Normandy snapshots

22 Mar

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.IMG_4124

A modern museum of art also lives inside the castle walls.  What the hell is happening here, I have no idea.  IMG_4552

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.IMG_4592

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.IMG_4573

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:  Today it is relatively restored, and freezing cold, all the bones of the church exposed.IMG_4562

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.IMG_4512ed

The American Cemetery by Omaha Beach is heartbreaking.IMG_4469ed

You can’t pull heroes off an assembly line … But you can bury them, one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one.IMG_4487ed

“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.

Remains of one of the gunneries.IMG_4785

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.IMG_4788

The Ranger memorial, at the edge of the cliff face.IMG_4437edFinally, a candle lit for memory and for peace, at a chapel in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux.



9 Responses to “Normandy snapshots”

  1. Jeanne March 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Spikes on the beach is my favorite of all these photos.

    • Monique March 22, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      It was striking, and fierce, and super super shiny. Running around looking for sea-shells on a pretty beach and — bam — spikes.

  2. Helen March 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Thank you for the very moving tour of Normandy. When you’ve got your mojo back, visit the WWI battlefields in Northern France, the trenches and war memorial at Vimy, the Historial at Peronne, the dozens and hundreds of little British cemeteries, outside practically every village. Just heartbreaking. I used to work in Northern France and you could never forget what happened there. Still poppies blooming along every roadside and field, too.

    • Monique March 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      It is incredible to see how present the world wars still are in the landscape and in people’s mentality. I’d love to see the poppy fields, though I think it’d be overwhelming.

  3. Aubrey Price Pettyjohn March 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Beautiful and moving. We’re thinking about going to Normandy over the summer holidays, and if it comes to pass I want to pick your brain about places to stay, things to do, and (most importantly) eateries. 🙂

    • Monique March 22, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      Sure! Summer will be gorgeous, ahhhhhhh.

  4. Zazzy March 22, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    I’ll agree with the others, beautiful and moving. It’s hard to believe such a beautiful place was the site of so many deaths.

  5. thebookgator March 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Awesome post. Thank you for sharing.

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