Normandy

We were just a little anxious yesterday when we discovered our train to Rennes had been cancelled. There is a strike affecting SNCF, so all trains in France are affected. We set off bravely this morning making our way to Montparnasse by Metro to meet our fate. Our son fully expected to see us return …. but no, kind staff in red vests were standing on the station waiting to help us and all the other confused and desperate would-be passengers. We were early, and were put on the TGV that was an hour before the one we had booked! We texted our son “On the TGV” and settled down to read.

Even better, when we arrived in Rennes another red-vested woman took us personally to our bus, which would take us on to Mont St Michel, where our B&B hostess collected us and took us to this very pretty place in the photo above. She explained that we were lucky not to be here last week, when D-Day celebrations had created a disabling crowd.

We had not thought about Normandy and D-Day, but the significance gradually dawned on me. In fact our hostess suggested we might like to walk up the road to the German Military Cemetery. So we did, in blustery cold wind under a cloudy sky.

This is beautiful farming country, with ancient buildings, some in poor repair, others well maintained or restored for tourist business.

Cows grazed the green fields, newly planted crops stood adjacent to golden wheat, and grasses danced on the roadsides as gusts of wind shook them.

It is very hard to imagine war in such a setting.

The cemetery contains the remains of almost 12,000 German soldiers, and was created by the German War Graves Commission as a reminder that we need to work together for peace. Situated on the brow of the hill overlooking the peaceful country village of Huisnes-Sur-Mer, it blends into the landscape. Here is a photo from the road, all we could see was a few flags amongst the trees.

Right here there was a big push by American and Canadian soldiers against the German troops, with British forces creating a pincer movement from the north. So sad to think of those terrible days, but this Allied push went right through to liberate Paris, and eventually end the Second World War.

A masoanry ring sunk into the hill contains the remains, plaques marking each person, although many simply say, a German soldier. Here is the view looking down from above.

Roses have been planted there, a touching reminder of our quick lives, buds, flowers, hips …. if we are fortunate to be able to live a whole lifespan ….

Visitors were constant while we were there, and a big Dutch tour bus arrived as we were leaving. Here you can see the view towards the village, peaceful once more.

Walking back I concentrated on the wildflowers, breathing deeply of the fresh country air.

Insects were busy as usual, the wind did not seem to bother them ….

Red poppies amongst the golden wheat, appropriate so near a war cemetery …

and other careless blooms waving energetically at the few passing cars …

just one more butterfly … and this view below, looking over fields to Mont St Michel,Bay.

Tomorrow we will spend the day at Mont St Michel, which looms tantalisingly above the fields here, we can even see it clearly from our bedroom window.

Stuart is down in the field drawing right now, so I had better go and join him!

 

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19 thoughts on “Normandy

  1. What a lovely post. Loved the great farmland photos, cornfields, poppies and butterflies. Wish you were heading south to the Dordogne for a few days!

  2. War is obscene. I wonder if man will ever realise this ? – but I doubt it. Too many of us accept it as ‘inevitable’. 😦

  3. Train cancellations can make the heart drop! I’m glad you had an easy journey anyway. I was interested to hear about the German war cemetery: I didn’t realise such a thing existed on French soil. Your shots of grasses and stonework and flowers are superb, and the last photo tantalises – I’m looking forward to your Mont St Michel post.

    • we are all packed up and ready to go, after booking a few more train tickets to get us into Brittany tomorrow … it was heart in the mouth stuff, hope the next few journeys work out as well … then it is Paris and home again next week … so glad to hear you are having toddler fun!

  4. This is a beautiful post Christine. I love the way you’ve captured the landscape and the strangeness of it once being a battle field – I felt the same about the Somme. We plan to spend time in Normandy in 2016 and are keen to find that “perfect stone cottage” we imagine is sitting there waiting for us !! I realise you visited during a busy time, but was your B&B what you expected or did you see others that you liked ? Wes

    • Yes it was, I am sure you will find exactly what you looking for. There is a lot of accommodation here as this is the next most popular tourist destination in France after Paris. Are you looking for a self-catering place? We stayed in a normal B&B with dinner supplied, which was excellent and very economical. It suited us because we are using public transport here and Jacqueline was happy to collect us from the bus and run us up to the shuttles etc πŸ™‚ …. in fact she was one of those cheery people who could not do enough for us!

  5. The countryside is so beautiful there. I hope to visit Normandy someday in person. It looks like a peaceful resting place for the soldiers who all suffered so greatly. We do need to work together for peace. May the beauty of places like this inspire us to do so…

  6. Homeward bound, Christine? Back to London first, I presume.
    There weren’t any winners in that war, were there, but a lot of heartbroken parents and families.

  7. Lovely, especially the wheat and the wildflowers. I am glad to know about the German War cemetery. I saw something similar and equally sobering in El Alamein.

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