For many people without a history background it’s often hard to put events and dates in context and chronological order. The D Day landings and the subsequent 100 day battle of Normandy is no exception. High on the cliffs above gold beach and the village of Aromanches (where the British landed in 1944) is a very good observation site overlooking the remains of the temporary harbour of Mulberry which enabled men, supplies and materials to be safely landed daily.
Our first morning visit was view a movie in a circular cinema – actually is was 8 screens showing clips from the beginning of second world war and for many it helped put events in context, showed the devastation of the cities and towns of Normandy and the shocking life of the civilians.
The famous Mont Saint Michel and the most visited French tourist site is our next visit. I was concerned and hate being overwhelmed by masses of people and although the streets and restaurants were heaving it seemed many people didn’t want to walk up the steps to the Monastery even though it was downhill after that through the vast halls and huge chapels. It was a beautiful day and the view from the top of the coastline and the famous beaches where the tides are notoriously dangerous.
For two nights we sneaked into Brittany – staying in a really lovely hotel on the beach beside the old city of St Malo. A beautiful regional dinner of duck terrine with apple chutney and slow roasted pollock in the hotel restaurant overlooking the North Sea – which was a calm as you could get it I expect was a perfect end to a busy day.
The vast beautiful beach in front of the hotel has lines of huge oak timber which have been in place since the 1700’s and obviously replaced but are their answer to help combat the huge waves that hit the coast in a storm, which here in St Malo are lined with houses. Maybe this is an answer for St Clair !! where I live.
Everyone that has read ‘ All the Light we cannot See” by Anthony Doer, will have a fascination with St Malo. The old city by the harbour was 80% destroyed in the war but unlike most towns was rebuilt in the same style. Surrounded by a 2km wall we had a very informative introduction during a 2 hour morning walk with our guide Amie.
Followed by an afternoon with her in the stunningly beautiful Dinan 30 minutes away. It was Monday and very quiet. Most shops close on Monday mornings here and for some all day. Dinan also has a beautiful wall that you can walk on and provides classic views of the medieval houses, streets and shops, still in everyday use .
To complete our 6 nights in Normandy / Brittany we drove back towards Rouen and spent an afternoon the famous garden of Claude Monet – “Giverny.” Late in the afternoon is always a good time to visit popular tourist sites and this was no exception. Rows of Blue Iris’s is exactly as I remember it on our visit way back in 1995 with our 3 small children and very different to Autumn garden we saw last year on my research trip. It is a classic beauty and the spring colour was everywhere which was planned and loved by Monet himself and was the focus for so many of his paintings.
It’s been a wonderful visit to Northern France. The weather has done an about-face and is now hot and sunny. But, the pipes are calling and after a one night stay we fly to into Glasgow to begin our Scottish experience.