Day Five

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Tigres de Voyage

May 15, 2002
Wednesday

Normandy: Beaches and Hedgerows

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German Cemetery at La Cambe

Bayeux: Crepes for Lunch

The Famous Bayeux Tapestry

The Guns at Longues

Laundry Night in Grandchamp

Day 04 Return to Main Page Day 06

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German Cemetery at La Cambe

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Morning Live on M6Dave: Our morning started strangely, we slept in watching "Morning Live", trying to decide who are favorites were. We skipped breakfast and jumped in the car, heading off for Bayeux and it famous tapestry. The camera was full of pictures from yesterday and the drive would be half an hour, so it made sense to do the download while driving. So Jesse booted up the laptop (on his lap!), strung the camera cable, launched the programs, etc. This was the first time that the camera had cut-out on us while actually taking a photograph. We were still new to the camera (now we know how to handle it), and had let the the batteries run down to zero while actually taking a picture. Of course we lost the one picture we were taking, but I was afraid we had lost almost 100 images or maybe the entire camera!

While I drove east, Jesse tried the download. Each time the camera crashed, it required a total reboot of the laptop and camera (even today). I was panicky, trying to monitor and help Jesse while driving. Finally, in desperation, we pulled off at the next exit, followed the curvy road around and parked near a small sign marked "peace garden". Within 15 minutes, we had the camera download taken care of and the pictures all checked and double checked. Catastrophe over, we breathed a sigh of relief.

Then we looked up, and were staring directly at the German cemetery at La Cambe. 

It was not a total surprise, as I had seen web sites and photographs of the cemetery, but hadn't been sure exactly where it was located. Well, we found it!

The site was quieting, with so many headstones, each stone representing two fallen Germans. Four sets of 5 crosses marked off the corners of one section  Each section held nearly 400 gravesites. A small office and chapel were at the front, and contained a site layout showing the immense scale of the loss.

During the war, soldiers were typically buried "where they fell". Afterward, the bodies were relocated and organized into cemeteries by nationality, with many American remains sent back home. I understand that this particular site was originally a temporary US cemetery that was eventually consolidated into Omaha beach, with the site then provided to Germany.

There were several signs reminding all visitors that the fallen were war time enemies by now were just men, deserving respect. It is true that the USA, France and Germany share a cultural identity that would allow such reconciliation and human dignity. It is my hope that the future will soften other cultures also currently experiencing the de-humanizing norms and mores that were once part of Nazi Germany. May someday (soon) we will find all humanity possessing at least that much tolerance.

The roadway leading from the freeway offramp to the cemetery entrance was bordered on each side with twin rows of newly planted trees. Very soon, they will grow to be one of those spectacular European covered roads, enveloped in a canopy of leaves and shade.

We were surprised to see a couple army trucks park and a small crew of young soldiers in camouflage fatigues and spit-shine black boots jump out and begin some general clean-up work. The surprise was to see the familiar Black / Red / Yellow stripes of the German flag on their shoulder insignia (not Red / White / Blue of France). While a crew of French civilians (in blue jumpsuits) were mowing, this other crew finished planting some trees, then began general site improvements with shovels and rakes. It was good to know that the site was being well taken care of.

They were all 20-ish, and looked like a cross between a community service detail and the backstreet boys. A pair of 70 year old tourists, seemingly German, stopped to engage then in conversation. We took our pictures and were on our way.

Finally, a sign in English, French, and German described the history of the site, and included the reminder that "not all had chosen either the cause or the fight". This was to protect these remains for the bad feelings of local citizens, victims of Nazi occupation, but today it was not necessary, as enough years have elapsed for everyone to simply contemplate the losses of war.

German Cemetery at La Cambe
Each small stone marked two graves
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German Cemetery at La Cambe
"Two German Soldiers", many graves were "unknowns"
German Cemetery at La Cambe
A mound with remains from 2000 unknowns

German Cemetery at La Cambe

Fours sets of crosses mark the corners of each section
Each section contains over 400 graves

German Cemetery at La Cambe

A sign reminding visitors that: "not all had 
chosen either the cause or the fight"

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Bayeux: Crepes for Lunch

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Bayeaux's Impressive Cathedral

Arriving in Bayeaux

Bayeux's Impressive Cathedral
Arriving in Bayeux, behind the Hotel Churchill

Dave: When we finished at LaCambe, it was just 10 more minutes to Bayeux We noticed our noisy little diesel was slowly growing louder as we drove about, but for now agreed to ignore this little inconvenience.

