Dear parents, guardians, family, and friends,
What a pleasure it continues to be to accompany your sons and daughters in France—to watch them move from isolated words to full sentence discourse in French has been a real treat (and the sojourn isn’t even near its end!).
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week we had our two-day excursion in Normandy. This has been our longest excursion and today’s blog post will focus on that. I’ve been jotting down my impressions of Normandy as well as taking as many photos of the students as possible to give you a better idea of their experience (there will be 50+ photos in this post alone!).
As normal, below is an overview of our visits and activities in Normandy that will be followed with more detail and pictures:
- Malo (Tuesday)
- Mont St. Michel (Tuesday)
- Benières-sur-mer (Tuesday)
- Pointe du Hoc (Wednesday)
- Omaha Beach + American Cemetery (Wednesday)
- Caen Memorial Museum (Wednesday)
From the outside, St. Malo looks like a fortified castle. Inside the walls it resembles a mini, port city metropolis full of shops, a grocery store, cafes, boutiques, and housing. Many students spent their visit walking the streets in groups to shop and some students walked along the ramparts where they could enjoy a view of the ocean and the busy streets of the city below. We only had an hour to visit the city (it would be been easy to spend the whole day here!), but here are some snapshots of St. Malo:
Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel is one of the most well-known and most visited attractions in France. After parking, we were shuttled up to the entrance and began our ascent up the steps of Mont St. Michel (there were a lot of them). As we climbed Mont St. Michel, I overheard a few students talking about how the walk up reminded them of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter book series: there were so many different people bustling up and down the street visiting the souvenir/trinket shops and cafes. Once we entered Mont St. Michel, we visited the monastery, the crypts, the cloister, and also the gardens.
After Mont St. Michel, we headed towards the youth hostel located in Benières-sur-mer where we had a reservation to spend the night. The hostel was very comfortable: we had an entire building to ourselves, each room had its own restroom and shower, and the staff was very welcoming and use to accommodating large groups. After dinner and a pause, we headed to the beach (located less than five minutes walking distance from the hostel) where students had the occasion to relax on the beach or go swimming after our long day of visiting St. Malo and Mont St. Michel. It was a very agreeable evening:
Pointe du Hoc
During World War II, the Pointe du Hoc was occupied by German forces and fortified to protect the coast. During the morning of June 6th 1944, 225 American soldiers landed at Pointe du Hoc and climbed 30 meter high cliffs in order to take back the area. Even with heavy casualties, they captured and defended Pointe du Hoc—helping to establish an allied foothold to liberate Europe.
We visited this important site Wednesday morning. Even to this day students were still able to see the craters left by the artillery and the remnants of the German defenses: rusted iron, bunkers, barb wire, crumbling stone, anti-air battery placements…
It was a very calm and tranquil visit, with lots of wind from the coast and cloudy skies, but still very difficult to fathom all that must have happened at Pointe du Hoc:
Omaha Beach + American Cemetery
We visited the Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery before visiting the Caen Memorial Museum. American troops landed here as part of D-Day and now the area serves as a memorial to the American troops. I felt awed and very proud to come from the United States during our visit here. As you’ll see from the photos, there’s many rows of cross-shaped tombs and other monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers. Many other Americans were visiting the site on Wednesday and a lady asked me in the chapel if I had been looking for someone I knew among the graves—it’s an emotional visit for many.
Caen Memorial Museum
The Caen Memorial Museum is such a formidable experience and it really brought together all the sites we had visited up until then. We could have easily spent the entire day here reading and seeing all the Museum offered to commemorate the past: documentary films, testimonies, photographs, paraphernalia… The memorial seemed to take you through time: from the start of World War I up until the Cold War. It was a very informative and emotional experience that I would not be able to do justice in words:
Thank you all for the visiting the blog this week to see how the students are doing and what they have been up to this past week—I hope you all had an enjoyable 4th of July and thank you once again for raising such wonderful sons and daughters!