First few days in Caen!

Trip Start Jan 05, 2010
Trip End Jan 27, 2010

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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sorry for the slight delay in my post. On Thursday (the 14th) we left the hotel in London at 9AM and drove to Portsmouth. We were not scheduled to board our ferry until 10 PM, so we stopped at a D-Day museum along the way, then we hung out at a pub until it was time to leave. We took an overnight ferry from Portsmouth across the channel to Le Havre. Once we arrived (at 7:30 AM on the 15th) we drove about an hour or two to our hotel, dropped off our luggage, then went to one of the beaches of Normandy. The first beach we visited was called Pointe du Hoc. We were able to see a lot of the craters that were created from the attacks on D-Day, as well as some pretty cool German guns that were stationed on top of the cliffs. I got some great photos of the English Channel!

After the Pointe du Hoc (I will try to upload a photo of the map of all the beaches) we went a little further east to Omaha beach. Our tour guide told us that over 900 men had died on that beach in one day. After Omaha she took us to the United States WWII cemetery. There were 172.5 acres, 9,387 headstones, 1,557 soldiers that were missing in action whose names had been inscribed on a large marble wall, 41 sets of brothers that were buried next to each other, and 4 women in the cemetery. For their tombstone, depending on their registered religion, the soldiers were given either a cross or a Star of David. There were so many graves, and each grave wasn’t just a symbol, there was an actual body buried beneath each one. Some of the bodies were unidentifiable, so the grave was marked “Known But to God.” It was a very moving place, it really put into perspective just how many men died during the war. Only about 30% of families opted to have their men buried in France, so that means there are droves of other American men who fought and gave their lives, along with even more British men.

I didn’t take that many pictures today (the 16th). We went to a few other beaches and some really cute French villages. I wouldn’t mind retiring there someday and spending my summers in a beach house on the channel. I should probably focus on graduating from college before I think about where I want to live when I retire though. Oh well. After the beaches we went to a Canadian cemetery. I didn’t think that this one would be much different from the American one, but it definitely was. The main difference was that, for a small per letter fee, the families could write a short, personal engraving on the grave stone. Many of them said things like “To our only son, rest in peace. Mom and Dad,” or “You will be missed by your wife and baby Rosalie,” and “If love could have saved you, you would still be here. Mom and Dad.” It was absolutely heart breaking and I could not stop crying the entire time. Most of them were 20-25 years old. It’s a horrible tragedy, I can’t imagine having to raise a baby at this age after losing my husband in a war, it just doesn’t seem fair. We had a good conversation about it tonight at a nice French restaurant. A lot of the guys in our group were crying as well, it was hard not to after reading some of the engravings.

France so far has been a fun experience. The language barrier can be tough to get through, but we survive by pointing and making hand gestures. I would really like to learn French and come back here someday. Languages are so fascinating to me, I can’t wait to study in Mexico and use the language that I’ve been studying for the past 7 years or so. I’ve heard that other romance languages, like French, Italian, Portuguese, etc., are easier to learn once you’ve mastered one of them. I have seen some similarities between French and Spanish. I don’t see how French people aren’t all obese because crème brule and croissants are amazing. I could eat those two things exclusively and for the rest of my life and I would be content. Today I had a croissant with a piece of chocolate inside. It was basically like a chocolate bar sandwich. It was very glutinous, I won’t be ordering that again for the well-being of my waist line, but it was a nice treat. Tomorrow we have class at 1 for a few hours, then we’ll have the day to ourselves. I come home in about 11 days!
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