Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Normandie revisitée (by Lisa)

It’s been 23 years since I was last in Normandy.  It was spring at the time I attended Université de Caen.  Now it’s July and the weather is slightly warmer, a bit less rainy, but still grey.  Bayeaux and the 1000 yr old tapestry (not photographed by us due to obvious concerns about flash) stitched by Reine Mathilde to document her adventurous husband William’s exploits was better than before.  The tapestry is now in a darkened room and the audio guide walks you through the stitched images telling of William, Duke of Normandy, moving onto bigger and better things as he invades England and becomes King.  They had a kid’s audio guide too and a splurge of tiny medieval figurines in the gift shop seemed to seal the history lesson.  Of course Irie ties all her Disney fairy tales into it too, and though the tapestry shows beheaded and naked soldiers it is not terribly gory.  A trip to Caen, later in the day showed us where William lived, as his château, built ~1060 is still there.  When I went to school in Caen, and walked through the ruins of the château daily, it was more crumbled than today.  It’s been extensively refurbished, with the local limestone as in the original.  In the pictures you can see Irie sitting on a wall of it, enjoying a circus performance.  Also in those Caen pictures is 144 rue Branville, where I used to live.  The nameplate is the same as the elderly couple I lived with, though it must be their son by now.  You will notice that many of the buildings in Caen are fairly modern in style.  Caen was about 90% destroyed during WWII.  This war brings us full circle to the interesting France/England relationship over the centuries.  One thousand years after William invaded England, claiming it for France, England returned the favor, this time, with a lot of help from the Americans and the Canadians, invading France to turn it back over to itself, free from Germany.  See the photos of Omaha Beach and the American cemetery that rests on the cliffs above it.  The German bunkers, now filled with the stench of pee, remain dug into the hillside.  You have to walk carefully so you don’t fall into a gun hold.  The walk through the cemetery, amidst all the markers was long and tiring, but Irie made us do it.  She simply said “If people just go some of the way through then the soldiers down there don’t get visited.”

Of course no trip to Normandy is complete without saying hi to some cows.  Camembert was our cheese selection today, it can ONLY come from Normandy.  In fact, the origin of our particular cheese is Isigny Ste. Mère, a tiny town north of here, on the Cotentin peninsula.  Get this--a father/son duo from Isigny (d'Isigny en francais) were in William the Conqueror’s army. They stayed in England after William's success. Part of the family later moved to Ireland and the name was anglicized to Disigny.  Then in the 1800’s one of them moved to Chicago and the name was modified again to Disney--Walt Disney came along later.  The seven steps of Kevin Bacon (in this case Mickey Mouse) via French history......

Normandy photos


Athena said...

Amazing-thank you! Zac will love the history and when he wakes, I will let him read it. It must have been surreal to be back in front of the door you called home during a different part of your lifetime. Good for you Irie for spreading the love! I'm not surprised in the least. As always, I love you all...just add water...glad to be around your neck at times :).


Mom & Dad Browne said...

We will not be seeing Normandie on our trip so I appreciated you blog and pics. So much WWII history around that area that I would love to see. Karen is getting excited about the trip and seeing the cathedrals now that you have included a couple in your pics.

Maggie is ready to come see you

ted and ruth said...

Continue to enjoy the stories of your experiences in Paris - and - really enjoying the photos as a slide show on my 24" Mac. You all look very happy and hopefully your strange experiences are hardly a memory.