|Hey everyone! This last weekend we took yet another awesome trip- this time to Normandy and Brittany. We headed out EARLY Friday morning and took quite a long bus ride to Caen to check out the peace memorial and museum there. Of course, it wasn't exactly architecturally stunning like the buildings of Paris, but the experience itself was incredible. We were given an hour to explore the museum, which tracked in great detail (with videos, photos, texts, and all sorts of random posters and gear and such from the time period) the events that led up to World War II and beyond. It was amazing watching videos of Nazis marching, seeing posters, letters, even toys from the eras, and seeing incredible photos of the time period. The part that impacted me the most was the section on the holocaust- there were pictures of people in concentration camps, stories of people who died, drawings, even lists of people drawn up by the Nazis (with CHECKS next to the ones who had died). After we explored the museum, we watched a movie all about D-day (or j-jour in French). It was amazing- we saw actually footage of soldiers landing on the beach and making the rush for the cliffs of Normandy. Watching probably only 1 or 2 in 10 people make it past the first few feet, seeing real people being shot- it made the war real in a way textbooks never could.
After lunch, we went to the American cemetary at Omaha beach- another moving experience. Thousands upon thousands of soldiers, from every state- white crosses lined up so beautifully that stood for so much violence and death. I can't really explain what it meant to me- I just know that after so many times of hearing about how French people hate Americans, watching two little old French women put flowers on the grave of an unknown American soldier made me want to cry.
Being on the beach was amazing too- you could feel, very distinctly, that you were walking on hallowed ground. You can definitely imagine what the beaches would have looked like on June 6, 1944- and yet it's so beautiful!. After spending some time walking through the cemetary and taking it all in, we met up and headed to Saint Malo- a gorgeous walled French town right on the coast. We ended up having the most incredible seafood dinner there- for 16 Euro (around 20 bucks) I had a HUGE plate of lobsters (for an appetizer!), delicious salmon lasagne, a yummy crepe-wrapped vanilla ice cream, and a glass of the local specialty- sparkling apple cider. After dinner (it took three hours!!) Laura, Lauren and I were so exhausted we went back to the hotel to sleep.
The next morning, we were up early again for a tour of the ramparts (the walls surrounding the town). We learned all about the history of Saint Malo and got the most amazing views of the coast and the surrounding towns. After a short break, most of us hopped on the bus again for a trip to the nearby town of Dinan- yet another picturesque French village (this one with what has been described as the most beautiful/scenic street in all of France- check out the pictures!). We spent several hours there exploring and sampling gallettes- crepes stuffed with all sorts of yummy food (mine was cheese and mushroom, but they get quite a lot more adventurous!). We walked around the city for a while (and found the most ridiculously SMALL European car- my professor completely dwarfs it!) and then headed back to Saint Malo.
That night, I had another sort of adventure- eating my first (HUGE!) bowl of mussels in wine sauce. I gotta admit, they look and feel pretty flippin' gross- but they're delicious! We spent some time shopping and exploring the town (and I got myself all stocked up on that cider I mentioned- yay!) and then headed back to the hotel.
In the morning, we took yet another bus ride- this time to Mont Saint Michel, this tiny town/abbey with a population of 71 built on this enormous piramidal rock on the coastline. It was gorgeous, although DEFINITELY a chore making it all the way to the top to start the tour. The original abbey was built more than 1000 years ago, and there's all sorts of history in the place- it was even used as a prison during the French revolution! The church was not nearly as beautiful or as decorated as Saint Chapelle or Sacre-Couer, but it was still incredible to see.
After a quick (disgusting!!) lunch of Croque Monsieur- (don't ask, it was gooey) we took a loooong bus ride back to Paris and hit the sack.
More later- gotta go explore the Cluny Museum!