Friday, May 11, 2007

D-Day Beaches and Mont Saint Michel - Sat/Sun May 5-6

Taking photos is like taking notes. There is so much I'm going to remember later!

On our way to and from Mont-Saint-Michel we stopped at the D-Day Beaches of Normandy. Gold Beach near Courelles-sur-Mer (where we had a terrific lunch of a giant bowl of small tender local mussels in bacon cream sauce. The food is not really the point, but it is hard not to mention it because it truly is wonderful. We stopped at Omaha Beach and the American cemetery nearby. It is of course very moving to see all those crosses and to witness the difficult task the troops had to get up that steep incline.

We were told by the keepers of the hotel I'd booked ahead at Mont-Saint-Michel that they would cancel our reservations if we weren't there by 5pm so we were more than concerned when we arrived at the parking area at the bottom of the village precisely at 5! We hot footed it through the city walls and up narrow twisting pedestrian-only streets. I have to say that this part was momentarily nightmarish as the street became steeper, more narrow and more crowded! When we found it, the lady at the desk was all, No probleme! We would hold it for you! Hmm.

Anyway, our room was in the annex to La Vieille Auberge, through an old stone arch up another winding cobbled passageway, tucked in across from and beneath a cemetery. We settle in, explored a little, and went to a restaurant for dinner. When we asked the waiter if we could buy the cups our local cidre bouche (hard cider) was served in he said, I see nothing! So we tipped him extra and smuggled them out.

Mom went to the room while Hydra and I roamed the passageways and ramparts for another hour and a half or so. We saw the famous tide come in at about 6 km an hour...watched a pair of gulls sit on a sandbar as the water rose swiftly around them. They waited until the last possible moment to fly away. Hydra and I had so much fun exploring after the lights of the village came on. It's a grown-up's playground!

We were up early enough the next morning to have the streets to ourselves as we took another walk/climb before breakfast. Just the three of us and the songbirds of Mont-Saint-Michel.
We drove back to Paris that day, stopping at Omaha Beach on the way. There is a real and powerful connection between the U.S. and France, and it is very evident on these grounds and in the philosophy of the two democracies.

More soon. Tonight Hydra is home in California and Mom and I are wandering the countryside. Staying in Chateau Thierry tonight. This keyboard is exhausting.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arrival and Le Havre - Friday 5/4/2007

We could not have had a better introduction to France than our stay with Laweeez and family. Laweeez and I met through the Internet and she courageously invited us to stay with her! We rented a car at Charles de Gaulle Airport and drove to her home in Le Havre the first night. It took us longer than we expected to get there and we couldn’t find a phone on the way, but Laweeez was gracious about the late hour.

We had pain chocolat and tea/coffee and talked and then Mom and I napped while Hydra played guitar in the kitchen. Good thing Laweeez likes folk music!

We met her smart and charming kids when they came home from school, and she served us raclette for dinner. We’d never had this before, and we loved it. It involves melting your own portion of cheese in a little grill on the table and putting that and assorted meats on small baked potatoes.

We’d started with cantaloupe and prosciutto! After the raclette came a salad of butter lettuce and then a dessert of ice cream in a crisp waffle cup with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Laweeez’s husband arrived from Paris between the salad and the dessert. We stayed up till the early morning hours talking politics and culture. I think I formulated some ideas about the U.S. that I hadn’t really put into words before, about the function of states’ rights.

The only lamentable thing about our visit is that we won’t be able to spend time with these terrific people on a regular basis!

In the morning, Laweeez's husband even went to the trouble to lead us out of Le Havre! We'd had a little trouble finding our way in. The Google map left out a key direction, but we got directions from a very helpful woman who spoke very little English in a tabac in town.


Ah, life on the road. I just wrote about our adventures for half an hour and it disappeared when I tried to post it. I’m in a cybercafé on the Left Bank of the Seine, near the Notre Dame. They have American style keyboards here…what a relief. It’s amazingly difficult to learn to find the “a” key in a different place!

No way to download photos, but you can bet I am taking them and will get caught up when I get home.

After two nights on our houseboat B&B on the Seine, I feel as though this stationary room is floating on the waves. It’s a very comforting way to sleep, I have to say. Like being gently rocked all night. And so nice to have croissants, bread and coffee brought to us each morning. We eat in the wheel house with a view of the passerelle (foot bridge) at Pont Solferino. Hydra and I sat up until after the lights on the Musee’ D’Orsay and other monuments went off around 1am. Then we watched a couple canoodling on the opposite bank and another couple talking, smoking, even dancing together on the passerelle above.

I think what I'll do is post comments for each day and then come back and post the photos later. There's soooo much to tell you!