Guest Blog 2: Normandy and North West France by car

 

Sunday, Sept 27 Normandy and North West France by Car 

My sister and brother-in-law, Bev and Gord Simpson, are in France for 2 weeks (Sept 22- Oct 6, 2015).  I’m living vicariously through them. I think it must be time for another trip to France!  Bev and Gord live in Toronto and are avid travelers, Gord is the photographer and Bev the writer, together they make a great team. Enjoy!

Today’s visit to Juno Beach in Courcelles 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 bustling town at Juno Beach now called Courcelles sur Mer with many large condos facing the seashore, a very good harbor 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 honoring the French Resistance fighters.


Canadian Cemetery

The Canadian Cemetery in Beny sur Mer is very beautiful 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 – La Hague, and the Route des Caps

Today we traveled to the Hague and the Route des Caps – 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.


Cherbourg

Staying at Manoir de la Fieffe we’ve had most of our dinners here 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 2 pm – and only reopening at 7 pm 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 10 am.

Tuesday, September 29 – heading to Bayeux

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

Bayeux is a very charming old town with a pretty little river, the Aure running through it. Again because we are at the beginning of the low season we have a beautiful hotel at a very reasonable price with breakfast included and complimentary parking. Very fortunate with the weather – sunny and warm every day – 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. 
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 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.

 

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

No Comments

Leave a Comment