We arrived in Bayeux and drove by the Novotel where we had planned to stay at, except for them being full. We wandered toward the small downtown and accidentally passed down one of those tiny village streets of cobble stones and pedestrians. We definitely needed to ditch our noisy little car and get ourselves "a pied". We found a free parking lot just a block or two from downtown. We walked back, with tourists everywhere, trucks double parked, trinket and market stalls with gadgets and knick-knacks. We started to head toward the famous Tapestry, then remembered skipping breakfast and decided to have a quick lunch. We saw several "take away" sandwich kiosks, and a patisserie, but our eyes landed on a Creperie with outside tables right on the tiny street. This would be perfect; a light snack and a chance to rest up for the tapestry. We had some time to spare, but had no idea that our leisurely lunch would consume almost two hours.

The meal, of course, was delicious, and the menu had the oddity of naming each choice after a bowling term (le strike, le spare, le gutterball). Very strange. Our hostess was delightful, and fussed over us and left us alone just the right amount of time. Other guests arrived, and we overheard an older American husband and wife discussing their trip with themselves and our hostess. A British woman was seated alone at the third table, and we all ended up conversing. She was from Bristol, and I recalled for her our visit to Bristol, Bath and Castle Combe. She smiled when I said "Comb-bey" and she explained it was pronounced "Castle Coomb".

The other couple was from suburban Philadelphia, and I told them about our visit to museums in Doylestown: home town of James Minchner, Margaret Mead, and Moss Hart. They mentioned that they often vacationed in Florida, and we all agreed that the world is a marvelously small place when you learn to enjoy travel. The woman from Bristol was in town attending a week-long seminar, and this afternoon was the "free day" to visit the town, so she went to enjoy crepes and conversation. The couple, like Jesse and I, were on vacation, although they preferred to stay in one place for a few days to relax and be more like a local. When we explained our whirlwind itinerary, it made everyone's head spin.

One last story was of us telling everyone about the delight of speaking horrible French and still eeking out meals and directions using lots of gestures and smiles. The husband commented that he spoke "no French" and didn't even try, allowing his wife to speak for him. She had obviously been schooled, and produced for us the delicate sound of somebody that had practiced that melodious language in school. I simply muttered at him (under my breath) "Le Poulet", you chicken, and we all had a chuckle.

The Pedestrian mall in Bayeaux

The Pedestrian mall 
and marketplace shops

Crepes in Bayeaux

Jesse with crepes and eau
(and dessert of course!)

Street Scene in Bayeaux

Creperie in Bayeaux

Don't Park on the Sidewalk?
The small cafe and our
lunchtime neighbors

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The Famous Bayeux Tapestry

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Dave: After lunch, we strolled over two blocks to the Tapestry museum, an historic manor house converted to a public building. We arrived with busloads of school kids (of course), and I again pointed out to Jesse that he was already enjoying his summer vacation. We had been looking forward to visiting the tapestry for several years, since our trip in 1998 to England and Battle Abbey in Hastings where I innocently asked where we would find the Bayeux Tapestry. Of course, we were told "Bayeux ...  France". In researching our UK trip, we had watched several PBS videos from James Burke and his series on "Connections", where he covered in detail the story of King Harold and William the Conqueror / William the Bastard showing extensive scenes from the tapestry. That is how we ended up at both Battle Abbey and Stamford Bridge, mistakenly believing the tapestry must be located nearby.

We had looked up Bayeux on a map that year, and organized much of our current trip around today's visit. We had planned at various times to take the train to Bayeux or to stay in Bayeux, but eventually decided on the train to Caen and to stay in Isigny instead. Today was our day to see the centuries old tapestry.

We followed the arrows to the lower level, which contained walk about dioramas and presentations about the period of the tapestry, its history, and highlighting details of the various panels. Of course, the entire story was retold, from Harold's visit and kidnapping, his oath over secret relics, Edward's death, William's building of the ships and sailing the channel, and poor King Harold's famous arrow. We received digital guide devices (press the appropriate number at various stations) and entered the magical chamber.

