I am back from my weekend trip to la campagne! And it’s my 100th post! And I will be done with finals on Wednesday! And Nate is coming in 4 days! Lots to be excited about. AAAHH!
But this post is about my trip bien sûr. Just to fill in folks: I was invited to Normandy by my internship boss’ boss, who founded AteliersVilles. I worked with her several times over the two months I interned, and she took a liking to me! She and her husband ended up inviting me to their country home a few weeks ago at the end-of-the-year intern party. Which was super nice! I took the train from Paris since they had spent the entire week there and I had class. The train left from Saint-Lazare and arrived in the Trouville-Deauville station in about two hours. The train station serves both Trouville and Deauville, two cities which are connected by a bridge. Odile and her husband picked me up from the train station and we grabbed lunch at a local brasserie where I ate mussels. Odile and I also walked along the shoreline and she showed me the beach cabins that run along the beach for several kilometers, each one being named after an American movie star! Which was sort of strange but funny. After lunch we drove to their home, which was about 20 minutes away. When we got out of the car it immediately smelled like cow poop, so I knew I was definitely in the countryside! Now I know why the French say “la campagne.”
The back of their house. The house used to be a forger, which is where a blacksmith lived. It was built in the 1600s I believe. Pretty cool it’s lasted all this time! Odile and her husband have owned about four or five apartments/houses in Normandy, and they are thinking of selling this one soon to be closer to the main part of town.
part of their backyard, with a wall dating from the Middle Ages.
more of the backyard, the hill behind the fence is where cows run down every night to graze.
here comes one!
After settling into my room, Odile took me to Honfleur, a neighboring town.
view of the main part of Honfleur from a hill, which is also in Honfleur.
Église Notre-Dame de Grâce. Since Honfleur is a fishing/sailor town, the interior of the church has all sorts of nautical symbols, and they even hung up model boats from the ceiling.
side street in Honfleur, at the bottom of the hill now.
inside Église Sainte-Catherine, in the main part of Honfleur. It was built from two separate hulls of boats which makes the church asymmetrical in the interior. Kinda cool! At the time the church was built, a lot of buildings were built using scraps of wood from old ships. Most buildings in Normandy are built from wood rather than stone due to the abundance of the material.
port of Honfleur
a lot of the streets in Honfleur had these flags hanging along the width of the road.
On our way back to the house we stopped along the beach so Odile could show me some of her favorite houses that are au bord de la mer, for lack of a better expression in English. (And with each house, of course, comes the gossip about each of the owners, like the family whose dog always runs away and never thanks the people who bring him back.)
sign on the beach in Trouville-sur-mer
houses lining the beach. I am a fan of the stylized military fortress!
That night I had my first traditionally French home-cooked meal of the entire semester (and it’s already the middle of May!) – with an entrée (appetizer), plat (main dish), salad, and cheese. I have eaten these types of meals out before (actually just at the catered lunch at the Assemblée Nationale) but it has always been funny for me to eat salad after the main course, because in the US it’s typically served as an appetizer.
The next day we went to see a lot of World War II sites, which were about an hour’s drive away from our house. The first place we stopped was at the American Cemetery. They had a free exhibit in a freestanding building next to the entrance that focused on the D-Day operation and Allied Forces tactics in general. Everyone was getting so emotional! The French are still very thankful for the Americans saving their country from the Nazis!!! In fact, so much so that the American cemetery is actually US territory – the French gave it to us as a gift. So throughout our time there Odile and Guy kept saying “tu es chez toi!” (You’re home!)
view of the American Cemetary
trees in the reflecting pool
There are over 9,000 graves in the cemetery, with deceased soldiers from both before and after D-Day.
Jewish soldiers have different gravestones. The backs of all the tombstones have the soldier’s name, military ranking, date of death, and state of origin.
one of the many unknown soldiers who are buried here.
After spending an hour and a half at the cemetery, we drove to Omaha Beach, the site of the débarquement, and ate at the restaurant located right next to the beach. It turns out that the owner of the restaurant is Odile’s son’s mother-in-law, so we were pretty much treated like family. Since their restaurant is really the only one in this location, it was crowded when we arrived, but we spent a good two hours there because it was raining and we couldn’t really walk on the beach anyway. By the time we finished lunch the rain had stopped, so we were able to explore a little bit and take some pictures.
memorial commissioned for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
We then drove from Omaha Beach to Pointe du Hoc, another military site along the shore where battles took place. There were a ton of holes where (I suppose) the Allies fired bombs, and we were also able to see what remained of the German defensive constructions.
(Phallic) memorial for soldiers who fought at Pointe du Hoc.
Saturday night we also ate dinner at home which was yummy! The drive back to Paris today was about two hours, but given the rainy weather that was to be expected. And we beat Parisian traffic woohoo! The weather this weekend wasn’t super great for most people, but I liked it. It was grey out but not cold at all, so it was still enjoyable to be outside. I am really happy to have seen this part of France, and sort of on a whim at that!