Day Fourteen – I’m From The United States…of Canada, An Astounding Cathedral, My Favorite Tapestry Minus Carole King, What A Way To Go, Any Port In A Storm Of War, A Senior Moment, D-Day 360, Honoring The British and Perhaps The Best French Onion Soup…Ever
It was raining pretty hard when we woke up on Monday morning, but by the time the four of us had dressed and piled into the car, there was just a slight drizzle. We drove into Bayeux, parked and walked a short distance to get some croissants, sweets and café.
Plopping down at our table, we were seated next to a couple from England and within minutes we were chatting with them. The woman asked where we were from, and before you could say, “geographically impaired,” Mary started to say “United States,” but suddenly changed her answer and our nationalities at the same time. She replied, “Canada.” The rest of us just went, “Eh?” It was obvious that early morning caffeine deprivation had inflicted our traveling partner, who quickly realized that California was still not yet part of our neighbors to the north.
Bidding our confused British friends, “Tally-ho,” we made our first official stop of the day, walking through the big red doors, at the gorgeous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux.
We stopped by some statues and entered the church.
This was the actual “home” of the famed Bayeux Tapestry from the 11th through the 18th centuries. It was probably displayed for the first time on the day the cathedral was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror.
The church has a beautiful nave, lovely stained glass windows and a couple of huge pipe organs.
After putting in a couple of more euros in the parking meter, we walked over to the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry that Tracy and I had viewed in the late 90s.
It was, and I’m happy to say still is, one of my favorite things I’ve seen on all our European trips, and it depicts the Norman Conquest by William The Conqueror, the Battle of Hastings and the demise of poor, old Harold II.
First we sat through a 16-minute movie on what we were about to see, and afterward we entered the darkened room where the tapestry is kept. Tracy and I both thought that the floor moved around the tapestry the last time we were there, but this time you set the audio guide on start and keep following along by foot (there are no photos allowed, so these two below are from the internet).
The audio guide goes pretty fast (probably to keep the crowds moving along during the heavy tourist season), but you can pause to get a better look at the scenes being depicted.
As we got to the end, we witnessed the scene where Harold II has that famed arrow protruding from his eye, although historians have some dispute as whether it was him or not. In any case, not a fun way to go whomever the victim happened to be.
Tracy and Mary liked it so much (the tapestry, not necessarily the arrow in the eye) that as Kim and I exited, they walked back and went through one more time. Afterward, Kim took the obligatory stupid picture of me standing next to a knight on a horse holding my eye like I had been mortally wounded. Maturity, as you know by now, is not our strong suit.
Ww all grabbed a sandwich in town, and then hopped in the car to visit a famous World II site. Arromanches is about a half hour drive from Bayeux.
It is the spot where the British erected an artificial harbor known as Port Winston (named after Churchill, not the cigarette).
Code-named “Mulberry,” this was one of two artificial harbors erected a few days after the June 6 invasion (the American one at Omaha Beach was destroyed less than two weeks later, but remnants of this one can still be seen today).
More than two million soldiers landed here over the next ten months.
We walked down on the beach to take some photos so that we could get near some of the pieces of the harbor that still remains.
Just as we got down there, a beautiful rainbow appeared over the water.
Bypassing the museum at Arromanches, we elected instead to walk up to the Arromanches 360 Circular Theater, and when I say up, it was up.
A steep 20-minute climb and we arrived out of breath at the theater. “It won’t be lung now,” I said to Tracy. I was pretty excited to get .50€ deducted from the 4.30€ ticket because I was 60 (it was my first ever senior discount anywhere).
We waited for about 15 minutes and then all entered the circular theater that shows a film entitled “The Price Of Freedom.” We stood near the center of the room, and the announcer said that it would enhance the experience to walk around a bit during the film, looking at various screens depicting the action.
At times you felt you were on the boats with the soldiers arriving at Omaha Beach (photo off internet) reliving some of the horror, or at Pointe du Hoc or in a village as liberating soldiers walked through.
It was a mesmerizing film (photo from internet) and something I highly recommend people see when they visit the region.
Driving back to Bayeux, we remembered driving past a British cemetery as we momentarily floundered about in the quest to find our hotel.
Located on the Southern Ring Road of Bayeux is the British War Cemetery.
Nearly 4,000 British soldiers (along with a handful of soldiers from other countries) are buried here.
Interestingly, there are also nearly 500 German soldiers buried here.
I walked across the street to the Bayeux Memorial that faces the cemetery. There is an inscription (in Latin) that reads (I had to look this up because if I’m terrible at French, and Latin is completely out of the question), “We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.” It’s hard to escape old Bill here in Bayeux. Amazingly, we still got back to the tranquil setting that is the Château de Bellefontaine.
We got there in time to see some friendly swans, take a nice photo from our room and even get in a little nap time.
Soon, however, it was time to lace up our walking shoes for the 25-minute walk in to Bayeux. Our very nice hostess at the chateau had booked us reservations at Le Petite Normand, 35 rue Larcher. It’s located just across from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux…
…and the lighting was such that we ran out to take a few pictures.
Le Petite Normand was a winner from the very start. I had what I considered the best French Onion Soup I have ever tasted…a “Wow” dish to be sure. I followed that with a tasty beef with three-peppercorn sauce and a panna cotta that threatened to put me on a Weight Watchers Watch list.
Tracy opted for the salad with carrots and a pork dish with mustard sauce and a pear crepe.
Kim also had a pork dish with Camembert and apples, while Mary had the poulet with apples and raisins. This was a fantastic meal and only cost 90€, which included a little vin rouge and a Kir Normand for yours truly.
We took the direct route back to the hotel, and the wood ducks were waiting for us, posing like wood ducks do. As we fell into bed, we were excited about the next day’s agenda. I wouldn’t have to worry about our group not wanting to wake up early tomorrow, because our day was going to begin with a four-hour tour of D-Day sights. We would also dine at the best restaurant we visited in our nearly three weeks in France.
Next: Day Fifteen – Walking In The Footsteps Of History, Germ Warfare, Checking Out the City of Bayeux Plus An Inventive and Incroyable Dinner