Adventures in Normandy

April 16, 2010

Normandy was full of adventures and exploration, from a lighthouse to some of the D-Day beaches, to mystery cuisine, a ‘what’s my story’ dinner game and an ancient roadside church, we never stood still for long! Here are some of the best adventures of the trip!

1. The Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse!

It seemed simple enough on the map to find this giant beacon, but the Phare de Gatteville, for all of its height, was hard to find! Rachel, Hannah and Sara opted to walk over the sand dunes, while Mom, Dad and I stayed in the car following Jamie  in his as he led us down a treacherous road in what we desperately hoped was the right direction!

We shouldn’t have feared, as you see above we definitely made it, which was when we started the second part of the plan-climbing the nearly 400 steps to the top. The tower was absolutely gigantic, but 400 steps doesn’t seem that bad until you look down and realize that you’re panting and only on step 100! Luckily taking pictures of the English Channel from the stone windows kept me occupied and slightly less dizzy-it was quite the spiral staircase.

One of the big windows near the bottom of the tower

We finally made it all the way up, and conquering my fear of heights I even climbed onto the skimpy little metal platform on the very tip-top! I was struck by how warm the breeze was, how beautiful the water looked, and how tiny Jamie-who had waited at the bottom-looked on the pier.

Yes, that tiny little spot on the pier is Jamie

Climbing down was dizzying and it seemed to take a long time-and going against the flow of traffic was hard-we had to make a lot of awkward passes and windowsill pauses (oh, and a side note-according to my host parents, the French supposedly don’t have a word for “dizzy’-isn’t that strange?)

2. The D-Day Beaches

Utah Beach

The last time we were in Normandy together we went to Omaha Beach, where there is an enormous museum, a beautiful memorial, and a very large American cemetery. This year we explored Utah Beach and Pointe du Hoc, where the rangers climbed the cliffs. Visiting these places is always emotionally very strange. I felt a strong sense of pride for what our country did there, but also a sadness for all of the lives that were lost, many of them young men Brooks’ age. The other thing I noticed is how strange it is to stand on a gorgeous beach or bluff and to realize that the same landscape was once a battleground.

Dad at Utah

Cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

One of the old Emplacements

I was glad that I have been to see the beaches, and I noticed for the second time that in Normandy, WWII is still a recent memory. Dad was struck by how many of the visitors were French, and I was struck by a piece of writing exhibited in the museum at Utah. The writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the beloved book ‘The Little Prince’ wrote a letter about his time spent with an American convoy during WWII. He said that the American soldiers were not moved by words about their own glory or their own gain, but that what unified them and inspired them was talk of liberation for strangers living abroad in countries that most of them had never set foot on. In his own words, “The fifty thousand soldiers of this convoy were going to war, not for the citizens of the United States, but for man, for human respect, for man’s freedom and greatness”. The letter was written shortly before Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance during a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in July of 1944.

3. ‘What’s my Story?’

What a charming couple!

We had been playing various games after dinner every night, and so the last night Rachel decided to do something special. She bought 7 different masks and after dinner she and Sara tied them on all of us-eyes closed! Without looking at their own. We had to ask questions to figure out what kind of person we were, and then we had to tell our story to everyone else!

The cigar didn't come with the mask, but it certainly added something

Sara and Hannah; or an unchaparoned 'Gabriella' and a sea captain's bumbling first mate!

Jamie-or should I say Goya's Maja?

We had a lot of fun making up stories, and giving hints to each other about our identities. It’s something we plan to bring back for other dinner parties in the future-but with some rule modifications to make it more fun (and more difficult). The best part was seeing ourselves in the masks in the large dining room mirror after the game was over-we got used to each others’ modified faces, but seeing myself as a blond lady ‘explorer’ in my giraffe print ‘hat’ was quite a shock! I think I’m better as a brunette, just for the record.

A bientôt!

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