That wasn't so bad, huh? I mean, each location was about a thirty minute bus ride apart from each other, and we were four hours away from Paris. And we were only consistently about an hour behind our meticulously planned schedule. No, it was a casual 60 hour trip. I guess that's what you get when Trinity plans one weekend-long group excursion. At least they paid for all my meals.
In all seriousness, I can't remember the last time I learned so much in such a short period of time. Yes the Mont-St-Michel Abbey was built in the eighth century. But it also sits at the tip of a peninsula on the top of the mountain, and watching the tide come in and totally surround the pseudo-island reminded me of watching bore tides and playing in the mudflats in Anchorage. There were even idiots trying to beat the tide as they ran back from the mudflats. The beach towns of Normandy (Honfleur, Arromanches, Port en Bessin) were sleepy and precious and quaint, and had delicious buckets of mussels and fries (moules frites) and too many nautically-striped items of clothing to pine after (I got a kid's raincoat and a scarf). But the WWII history is what really got me.
D-Day is known throughout the U.S. as June 6, 1944, and credits the United States with ending the war in Europe. Well, that's sort of true. American and British soldiers did storm a number of Norman beaches in Nazi-occupied France in order to march on and liberate Paris, causing the Germans' surrender. The mission wasn't done in a day, but over that sumer of 1944, tens of thousands of British, American, French, and German soldiers died in combat. We walked on the very beaches where young American boys scrambled out of their boats and crawled through the wet sand, sitting ducks for the Germans at their superior vantage points. We stood in bomb craters and bunkers occupied by Germans, using their radar technology for the first time to spot the Allies' planes overhead. We saw the cliffs that the Allies scaled using a rope ladder, rushing head on into enemy territory.
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But words don't do it justice.
In Normandy, in the rain, standing in the soft sand or a massive bomb crater in the earth, it was impossible to push out of our minds. France tries to cover up and forget about its involvement with the round up of Jews--its "darkest hour." But in the past few years, people have begun to face that reality again and address it. We did the same thing on our weekend visit to Normandy. America may not always be the good guys, and we may have made some mistakes, but there on those beaches, thousands of Americans died for an honorable and glorious cause.