The place was packed with schoolkids, each filling out their standard issue question sheet. They raced about, pointing and giggling and doing anything to avoid learning something. Later, they rushed out to the grassy courtyard, and sat in circles talking and laughing, just 20 metres from the Bayeux tapestry.

The tapestry chamber was totally dark (to minimize damage to the frail cloth) and the tapestry was backlit by soft light. When your eyes adjusted, the sight was incredible. The tapestry was rolled out full length, and stretched down one side of a long room, turned, and continued down the other. Although I knew it was a tapestry, I was still somehow surprised to realize that each famous "picture" was made up of stitches of colored yarns and threads. That made it even the more spectacular in my mind. Along with the famous scenes, small quilted figures were also added to the margin, with many depicting daily activities (plowing the fields) and several having explicit sexual representation (that were seemingly overlooked in all the documentaries we had seen). Flash photography was forbidden (of course), but I set the digital camera on the window sill and time lapsed these couple spectacular shots of scenes from the famous tapestry.

Bayeaux Tapestry Museum

The tapestry museum is in an old seminary building

Bayeaux Tapestry Museum

Adjoining displays showed us what to expect

Bayeaux Tapestry Museum

There was space for long lines in season

Bayeaux Tapestry
Actual tapestry scene, less than 20% of the total length
Bayeaux Tapestry
Close-up of Edward the Confessor's funeral, a scene that moves right-to-left in an otherwise left-to-right diorama

After the tapestry, we drove once about town. The noisy muffler was getting too much to handle for us. Since we would have the noisy little car for two more days, and we knew that a Hertz office was in Bayeux (at one point, we were planning to pick up the car there), we figured to drop in to get an assessment or possibly an exchange. It was a wasted effort, taking well over an hour and resulting in nothing for us. It was an interesting exercise, to call the Hertz toll free number, to find the Shell station that served for Hertz (they had just closed and were only open for gas). We conversed with several people that spoke only French, and it was neither fruitful nor fun. The only lesson I received was, when you found a co-operative Frenchman, get as much information as possible before you lose them. A delightful cab driver at the train station, gave us directions and even wrote us a "note" in French that our muffler was broken (we forgot to take his picture). But the Hertz rep in Bayeux (as well as the one in Rennes) could not seemingly care less about our failing muffler.

The woman at Shell / Hertz spoke "only French", and she could not comprehend "auto-silencier j'bruit", so we had her call the Hertz 800 number, to see if telephone interpreting would work. After 20 frustrating minutes with the interpreter she finally explained (in English) that our noisy little Renault was an "H" class (large European model), and all she had was a "D". We didn't fit in the tiny replacement, so we joked with her that we were "Grand Hommes" (Grahn Ahmm) and her eyes twinkled and we got a smile. I complained about "petit chamber" (rooms), petit douche (shower), petit lit (bed), and Grand Ahm. "It is the only car I 'ave", she said in perfectly good English. So we said, "Ah, oui", "merci-non", and "au revoir", then pantomimed holding our fingers in our ears.  "It is just due jours, oui?" I joked and we all laughed, then we made sure we drove right by her door so she understood what a "Bruit Echappement" sounds like.  So after wasting an hour, we just put the noisy little Renault in gear and puttered off to view the beautiful Normandy coastline. Besides, we had laundry to do tonight.

Window shopping at the stores in Bayeux

Butcher Shop in Bayeaux

Barber Shop in Bayeaux

Terrins! Lapin? Canard? Egad!

Monsuir Super Coiffeur at the Petit-Prix Coiffeur

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The Guns at Longues

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Jesse: While driving down the Normandy coastline, we took a look at the various guide books we had brought for France.  The promise of mostly-intact coastal batteries at Longues was more than enough to pique our interest. We followed the road signs to Longues (in kilometers, of course) and eventually stumbled into our destination after only a few wrong turns.

The four bunkers were completely intact, and obviously abandoned by the Germans in a hurry. It was amazing that they were still in such good shape after so much time. It was a unique experience to see surviving original equipment, instead of the usual cement footings elsewhere.

It was definitely off-season as we had the place to ourselves, with only a few other tourists and, oddly enough, a couple of French soldiers in uniform (also being tourists).

