Tuesday, June 16, 2009

God Bless America

In my last blog post I mentioned that because Sunday was my favorite day of the trip it would get its own blog post, well here it is.

Sometime on Friday my friend Clay asked if I was interested in taking a trip to Normandy, and my response was, "Of Course". So we did a little research on the computer to find out how much tickets would cost and how to get there. Nothing on the Internet was very clear. We could find no train schedules and we didn't even know what train stop. Normandy didn't seem like a possibility. Well on Saturday night I checked again, and by checking I mean typing in "Normandy from Paris by train" on Google. This time I actually found a pretty good website. It said that the trains leave from St. Lazare every couple hours to Caen. I found this website pretty late Saturday night and immediately called the girls to see if any of them wanted to go. Three said they were in, and we set up a meeting time of 10:00 at St. Lazare.

The next morning Clay and I arrived at St. Lazare at about 9:45. We went to the information information desk and asked in a mixture of French and English how to get to Normandy. The guy informed us that we needed to get a ticket to Caen, get on another train and head to Bayeux. So we went to the ticket place and tried our best to explain the saleswoman what we wanted, and after about ten minutes we were set up. By the time we had bought our tickets the girls had arrived, so I handed them my ticket and told them to hand the people my ticket and say they wanted the same thing. The girls got there tickets without a problem. Or train didn't leave until 11:45 so we had some time to kill, so we went to go grab some breakfast. We went to cafe where once again everything was extremely expensive. Clay and I didn't feel like spending fifteen euros on breakfast so we just got toast and jam. The girls had huge breakfasts. We went back and hopped on our train and we were off for the coast. The train ride was incredible, it was through the French farm land. Nothing but green and gold fields as far as the eye could see. We arrived at Caen, and hopped on the train headed to Bayeux. The sign said the train was "retard 15" which we took to mean it was fifteen minutes slow. The train ride from Caen to Bayoux is only fifteen minutes, so in no time we were in Bayeux. Bayeux is not a very big city, in fact I would use the word dead to describe it. We saw a sign for tours of the beaches, so went and knocked on the door, but apparently there are no tours on Sunday. There was a sign with a number for a taxi so I called it, and some how through a mixture of English and French the taxi guy agreed to pick us up in five minutes. He came and we told him we wanted to go to the American Cemetery, and we were on our way. I don't know a lot about the geography of Normandy, but I am pretty sure we made about three to four laps around Bayeux before we arrived at the cemetery. It was a pretty pricey cab ride, but we were at the cemetery and the sun was shining.

The cemetery is actually owned by America, so there are American flags flying. It felt good to see Ol' Glory again. It is not just a cemetery, but also a museum and monuments. One enters on top of the hill where the Germans would have been set up, and one can look out over the English Channel and the beaches. We decided to go and see the beaches first. There is a switchback trail heading from the top to the beaches. It was much more lush and green than I expected. Once we got to the beaches I was immediately reminded of South Carolina beaches. The sand was brown and the water was murky. Still very pretty though. We took some pictures in the dunes, and then took some pictures of us standing in the water. I also picked up some rocks for paper weights. We then took about a half mile walk through the dunes and then walked back on the beach. By this time the sun was not shining and a thick fog had rolled in, but that didn't stop a few French kids from playing in the ocean. We then climbed back up the hill to the top and to the cemetery.
I hate to use the word incredible when describing a cemetery, but it was incredible. The landscaping was immaculate and the buildings were subtle. We walked amongst the tombstones for about an hour. It was foggy which added to the ominous feeling, and almost made it feel more sacred. There is a small chapel right in the middle and a statue and monument on the east end, but beside those it is nothing but tombstones, grass, and trees. After about an hour I over heard a guard saying they were about to lower flags, so we headed over to watch them lower the flags. The lowering of the flags was awesome. I was so proud to be an American. We all stood and watched for about ten minutes as someone played the trumpet and the flags were lowered. We then had to leave because the cemetery was closing, so we caught a taxi and then caught the train back to Paris. Once back in Paris we meet some friends at the Eiffel Tower and had some wine before going to bed. It was one of the best days of the trip.
Because it was Sunday no places were open to eat so the only thing I ate all day was toast and peanut M&Ms, until we got back to Paris at 9:30. I then ate an entire large pizza.


  1. We watched Saving Private Ryan again the other night. Can't imagine standing on that beach. Or that hill. "Lucky!" An uncle died recently who served there and the lone trumpet, guns and flag ceremony were the most majestic experiences I've ever had.