Posted on : 21-09-2013 | By : Cindy | In : Travelling
“It’s the red sea that the veterans most remember,” Brigette, our Normandy D-Day tour guide, tells us. I look at the gentle waves rolling into Omaha Beach and try to imagine them red, stained with the blood of the 7000 men felled by the deadly 88mm gun behind me. It’s positioned to fire, not out to sea, but down the beach. It can kill a soldier ten kilometres away. I follow the line of the gun imagining what the Germans would have seen: 37,000 soldiers jumping from their metal boats into the icy water and racing across the flat expanse of sand. Today it’s quiet – just a few tourists dotted on the golden sand, their hair whipped by the permanent wind that sweeps across from England. This salty wind flavours the grass giving Normandy mutton a distinctive seasoned flavour. Hovering above the cliffs like brightly coloured poppies are a handful of hang gliders. It’s peaceful, calm, and nothing like what it must have been at 6.30am on the sixth of June 1944.
I try to imagine running up this beach, stomach churning with sea sickness, uniform sodden with seawater, caught in the cross fire of these deadly 88mm guns stationed all along the beach. I look at the clear sweep of sand and imagine trying to run, tripping over hundreds of my dead and injured comrades, and dodging the deadly Rommel asparagus’s which are not vegetables but wooden asparagus shaped mines sticking out of the sand. I listen to the birds singing and imagine the deafening noise of gunfire, shouting and young men screaming. I expect to feel something bad, an echo of the horrors that occurred here but there’s nothing.
Posted on : 01-09-2013 | By : Cindy | In : Travelling
I look out the train window as we swish past ancient stone villages and rolling farmland dotted with hay bales looking like giant bobbins. After three weeks without rain the usually green fields are parched and brown. Normandy is known for its rain and yet we are about to spend five sunny, hot days exploring Bayeux, tasting Norman cuisine and visiting the D-Day sites.
I am not as enthusiastic about war history as my husband and son and the thought of spending two full days visiting war graves, war museums and war sites does not thrill me quite so much as a food tour would have. Fortunately our guide, Brigitte (“My mother named me after Brigitte Bardot”) tells us lots of stories which add the human touch.
One of our first stops is Pegasus Bridge, north of Caen near Benouville. It was here that three gliders each carrying thirty soldiers landed on a narrow strip of grass just after midnight on June 6 1944.
Posted on : 14-08-2013 | By : Cindy | In : Travelling
After a pleasant two hour train ride from Gare St Lazare across the flat Normandy plains we arrive in Bayeux. We trundle our bags a leisurely ten minutes to La Tour Louise in rue Tardiff, a quaint residential street just behind the famous Bayeux cathedral.
“Bonjour, welcome!” Our friendly host, William, greets us. “Please take a seat in the lounge while I finish here,” he says in romantically accented English. We sidle ourselves and our luggage past a ladder and two workmen who have just finished hanging the most beautiful chandelier in the entrance, and sink into richly upholstered chairs, admiring the way the chandelier reflects in the full length mirror. William’s mother comes out to admire how the chandelier reflects in the wall sized mirror and is clearly delighted. “Two for the price of one!” she says in French.
While we wait for William to finish with the workmen, his father joins our conversation and I chat in French with more enthusiasm than skill. This is their family home and was also their upholstery shop where they produced plush furnishings for homes around Bayeux, including Christopher Forbes of Forbes magazine.