Guest Blog 2: Bev and Gord Simpson North West France by car


Sunday Sept 27.

Today’s visit to Juno Beach in Courselles sur Mer and the Canadian cemetery in Bény sur Mer were very moving. There is not much to see on the beachfront at Juno and in fact we found it hard to find the right roads into the area. There is a busting town at Juno Beach now called Courselles sur Mer with many large condos facing the seashore, a very good harbour and lots to do. There is as well an excellent Canadian museum staffed with bilingual (of course) university students and hosting lots of good information and exhibits about Canadian involvement in WW2 and especially the D Day landing. As well there is a beautiful Croix Lorraine on the beachfront honouring the French Resistance fighters.

The Canadian Cemetery in Beny sur Mer is very beautiful surrounded by pastoral farmland and scrupulously clean and well manicured. Lots and lots of flowering bushes and perennials at all the gravesites – very, very peaceful. Apparently there are more than 2000 gravesites situated here – with more Canadians buried near Caen (which the Canadians liberated after June 6). As we wandered among the gravesites we were saddened to see that many of the young men were in their early twenties.

Monday Sept 28

Today we travelled to the Hague and the Route des Cap – north and west up the coastline from Cherbourg and wandered some of its trails on foot. We especially enjoyed walking the Nez to Jobourg pictured here.

Spectacular sites, small beautiful hamlets, well tended roads, well manicured gardens, every roadside and town scrupulously clean with gorgeous fall flowers everywhere.

One of the most interesting sites was the small village of Goury at the very tip of the Cap with views of the English Islands of Guernsey below and Jersey. I didn’t realize they were closer to France than to England.

Many of the towns such as Landemer below are built on heights that overlook the sea.

We passed many farm animals – cows, sheep and occasional donkeys such as this fellow who looks pregnant – not possible – it’s a guy and a cute and curious little fellow who came right up to check us out.

Most of our dinners have been in Cherbourg – this is the Theatre in the Main Square. Cherbourg is a seaside town with a large port and many industrial sections. The old town is largely filled with modern stores and restaurants but there are a few classic old buildings that provide a measure of charm. Cherbourg was a valued target and was heavily bombed during the liberation of France.

People are friendly but there are some rigid rules about eating times. It seems as if the restaurant owners also manage and operate their restos on a daily basis and part of the routine is closing after lunch – by about 2pm – and only reopening at 7pm for a full meal. We have been eating a big breakfast at the inn as part of the accommodations and then snacking just a little mid-day, then hoping for dinner a little after 6 but no luck on that score. However in all the small bars you can get a Heineken or a Calvados (the local liqueur made with apples) anytime and often the owner is chatting with customers at the bar even at 10am.

Tuesday September 29.
We checked out of the lovely Manoir de la Fieffe today and headed to Bayeux where we were booked into the Hotel Villa Lara for 4 days.

Bayeux is a very charming old town with a pretty little river, the Aure running through it. Again because we are in the beginning of the low season we have a beautiful hotel at a very reasonable price with breakfast included and complementary parking. Very fortunate with the weather – sunny and warm everyday – cool in the early morning and evening. We are also blessed with fewer tourists and shorter wait times to see the sites.

Bayeux is the home of a beautiful old cathedral – Le Notre Dame – in the city center. Bev 8
You can see the spires from miles around. Its stained glass windows are magnificent. Bayeux was left largely unharmed during the invasion – heavy fighting occurred nearby in the areas near Cherbourg and Caen.

Bayeux today is the home of 3 interesting museums including La Tapisserie de Bayeux that houses the story of William the Conqueror all told in cloth and stitch for which Bayeux is famous, the Musée d’art et d’histoire Baron Gerard (beautifully curated) and the Musée Bataille de Normandie which honours the liberators in great detail with many wonderful photographs and text in both English and French. Our charming hostess, the owner of the Hotel Villa Lara, is onsite regularly speaking to the guests and helping with what to see and do in the area. She is a great ambassador for the town, obviously enjoying her ability to welcome guests to her part of the world. She tells us the hotel guests are 90% English speakers usually from the USA. She herself is very fluent in both languages as are the hotel staff.

Wednesday Sept 30

Giverny dinner L’alchemie Bayeux excellent