I feel the need to mark the occasion of our safe return from Normandy. It was the first time Elizabeth had been abroad, although it was not possible to get a stamp in her passport to mark this auspicious event. I’m sure she’ll believe us when we tell her when she’s older; we took photos. We took the ferry from Poole and stayed in Carteret, a beautiful harbour with a cape overlooking the western side of the Cotentin peninsula and the odd channel island. The place we stayed in was petite, and as most of the three of us are not, it proved an interesting experiment in unloading the car. I blame Lily for bringing the most stuff. We had local fresh escargots on our doorstep each morning, and they weren’t for moving. Not being an escargot type of person (XX, you know), I watched in horror as my husband ordered and consumed a ridiculously large platter of fruits de mer one evening on the quayside. Fruits is a bad description, even in French, and watched is used loosely, as Lily spent almost the whole meal out of doors entertaining the diners as they arrived rather than spoiling their dinners.
We spent some time building sand castles (girls versus boys) and it is fair to say that mine was prettier, but owed less to Mont St Michel. We also visited some Normandy landing sites of interest. On advice from dad, a trip to the locations my Grandad had been to in 1944 was out of the question as being too far from where we were staying, so we put that down for another day. I’d like to research further some of the details of what his company did before I visit, in any case. Instead, we drove to a site at Grandcamp Maisy, where a British chap has unearthed a German battery which the Americans hid. There is some political motivation here, with Eisenhower, Point du Hoc and American pride at stake, but the guy had found a rare German document, bought the land and uncovered a whole series of trenches and emplacements. It was moving to walk round the trenches and to realise, for the first time, how utterly scared and helpless some of the German fighters must have been viewing the D-Day landings and especially when the Rangers arrived on site. I have seen soldiers in a war zone in Bosnia, some as young as sixteen, and on national service in Israel, but still cannot imagine myself fighting at close range. It terrifies me. My respect for those who fought for us in Normandy grew, and my understanding of those stationed on the German front there saddened me enormously.
We did not only visit Normandy beaches. We went on some walks, saw the cathedral in Coutances and tried some local food. Mostly we slowed down. I read some Ian McEwan. I used French which had been forgotten for fifteen years and got satisfactory results. I entertained my baby with the sea and the sand and a balloon and some cheerful dogs. The people we met instantly took to her, and most of them thought she was tres jolie. This is true and made us all very happy.
I will post again soon, but I am away again for the third time this month at the weekend, so in all likelihood I’ll do it after that. It has been a five load washing day without a working spin cycle today and I had meant to write sooner. However, I am in a very grateful place in my life and felt that I wanted that on record.