It seems that most people, when planning a trip to France automatically plan a trip to Paris. I suppose that’s because if you’re going to come to France, you just HAVE to see the Eiffel Tower.
For many people, Paris IS France – there is nothing at all worth seeing that exists outside of Paris, so they spend their vacation strolling on the Champs Élysées & gawking at the Arc de Triomphe.
Of course, standing around in museums, staring at a painting of a bowl of fruit is a really good time. Shopping for over-priced clothes is a real kick in the ass, too. Right?
There are some other people who comprehend the fact that there is a France outside of Paris. Maybe those people are taking bicycle tours through Provence, are sunning themselves on the Mediterranean coast, or are taking wine tours through Burgundy. Good for them.
Maybe they’re history nerds on the beaches of Normandy.
Olivier & I have been to Normandy a couple of times in the past few years. We spent a weekend there for our first wedding anniversary & have gone back just for the fun of being tourists. Sometimes, we just like to get our nerd on, you know?
The Longues-sur-Mer battery was part of the Atlantic Wall fortification that was constructed by the Germans. If you’re an ignorant fool who has never cracked open a history book, or watched a documentary, then just think of the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan.
The battery was constructed by the Wermacht, who, as you may already know, didn’t build flimsy half-assed shit.
Those same German bunkers that were bombed to all hell during the D-Day invasion are still standing.
Of course, a few of them sustained a little more damage.
To be honest, this place probably deserves its very own post, but I am a lazy woman & decided to lump all of these things together. You’ll just have to take a trip to Caen to see for yourself exactly what I mean.
Upon entering the museum, one makes an immediate descent into a darkened chamber, symbolizing the descent into the hell of war. The feeling of immersion is indeed profound. Visitors meander at their own pace through a global time line that begins just before Hitler’s rise to power on through the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall & the 9/11 attacks.
While much of the museum is focused on the events of WWII, D-Day & the destruction that took place in Caen in 1944, it is much more than that. It is a memorial & a monument to peace; a meditation on the evils & failures of war.
The Caen Memorial is thought-provoking, interesting & in some ways, upsetting. However, what is most upsetting is that upon leaving, it’s so plain to see that in spite of our past mistakes related to war, we really haven’t learned a goddamn thing.
Something else in Normandy that is not to be missed is the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial. There are 11 American military cemeteries in France & for you ignorant fools deprived of history books & documentaries, just think back to Saving Private Ryan again. The cemetery where they buried Tom Hanks? Yeah, it’s this one.
Another cool thing about visiting an American cemetery in France – well, if you’re an expat with an attitude problem like me – is that it is considered American territory. So, when I feel like being really cocky, I can go there, stick my chest out & strut around for a while before being humbled in the streets of Paris once again.
Now… the most important thing, the thing that cannot, must not be missed in Normandy: the food. Camembert, Neufchâtel, & Boursin fromages. Flan Normand, (it’s kind of like an apple pie, but with French deliciousness) brioche & macaroons. Crepes with a big glass of cidre.
Or… you could just go stand around in front of the Eiffel Tower & rent Saving Private Ryan again.