in cream sauce, yum. I had salmon for the plat, which was perfectly cooked. So often the fish at home is overcooked, but not in France. After dinner we went for a walk along the river in the other direction. We saw some people walking dogs on a big field, and Dan spotted a rabbit!

Water wheel

Thursday, June 19
Breakfast was croissants, brioche, peaches, vanilla pudding, custard tart, two kinds of cheese, baguette, juice, and coffee. So much dessert for breakfast! Even though I love dessert I can't eat that much of it in the morning, so Dan finished my pudding and custard tart. We met some ladies from California at breakfast. One asked Dan if he is retired, hahaha! Because our trip is over 3 weeks. It was funny. Dan said he wished he were retired. Sigh.

After packing up, we left our luggage at the B&B and walked around Bayeux. And saw a beagle. A French beagle! I asked if I could pet the beagle and showed a picture of Arrow. The lady spoke excellent English and said she had friends from Atlanta, who say there are many beagles in the US. And in England, of course. It was quite funny. It was our first confirmed beagle sighting in France!

Next we looked inside the conservatory of lace where several ladies were working on lace patterns, it looked extremely difficult and complicated. Also went into the cathedral again so Dan could see it in the daylight. We walked to an embroidery shop with reproductions of the tapestry we saw a few days ago. Also walked through a pedestrian-only shopping area, and stopped at the pharmacy to buy sunscreen for Dan and Smecta, which our neighbor at home had requested. Then it was time for lunch. We went to L'Assiette Normand, a charming restaurant by the cathedral. An older gentleman sitting next to us was wearing an American Legion hat with Mississippi printed on it. Dan asked if he was from there, but he was French. He said he had gone there for training. Dan thought he probably served in WWII.

L'Assiette Normand

Lunch at L'Assiette Normand

After a nice leisurely lunch, we got our luggage from the B&B, and we were off to Mont Saint-Michel!

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