I tried really hard to think of three things that started with the letter C for this post title. I failed.
For our second day in France, we hopped in the car and made the trip to Bayeux to take a tour of the D-Day invasion sites.
On the way, we made a brief stop in Rouen, the historic capital of the Normandy region and the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. It was early on a Sunday morning and the whole town seemed deserted, until we reached the town square and saw that everyone was at the outdoor market, doing their shopping. Chester took some great photos of the yummy produce, poultry, and pastries that were for sale there, but the memory card from his camera malfunctioned and it won’t give our photos back! Womp, womp. We’ve sent it off to some computer geeks with the hopes that they will be able to recover the files. If so, I’ll share those photos in another post.
We had our only run in with law enforcement on this leg of the trip, when Chester made an illegal right turn. The police officer who pulled us over sighed and said “but of course,” when Chester indicated that he was American, and then simply pointed us in the direction of Bayeux. I’m sure he was just glad we were getting out of his town.
We arrived in Bayeux and were picked up at our hotel by the guide from Normandy Sightseeing Tours for an afternoon tour of the D-Day landing sites. I would highly recommend this tour company. The guide was extremely knowledgeable about all of the sites and could answer any question that members of the group posed to him (I will admit that he looked really young, so I was skeptical at first!). The tours are conducted in small groups and it was nice to have transportation to each of the sites, as some of them are a bit out of the way from the center of the town and I feel like we might have gotten lost on the winding roads leading to them. The company offers tours of varying lengths—from a half-day, to a full week, as well as customized tours for travelers who want to cover specific sites, so there are a lot of options available depending on your time and budget.
As we started off on the tour, the guide provided a little bit of history about the Normandy region and talked at length about the different kinds of cows found in Normandy. The brown and white cows are Norman cows, and the black and white cows are Dutch cows, which were brought into the country because they could produce a larger quantity of milk than the Norman variety. The Norman cows, on the other hand produce a higher quality product. Nevertheless, you can see them all living together in harmony in hillsides throughout the region.
According to our tour guide, the cows even played a role in helping the American troops figure out where German troops were camped out during the war. The cows would simply stop in their tracks and stare at any people that happened to be around, thereby alerting the Americans to where the enemy was.
Anyway, enough about the cows.
We saw four sites on the tour: Point du Hoc, where American Rangers scaled 100 foot cliffs to dismantle German guns that could have fired on the forces landing on Omaha beach; Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and the batteries at Longues-sur-Mer, a German naval battery.
It is truly humbling to see all of these sites. Everything seems so peaceful now that it is easy to forget that some of the most intense fighting of World War II took place here, and that approximately 9,000 people were wounded or killed. Looking out over the rows of white crosses in the cemetery is both tragic and beautiful. Being there in person makes you feel very patriotic and makes everything you learned about in history class come alive. Even if you are planning a trip to Paris, try to make a day trip to Bayeux to see the D-Day sites—it’s only one or two hours away by train.
After our guide dropped us back off at the hotel, we ventured into the center of Bayeux to walk around and have dinner. Bayeux was the first city in Normandy, having developed in the Middle Ages, and was also the first city in France to be liberated during the war.
For dinner, we went to L’Insolite, a creperie. Many of our restaurant recommendations, including this one, came from Trip Advisor. It didn’t really steer us wrong the whole trip and is a great way to narrow down restaurant choices in a place like France, where there are so many options to choose from.
We sampled one of the signature products of Normandy, cidre, which is produced from fermented apples. It was light and fizzy, but didn’t make me feel tipsy.
We each ordered a galette, which are large, thin pancakes made of buckwheat.
Then, we split a dessert crepe, with favorite combination of bananas and nutella. The batter had a nice lemony flavor and was not as heavy as some of the crepes I’ve had here at home.
We walked off dinner a bit by strolling around the center of town. Bayeux has a beautiful cathedral in the center of town. (Side note—all of the cathedrals I saw on this trip reminded me of Pillars of the Earth, which talked extensively about the building of cathedrals and how towns sprung up around them. Excellent book, so-so miniseries).
Exhausted from another full day, we headed back to our hotel to rest up for our drive to the Lorie Valley, the next stop on our trip. If you like bunk beds and extremely small bathrooms, the Premiere Classe is for you.