Normandy, France. A Softer Glow.
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Everyone, it seems, romanticizes about Paris and for good reason as so much has been written and spoken about the City of Lights. It is a cultural icon all unto itself. There are however other places in France that can be just as enchanting. During a recent European trip, we took some time to discover the northeast Normandy coast, starting with Mont Saint Michele. We drove from Paris to Mont Saint Michele (3 1/2 hours by car) and the further we removed ourselves from Paris, the more France seemed to embrace us. Not with iconic relics and historic monuments of Paris, but rather the humanity and soul of the people of France. As we surveyed the landscape driving south, the earth became lush and farm life abundant. Once we turned off the highway, nearing ever closer to the Mont Saint Michele, narrow countryside roads treated us to dips and curves through sinuous flat lands. The local places we would pass or stop into visit, were filled with working class people, glad to share a wave or a moment. We were simply people among people.
The French countryside is rich in history and part of that tragic yet purposeful lore would be the unfortunate hosting of some of WWII's most dramatic war time theatre. We visited several sights that included Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, Pegasus Bridge and the American War Memorial. No matter where you might turn, there are scars on the landscape and grim vestiges that remind us of what was lost and won.
In some of the places we visited we couldn't help but tread lightly and speak softly given the gravity of moments past, recognizing reverently the place where we stood. The echo of life and death struggles are all around you, reaching out to you. Old photos, rusted carnage, cratered bunkers and caved earth. Many marched on, others were ravaged by war's indiscriminate indignity, French sand and soil littered with the surrendered souls of combatants.
The French are sacred in their remembrance, bestowing honor upon those who would ultimately come to their aid in name of liberty, freedom and just cause.
Although the remnants of war seem to be everywhere, there is also beauty. Travel up the Normandy coast and visit small towns like Deauville, Honfleur, Le Havre and Etretat as they invite you to enjoy the seaside beauty that is classic Normandy coast. Life, history and leisure seems to always be just over the next horizon.