Ceaux, France - April 27, 2012
I had to look back at the website and remind myself where I've been. I think the last time I wrote was from Trouville and while that was only two days ago... it seems like a week.
Trouville... yes, that's right. After I wrote, I headed out for dinner in some crazy gale. I wore my suit jacket as I was headed for a nice-looking restaurant down by the beach. Had a terrific walk there, head first into some channel storm, me and my jacket doing our finest impersonation of the Cape Crusader. Had to step around someone's rooftop TV antenna that was laying in the street, but made it to the restaurant none-the-worse for wear. The waiter actually asked me if I wanted to eat inside or out! Once INSIDE, and trusting my French entirely (NOT!) I scanned the menu for something that wasn't going to come with its face intact and thought that a Pave de Turbot sounded like slab of something similar to Sea Bass. Whew!... wasn't too far off. Don't know what it was, but if it was Sea Bass it was a monster of one. I'm sure he was just about to die of old age anyway. Or he was such a big-ass bully that those in his neighborhood were glad to get rid of him.
In Trouville, France
As I was checking out the next morning... really it was a great hotel... I had taken 5 baths in 2 days... the lady at the front desk (who had not been the one who had checked me in) looked at my credit card and said " You are not Monsieur Anglais?" ??? It's true that on check-in I had not been asked my name and so I guess the girl at the front desk had just entered my name as M. Anglais. I like it! It has a certain ring to it. Which does bring up an interesting observation in that two years ago, I had to produce my passport at every hotel. This trip, I have not been asked for it once. Heck, I've had to let them copy my driver's licence at every motel I've been to in the States for the last couple of years.
Anyway, yesterday started out a lot sunnier that it had been, and so I headed out along the Normandy coast, really aiming for the American cemetery above Omaha Beach, but open to stopping at anything of interest along the way. I'm sure I missed a lot of really important sites, but I did stop at the site of the Pegasus Bridge and later, Juno Beach. There was a lady giving a tour at the Pegasus memorial and as the bridge is still there, she was able to show where the first D-Day soldier fell under enemy fire. The bullet marks are still there. Very sad story in that his wife gave birth to their first child two days later and the mother along with the daughter, - now only the daughter, visit every June 6. I guess they have not missed once in 67 years. Anyway, the whole day was like that.
American Cemetery, Omaha Beach
The American Cemetery is absolutely beautiful. Totally immaculate. The caretakers polish all 9000+ stones every two years, taking two hours on each one. There is a small, very respectful visitors center with a lot of personal stories. There, they also had a tour conducted by a young, local French woman. She was very well informed about the smallest detail of the place. We went to several individual grave sites... including one of only four women buried at the cemetery and the side-by-side graves of two brothers killed a day apart at the D-Day landing. A third brother had been listed as missing in action elsewhere in Europe and it was the plight of this family that inspired the Saving Private Ryan story... where they tried to extract the fourth and last son before something could happen to him. It was a very sombre place... and right at the top of the bluff above Omaha Beach. So I walked down to the beach along a trail they have there, and walked up along another, a bit farther along the beach. I was thinking that as tiring as that was, carrying my tank bag and all, at least no one was shooting at me. An important place to visit for sure.
So I wound up in Ste. Mere Eglise last night. I remember from The Longest Day movie that Red Buttons parachuted into the town, only to get hung up on the church steeple. Well, I guess that was a true story and so on the church, they have a mannequin, decked out as an American paratrooper hanging from a chute. I think the real guy's name was John Steele (?). He survived the war, having had a very interesting night hanging there playing dead.
Ste. Mere Eglise, June, 1944
Ste. Mere Eglise, April, 2012
I was headed for Mont Saint Michel this morning but in my little morning walk-around of the bike, noticed that the lights were wonky-wonky. They were OK yesterday. The headlight would only come on if the switch was in the parking light position, but the brake lights wouldn't work in that setting. Spent about an hour trouble-shooting but couldn't find anything obvious or even not-so-obvious. Thinking that it might be a relay, I drove around Ste. Mere Eglise and happened upon a small motorcycle shop. That was lucky as the town really doesn't have much else. This was one of the few cases so far where my French, as bad as it is, was better than their English. But it all got understood. Anyway, about three hours later... and the lights were (are) in a semi-fuctional state. It all works if you don't breathe on it. It wasn't the relay, but the handlebar switch. The switch always had been a little flaky, but I think all last winter, when it sat outside the shop in Santa Cruz where the guys did the engine work, it got worse. And all the recent rain has proven to be too much for it. Getting a new switch is not an insurmountable problem as Diane could bring one when she comes over next month, but as it is part of the main harness, installing it in some parking lot somewhere would be a bit of a bugger. Anyway, knowing that I was from Canada, the guys at the shop refused to charge me... but I paid some anyway. They were good about it. If they had known I was actually an American, I might have gotten a free dinner out of it too. No, there is just a very tight comraderie with Americans, Canadians and British here. Especially Americans as they were the ones who parachuted in and liberated the town. The culture of being genuinely grateful is quite engrained in this area.
But I did get a late start and so only made it to just down the road from Mont Saint Michel. I can see it off in the distance from the hotel window. Stopped here just before the skies opened up. That was close. But the hotel is isolated out along the road more or less and I'm beat. Think I'll just skip dinner. I'm a little over budget anyway. The average price of a gallon of gas has been $8.60... that's about $2.26/litre. And the hotels are more expensive than they were two years ago by about 50%. Ouch. But it's still way too wet to camp and the forecast for the next week of travel is all rain. All the way into Spain and beyond :( I don't care any more. Its only water and I hear butt-rot can be treated now.
Mont St. Michel off in the Distance
So if the roads aren't flooded and the switch works... Saint Michel tomorrow. Then off to Cognac. Now that sounds like a fun place to spend the evening!