May 21 2011
With the exception of a few perfect snow days skiing, I don’t think I’ve had a more pleasant morning than this one in my life. We slept in ‘til about 0830, actually, the church bells rang at 0700, but after giving Anna her shot we both snuggled back up in our sleeping bags until 0830, when I remembered that super-suave French accent man had said that the local bakery delivered hot croissants to the office at 0830 and that was enough to get me up. We were pretty much out of clean clothes so I started some laundry and picked up some croissants (half with chocolate) which were perfect. Anna had gotten cold in the night and not slept well, so I wandered around the campground/chateau grounds with the kids talking to the chickens and ducks with them.
The sun was out and it had really warmed up to perfect day temperature. After showering (this place had a few family shower rooms)and packing up we rented some bikes and biked around the campground (I had promised Lizzy who kept reminding us with “Bike?”….”Bike?”….”Bike?”. ) After the ride we set out with a plan to stop by the nearby village for lunch.
The village of Blangy-la-Chateau turned to be unspeakably cute and we decided to just get something quick from the bakery. This bakery was the source of our perfect croissants a few hours earlier and basically is what every other bakery in the world tries to be like. There were all kinds of bread loaves on the back wall, baguettes sticking vertically out of a wooden bucket, buttery croissants and other bread specialties left of the counter and a full assortment of precisely prepared pastries on the other. Behind the counter was a 60 year old French baker-ess who didn’t speak any English. Being a bread person, this was heaven. We got a loaf of bread, a half-baguette length thing with ham and cheese baked into it and a slice of blackberry crumble. We decided to head back to the Chateau and had lunch on the lawn in front. While we were eating the owners girls (who live in the chateau…yes, we both considered the possibility of Teleradiology from a Norman Chateau) who were about a year older than Lizzy and Henry came out and played with them. Overall it was just one of those places you never want to leave and I’m pretty sure we’ll be back.
After lunch we drove a ways North to the Normandy beaches. Patches of bright red poppies showed up along the highways and the margins of the fields. The American Cemetery at Omaha beach (B on the map below) was everything is should be as a memorial to the dead. It focused on the lives of the soldiers, their strengths and their contributions in a modern visitors center with lots of video and audio. The 10,600 perfectly aligned crossed sitting atop the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, which France has given to the US, was a beautiful and fitting tribute to those brave men.
We tried to get Henry to understand, as well as ourselves, just what courage it took to jump out of those boats or airplanes under heavy fire and fulfill your objective with chaos and death all around. I got a better idea of it by visiting, but just a glimpse, and I guess I don’t really want Henry to ever really understand what that experience is like.
After the cemetery we drove down to the beach and walked along a ways. The kids were tired and hungry by this point so we didn’t stay long. On the way home we gave into the desire for some familiarity and went to McDonalds for dinner. They must make a killing over here because the food cost more in Euro’s than in dollars even with a 1.5 conversion rate.
We had set up camp before hitting the cemetery at the Chateau de Martragny (C on the map) which was just beautiful in just about every way. I’ll just let the pictures describe it. I had to steal a rare quiet hour alone and sat at the edge of the reflecting pool catching up on the trip log while the sun set. I’m getting kind of close to accomplishing my professional goals—medical school, residency, etc—and wondered what kind of work oriented goals I would be setting after and having a little Chateau seems like a pretty good one right now.
(loved the little cottage)