Endless winter in Camelot has got me down — not mentally, this time, but with the creeping crud that seeps around every year. Cooties, is what I’m saying: I have cooties. So, let’s wrap up Normandy in one fast and furious post, and keep holding on for spring to arrive … sometime.
The Échiquier de Normandie — a twelfth-century building seated inside the remains of William the Conqueror’s massive castle at Caen. Richard Lionheart had dinner here, on his way to the Third Crusade.
A bridge over the river Vire, in the town of Vire. Henry I of England — or Henri Beauclerc — liked to hang out here. I sometimes forget how much of English history is rooted in France, until it sits up and slaps me in the face. Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror. His older brother, Robert Curthose, is buried just down the road from my corner of Camelot, in Gloucester. Funny to think of Gloucester while we were walking the Vire.
Vire was destroyed during the Allied invasion of Normandy. Not theatrically or at all romantically. This entire region was essentially bulldozed. The early medieval gate topped by a late medieval clock tower in the background somehow survived. In the foreground, a pretty blue water fountain.
A shrine to the Virgin in the remains of the thirteenth-century Church of Notre-Dame in Vire. This is what it looked like after the invasion: http://www.stolly.org.uk/ETO/ruinsofnotredamechurchvire.html Today it is relatively restored, and freezing cold, all the bones of the church exposed.
Remains of the ‘donjon’ built by Henri I, at one end of the Vire city parking lot. Now, take a deep breath and remember all those people who were doing the bulldozing that destroyed most of Normandy during the liberation of France and the eventual defeat of the German forces.
“Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” by Donald De Lue, at the Omaha Beach Memorial.
“Les Braves” by Anilore Ban, honoring the forces who landed on the beach at Omaha. One would have to be the extreme of brave to assault a beach defended by giant glowing spikes.
Cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, with barbed wire still left in place.
This is a wasted bomb-marked landscape that feels like a ghost town. Some of the bunkers or pillboxes can still be entered (at your own risk). Barbed wired and blasted tunnels run through these craters.