Saturday, July 2, 2011

Invasion of Normandy

Where we are staying in Normandy is absolutely amazing.  We are staying in what is called a “gite”.  (Pronounced “jeet”.)   A gite is considered self service and they come with a little kitchenette and pots and pans, etc.
While everything that we did in Paris was about seeing famous sites and seeing how the city of Paris “works”, here in Normandy it’s about relaxing, but this revelation is in hind sight.  I still have a day to catch up.
We allowed ourselves more of a sleep in on Thursday.  Of course, there wasn’t much in the way of breakfast, but I had found some gluten free muesli in Paris and that along with the milk provided by our hosts allowed us to be able to eat before we found our way out to the market.  
After breakfast, we began to do a little exploring.  Hayley and I are absolutely delighted with the place.  She can often be found outside sitting in the sun with her book or taking photos or just sitting in the breeze.    The morning was blue, breezy and beautiful.  I can’t begin to put into words the feeling and magic of this place.  It keeps unfolding upon us.  I can only hope the photos can convey what we are seeing and feeling.  
First, we are staying in a renovated pigeon house.  It has three floors.  The ground floor has a sitting room and kitchen.  The second floor a double bed and a bath and the third floor under the roof has two twin beds.

So shortly after emerging through the front door, we meet Des and his rescued Border Collie Bess.  Des is one of the owners, British and very outgoing.  We soon learn that he has four pieces of WWII artillery in the barns and is very willing to take us on a tour of them.  One is a 40mm German anti-aircraft gun that was loaned out for the shooting of “Saving Private Ryan”.  Des says that they have watched the movie three times and never saw it.  He and Jackie have been here for 12 years now.  They bought the property from an English Army General, complete with the guns.  One was actually a chassis from a WWI artillery piece that was adapted to carry a WWII gun and Des said probably dug in to the earth to guard a crossroads.  

Bess (I need to get a picture of Bess in here)  had been busy that morning watching over 7 baby ducklings.  Des says she guarding them and I’m trying to explain that what she really wants to do is herd them.  The property is 19.5 acres, and they rent out the fields on both sides to other farmers whom Des says "don’t get along".  He was full of chatter about the place.

We finally got on our way and made it the grocery store.  Upon returning home, we quickly get lunch prepared, eaten and put away as our goal for the day is to get to Mont St. Michel.  We’ve discovered that getting to the popular sights between 2 and 3p is the way to go.  Everyone seems to have left by then or is in the process of leaving.  
It took about an hour and a quarter to drive there.  Along the way we noticed a banner across the roadway advertising that this road was on the 6th stage of the Tour de France that starts on 7/2.  Luckily we will be ahead of the race so we won’t get caught up in any of the rerouting of traffic.  Here's a wanna be yellow jersey wearer we followed on the road. 

At Mont St. Michel, we used the Rick Steves’ detour to the top which involves climbing up the ramparts on the outside instead of running the gauntlet of tourist shops and restaurants on the main street that runs up the front of the island.  While we weren’t alone, it wasn’t as crowded as it would have been earlier in the day.   One of the things that we learned is that since the causeway was put in at the end of the nineteenth century, it has caused so much silt to build up that the island is no longer truly an island.  They will be putting in a different causeway in the next few years that will once again allow the water to flow all the way around.  

Hayley having a Kodak moment.

Here is an interesting shot in the abbey church.  Two distinct types of architecture are found here.  The Roman arches in the foreground are original, but the crypt underneath the apse of the chapel collapsed in 1471 and when the chapel was rebuilt, the newer Gothic arches were used (in the background).

More arches of varying styles.

These are in the cloister.

Since Bob and I were here in 2000, the Benedictine monks had turned possession over to a different order of monks.  I do know that like so many other places, the route of the self-guided tour was different than in 2000.   As we left the monastery, we walked down 5 to 6 flights of scaffolding stairs protected by netting.  Possibly required due to rerouting the tour?  Not sure, but I was able to get Justin to do some gymnastics on the cross beams.  Sorry, I have not yet learned that you cannot rotate a video!

As we descended, we watched the tide coming in and took some pictures.  
Once home, I put together a quick dinner of sausages, baby potatoes (kind of pan roasted with onions and garlic) and carrots with rosehips and a jelly glaze.  Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.   I manage to overcome not being in my own kitchen and not having the ingredient or pan that I take for granted at home and they keep eating it without complaining.   Which is a good thing because they know what will happen if they do.  I'll tell them to fix the next meal.
Tomorrow, we’re planning a down day.  We’re staying close to home so that I can do a little recuperation as I have had a sore throat and earache thing going on since I’ve arrived.  I kept hoping it would go away, but no such luck.  We stopped in a pharmacy on the way to Mont St. Michel and got some meds that are controlling the pain so we’ll see. 
Steps count for the day: 8,481.   Mostly vertical with both Mont St Michel and the staircases in the pigeonnier.