Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mt. St. Michel

We spent a pleasant morning at the French Mt. St. Michel,
pretty much deserted, at least until the Japanese tour busses
started arriving for lunch; we skipped the abbey, having seen
it a couple times before; a fine day, the views were great

"OK, then let's park here!" Actually, we spent the night too

Gate, portcullis...presumably, murder-holes,

Actually, the streets and shops reminded us
a bit of Namche Bazaar; a bit...

Tide's out

View from the abbey battlements (I thought you were
supposed to turn the other cheek...)

Looking toward toward the 14 euro abbey; no concession/
reduction for old age pensioners like us

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving, 2009

Yes, the French do have turkey; it's called Dinde; as you
can see, it was a somewhat abbreviated turkey dinner,
although Vicki cooked heroically despite the lack of
yams, giblets, and, horrors, green jello for the green
slime (lime bavarian); we are gratified to know Rachel
carried on the tradition

It was all washed down with Normandy cider; Normandie
Gourmandie, the label says

Unfortunately, what I thought might be cranberry sauce
turned out to be something else, something wretched, I
fed to the sea-gulls

We ate at Mount St. Michel, at the foot of the mount, and indeed reflected on the many things for which we have to be thankful. And we thought of our many family and friends, wishing them a happy Thanksgiving as well.

Pointe du Hoc

For the 50th D-Day anniversary, this place came under
American control, or influence, finally. Previously, the
French account of the action, which we had read on
repeated visits, told of the American Rangers climbing
the cliffs on D-Day under withering machine-gun fire,
to knock out artillery batteries covering both Omaha and
Utah beaches. At the top, they discovered only telephone
 poles, disguised to look like guns. End of story. Heroic
American fools.

What actually happened, and is finally related in the
signage here, is that the Army Rangers then fought their
way a mile inland, found the suspected guns, spiked them,
and then fought their way back to the Pointe, holding off
repeated German attacks, until they were relieved two days
later. Of the 200+ men landed, 90 were still alive, although
not a single one was unwounded. Their leader, a former
Texas high school football coach named James Rudder,
went on to become president of Texas A&M.
All honor...

The cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

It's one of the few D-Day places left that not been cleared

Gun emplacement

More wreckage

The cliffs, from the west at Grandcamp Maisey


After the disastrous 1942 "raid" on the fortified harbor of
Dieppe, where only half the force of 7,000 returned to
England, the Allies resolved to bring their own harbor
the next time they invaded France. And so, off of
Arromanches, square in the middle of the British and
Canadian D-Day beaches, one can still seen remnants
of the "Mulberries," huge concrete structures towed
into place off the beach, then sunk, creating an artificial
but highly effective harbor. They are among the few still-
visible sites from D-Day. Above, looking in the direction
of Omaha beach, beyond the cliffs

On the beach

Remains of landing ramp

More mulberries

14 places for camping-cars, gratuit...we are learning new
respect for French camping


Bayeaux Cathedral

Bayeaux Cathedral, very old, 1047-1077

Nave; nothing fancy

Cracks in the ceiling always worry me...

Beautiful window

The best part was the crypt and its 12th century paintings,
a couple dozen or so depicting angels playing musical



And, upstairs, a later painting of the Becket martyrdom;
Henry was very, very sorry


A Good Yarn

The Normandy and Brittany coasts are pretty familiar ground,
relatively speaking, and we always enjoy seeing them; this is
our third or fourth visit. Maybe Vicki's fifth. Anyhow,
after spending the night at an aire in Merlontin-sur-Mer,
we drove on to Bayeaux, inadvertently skipping Caen.
At Bayeaux, we walked the town a bit, saw the Cathedral,
and--once more dear friends...--the Bayeaux Tapestry.
Having seen the ground at Battle, UK, and the presentations
there, it was very interesting to seeing the 10th century
Norman perspective. We drove on, at length, camping at a
designated "camping-car" site at Arromanches. Above,
the gale continues, violently, the morning after our channel
crossing; sand blowing over the sea-wall at Merlontin-sur-mer

Street scene in Bayeaux...lunch time;
we had hoped to eat at the patisserie at the
tapisserie, but settled instead for a local
bistro, Vicki doing the galettes, me the
fish soup

The 200+ year old Liberty Tree in Bayeaux--
planted at the time of the Revolution

Entry to the tapestries, still fascinating (no pix)

And, if you can find a US-DVD-compatible version, I heartily
recommended the new animated version...a hoot!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Dover Beach

..."Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night. "

--Matthew Arnold, 1867 (the whole poem is at

Ferry traffic

The harbor exit, leaving in a "violent gale"

Ships passing

A really big one

White cliffs of Calais
Calais beach and harbor entrance

Saturday's fine weather turned awful Sunday. The captain of the "Pride of Kent" described the Channel as in a "violent gale." Winds of 75 mph, gusts to 90. Our departure was delayed 2 hours; high seas and higher winds; lots of very sick people, but the Dramamine worked for us.

So the Grey Wanderer has had its last boat ride for a while, and we are back in beautiful France.

Our three months+ in the UK were not nearly enough. The last week, we kept asking ourselves if we really had to leave. But the weather kept getting worse and worse and answered that question. So now we're heading west along the Normandy coast, turning south, eventually, and looking forward to some sun and some warmth.

Dover and Castle

November 20 we drove on to Folkstone and the Vicarious
bookstore, which maintains a collection of European and
UK camping guides. After stocking up there, we drove on,
in a downpour, to Dover, and stopped at the town center
carpark, where overnighting is allowed. We shopped all the
charity stores, donating as well as purchasing, then took in
the castle the next day. Above, the giant TV screen in city
square, Dover
Dover castle by night

Main castle by day; it's a huge, curtained,
11th-12th century structure

Throne room; English Heritage just finished a major
restoration in August, furnishing the keep with a variety of
objects thought to be typical of what it was like in the 12th
century; "history in technicolor" they call it

Banquet hall; more history in technicolor

Just down from the keep, the 1st century Roman lighthouse
and the 10th century Saxon church
We also visited the Dover Wartime Tunnels (of which there
are nearly 4 miles' worth); the tunnels date from the
Napoleonic Wars, but were expanded and used importantly
in WWII, especially in directing the Dunkirk evacuation;
similar in approach, exhibit-wise, to the Cabinet War
Rooms; no pix allowed

More Canterbury Cathedral

Medieval painting on wall showing the
life of St. Eustace

Detail; apparently St. Eustace was converted after having a
vision of Christ crucified on the antlers of a deer; the Lord
works in mysterious ways...

Beautiful blue window

The Canterbury Pilgrims window: Chaucer's agent saw this
in 1277 and dashed off the following note: "Jeff: how about
pilgrims on their way from London to Canterbury? Could
be a vehicle for your short stories; cross-section of society
...what do you think?"

The Black Prince, a personal favorite

Set up for event the next morning; where's the most
 important guy sit? (or possibly the tallest?)

In addition to the items depicted here, we also visited the crypt (no pix), which was quite interesting.