Bayeux, Normandy, and Mont Saint Michel

Trip Start Jul 04, 2011
Trip End Aug 04, 2011

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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our train took us from Lausanne to Bayeux, France through Paris. We had to change from one train station to another one a few miles away by using the Metro (subway). It seemed pretty scary but it all worked out very well (and quickly) since there were lots of signs.
When we got to Bayeux we had supper at a small cafe beside the train station. The owner / cook was a grumpy Frenchman who made delicious omelettes and "Tart Normandie", but not so good pizza. (At least not by Andrew's standards!) We took a walk around the old town and found that the cathedral was all lit up with colourful lights and still open, so we checked it out.
The next day, we caught a local bus to Courseulles-sur-Mer to visit the Juno Beach Museum and the Canadian WWII cemetery in Beny-sur-Mer. 

First we visited the beach itself where Andrew gathered up a bag of sand to bring home.  Then we visited the Juno Beach Museum where we learned a lot about the landing and saw quite a few artifacts from the war,  While at the museum we also went on a guided tour of the beach and a bunker that survived the invasion.  We also learned that the North Nova Scotia Highlanders actually landed very near where the museum was located. 

After the museum Andrew wanted to go and visit his great uncle's grave (Ernest Lumsden, 10th Armored, Fort Garry Horse) in Beny-sur-Mer, which we thought was close.  The museum told us it was about 5-6 km away in the middle of a field and wouldn't be easy to get to. No family member had ever been to visit the grave so we were determined if we had come that far we would find a way. Jen came up with the brilliant idea of renting bikes, and after an awkward misunderstanding about the price for the bike rental (we thought she wanted 72 eruo she only want 7.2 euro) we were off!  After a grueling 30 minute bike ride we were at Beny-sur-Mer, a truly beautiful memorial to those who died during the invasion.  We found Andrew's great uncle's grave, left a flag and a poppy, took a few photos and went to sign the guestbook.  We were amazed by the number of visitors to the cemetery.  There were about 25 pages of names that had visited in the last 2 weeks.  Many visitors were Canadian,but there were also many French, Dutch names as well, truly a proud moment.  

On Saturday we took a train from Bayeux to a small town called Pontonson to visit Mont St. Michel, an 11th centry church and monastry built on a small island on the coast of France. It's now connected by a causeway to the mainland, but before the last century you could only reach it by walking across the sand flats at low tide. A local bus took us there from the train station. It was very beautiful and interesting -both quiet in places and absolutely packed with tons of tourists and kitchy tourist shops in others. It seems to be a long holiday weekend here in France too and lots of people are travelling. After we walked all the way up the hill and toured the abby (It was amazing to think it was built 900 years ago and imagine what it would be like for people to have visited it then) we walked around the ramparts that circle the town / island and then walked out on the sand flats behind it to see the low tide. We could see groups of people walking out to a nearby island, but there were big signs warning you aboout the tides so we didn't go that far. They got pretty soaked coming back, we noticed! We went into Pontoronson for supper before we had to catch the train back. That got a bit complicated because it's a small town and no places opened for supper before 6:30, but we ended up having a good meal (and some delicious wine for E 1.40!) by the train station and catching the train on time.

Sunday morning we went to see the Bayeux tapestry. It was much bigger than I imagined - it went all the way down the side of one long room, turned the corner and down the same distance. It's amazing to think that the material was hand-weaved, the thread hand-spun and dyed almost 1000 years ago, yet it's still very understandable today. It represents a huge amount of work and is still an entertaining story about how William the Conquorer became King of England.
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