France Day 11 - Guérande, La Baule, and St Nazaire

Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The whole family slept wonderfully last night! Its very very quiet here in Pornichet.

Today, we all enjoy a quick breakfast with Catherine and then we all head out to Guerande ... about twenty minutes away in the car. The old city here is like out of a story book. The entire original wall and moat still stand, giving a tremendous sense of history. Its breathtaking. ... And inside the walls, we enjoy Guerande's market day, check out the cathedral (where Sam and Ella get to see the location of a reported apparition of Jesus!), and buy lunch (the same langostinos we saw in the ocean yesterday, now all grown up and ready to be eaten!).

After an hour or so of exploring Guerande, Catherine drives us through La Baule, a very popular beach destination in France. We are told that many celebrities, "high society", and royalty come through this town during their vacation. Its beautiful enough ... but too many tourists and hotels. Janice and I are definitely discovering that we enjoy the intimacy of a small town experience as opposed to a tourist hotspot. ... As we drive along the coast of La Baule, we pass a restaurant that Franc and Sandrine's friends own, and we make plans to return here to treat Catherine to dinner tonight as our way of saying thank you. Can't wait!

Then, its back to Pornichet, where Catherine's mother joins us for an amazing homecooked lunch of langostinos, and then a veal with cream pasta dish. Wow! ... We also enjoy some amazing fruit that Catherine picked up at the market, its stuff we've never seen or heard of ... : Flat Peaches and Reine Claude. To die for. Seriously. SOOO good. And then Sam got to eat some Flanby and he is now addicted. (don't know where he gets that from)

Besides the great food, I really enjoyed meeting Catherine's mother. I particularly enjoyed hearing about her memories of WW2. She told us about how the German invasion impacted her family, how the local town of St. Nazaire was absolutely leveled in an allied bombing run, and how her husband served in the airforce (... I like to imagine that her husband and my Grandpa Al somehow made a coordinated attack on the Nazis...). Hearing her tell the story, and seeing these towns and sights makes chills run up my spine as I recall with pride seeing my grandfathers medal collection. I share with Catherine and her mother some of the stories about my grandfather's service, particularly the really neat fact that we have some footage that was taken from the nose of his plan on a mission he was on, ... and it looks JUST LIKE these towns we are visiting in France. When I get back home, I'm going to put it on youtube and email it to our new French friends just to see if by some random chance they might be able to identify the city in the film ... that would be soooo neat.

After lunch, Janice takes a nap while the kids play and I work ... and then we pack up and Catherine takes us to the town of St. Nazaire ... which is not the prettiest city in the world, but its chalk full of history and we get to walk around the old German submarine garages that were never able to be destroyed or taken by the Allied invasion. ... We also learn that St. Nazaire has some of the most amazing (and tragic) war stories that are rarely told. Do a quick wikipedia search and you will find that some crazy stuff went down in this small town in the last century (German submarine building, the worst loss in the history of Britain's navy (over 4,000 killed in one attack by Germans!, and then the Allies torched the ENTIRE CITY with napalm to reduce the effectiveness of the port ... oh, AND one of the best British commando operations in history).

After we complete our tour of the submarine garage, we head back to La Baule and enjoy a wonderful meal at Ristorante des Evens, right on the main strip facing the beach. Excellent food, and we have the unique opportunity to spend some time talking with the owner, who is good friends with Franc and Sandrine. He not only helps us on the bill, but he also offers for our family to come back and visit him sometime if our trip allows ... so kind!

We exchange kisses and hugs with Catherine, and we are all sad we have to leave so soon ... but more plans call for us. A wonderful time in Pornichet and the surrounding areas. I hope we can come back some day.
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