Monday, October 03, 2005

Up North There...

No, not a fictional account of a Minnesotan's favorite pastime: spending the summer weekends away at the cabin.

Instead it's the story of one of our French field trips: three plus days visiting the provinces of Brittany and Normandy, staying in the towns of Dinan and Bayeux.

We started in Dinan, a city with a medieval old town complete with medieval ramparts and one of the bigger cities in Brittany. We spent the day hiking around the old town, exploring the arcades half-timbered buildings. They were built this way because back in the day property taxes were based on the square footage of the ground floor. As a result, the buildings started with small ground floors and expanded outward with the upper floors, creating relief from both the rain and the local tax collector. Other highlights included the mainly still intact ramparts and learning to avoid street signs while walking down the sidewalk.

The only other thing of note was when our waiter at dinner tried to serve us our flambe´crepe and set his hand on fire with what can only be described as a sub-optimal pouring technique. Our bill came on a burn creme covered hand. For the record he calmly served the crepe before running off to tend to the hand. (Crepes and galettes (what you call crepes when they have things like meat and cheese and veggies in it instead of sugary deserty things) and hard cider are all traditional local foods here. We were made sure to have a full on cultural experience when it came to the local cuisine!)

The next day we took the train to Normandy and the town of Bayeux. Bayeux was the first city liberated after the D-Day landings and is used as a central launching point to the D-Day memorials. Upon entering Bayeux, we had the exciting task of finding our hotel in the pouring rain. After a few fits and starts about 25 minutes later (which should sound familar to our loyal readers) soaked to the bone we made it to our home, changed clothes and headed back into town to go check out the Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry itself was interesting to see though Becca and I had to go through it twice after we found out that despite both having English commentaries, we had two separate ones. After listening to them both, there's little doubt I got the "American" one. :-)

Our second day in town we used the now beautiful weather to our advantage, rented a car (first time behind the wheel for either of us since June) and headed to the various D-Day Beaches. During the day we visited Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Longues and the US Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Seeing the various memorials, old bunkers and various stories being told at each locale was difficult but impressive. Every time it seemed to get repetitive I would do like I did at Auschwitz and try to imagine the particular locale being filled with people during that fateful time. It certainly brought a level of emotion to me that I felt when I visited Pearl Harbor. To see the dedication the fellow troops had for the fallen and their country makes one appreciate the sacrifices people make for their country. The cemetery especially made this hit home; seeing all the crosses and Stars of David remind you of how many lives were lost just in this locale to take one step forward towards regain freedom across the globe.

On a final and somewhat similar note, please remember to do whatever one can to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina (& Rita). The Red Cross link is on the right but whatever one can do to help is always appreciated. May not mean much coming from someone traveling the globe, but every bit helps...


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