The sheer size of the guns was impressive, although the interior room for gun crews and ammo stocks seemed rather small. Notched setbacks on the bunker openings allowed the guns a wide field of movement, although still limited by the protective concrete work.

Small pock marks were scattered across the bunker faces, remnants of the damage that had been inflicted by the ships at sea during the invasion. After our quick peek at the guns, we walked out towards the cliff to see the forward observation post, another cement bunker that would transmit firing coordinates to the better concealed guns further back from the vulnerable cliff. The observation post had been hit even harder by the allied naval guns, making an impressive display on the thick cement. Sadly someone had taken the time to spray graffiti on the unguarded site, a sad testimonial of people's disregard for other's enjoyment. I climbed up into the top for a quick photo-op, and we headed back to the car to continue our journey back Grandchamp and Isigny, and hopefully get some clean laundry in the process.

The intact guns at Longues were impressively large

The bunker's notches provided the guns more movement

Grafitti on the forward observation bunker

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Laundry Night in Grandchamp

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Stone Churches dot the countryside in Normandy

Golfing on scenic Omaha Beach

Stone Churches dot the countryside
Strange to see golfing on scenic Omaha Beach

Low tide in Port-en-Bessen Normandy

Caravans and beached boats: Low tide in Port-en-Bessen

Dave: After finishing at Longues, we set the GPS for Grandchamp and drove the long beautiful coastline. Of course, any laundromat would do, so we kept our eyes peeled for bakeries and lav-a-mats.

We followed the coast road as beaches and coastline and little beach towns rolled past us. Many were obviously holiday destinations and high season would start soon. We marked the points for the D-Day cemetery and museum for use tomorrow. We stopped at Port-en-Bessen, where the lavamat was sans instructions and we couldn't find any food to go ("emporter") anywhere. Rats. It was interesting to see the harbor full of beached fishing boats due to being low tide.

We finally arrived back at the Grandchamp lavamat around 8pm, and started the wash. We had saved up Euro coins, so we wouldn't repeat our fiasco at the Paris metro ticket machine. Our dictionary paid for itself, as we figured out the procedure. You exchanged Euros for tokens at one wall machine, then used the tokens at the washers. We got a couple loads started, and then had some time to kill. I downloaded the camera pictures, so we could upload them for Lyn tonight.

Laundry night in Grandchamp

Dave organizing pictures to upload for Lyn

Laundry night in Grandchamp

Jesse folding and sorting

It was fun for Jesse to see that "the guys" could take care of themselves, without mom, even in a different language and with unfamiliar coins. We brought the dirty laundry in a suitcase, and folded it right back in when we were finished. By now it was dark outside, and after 10pm! I kept waiting for "the guy" to come, to lock the door, kill the lights, and kick us out. But he never came.

I started to think the door and lights might be on a timer or sensors, so we kept it propped open as we carried the laundry, computer, and supplies out to the car. We then tugged it shut and, sure enough, it locked tight. How stupid that we didn't try that stunt with one of us inside. We were definitely tired and hungry and ready for bed.

Of course everything was closed. Both Grandchamp and the smaller Isigny had rolled up their sidewalks (again). Besides, we only wanted a snack before bed. It struck me that the freeway bypass, between Bayeux and St Mere Eglise, could very well have a 24 hour gas station. On a pure lark, we entered the freeway and drove west. We had come from Bayeux yesterday, and there were none that way. We marked the GPS point, and decide to drive up to 10 miles. Within 5, we found a 24 hour Esso. We filled the tank and went in for Lait au Chocolate, small sandwiches, chips, and cookies. These small snacks would let us sleep, and we saved the extra cookies for tomorrow. The attendant spoke no English at all, so I tried to make jokes, and he understood me!. Pointing at my watch, waving my arms: "Grandchamp ferme" (closed), "Isigny ferme", "Esso Ouvert". He laughed, "oui". "Ah, Brasserie d'Esso". He again laughed. "Bon Soir, and Bon Nuit". He replied, "Oui, Monsuir, Bon Nuit et Bon Appetit". Then we all laughed. What a wonderful memory.

Brasserie d'Esso: Bon Apitite!

Dinner at Brasserie d'Esso

Day 04 Return to Main Page Day 06


Original Web Upload May 2002
Last Update: March 18, 2008