Sunday, October 17, 2010

10/17: The Long & Winding Road...Home

SUNDAY, 10/17:

I’m flying at 32,000 feet over the north Atlantic as I write this, my laptop scrunched on my lap so tightly I can barely see the screen, all because the lady in front of me, in an Ambien-induced haze, has her seat back so far back that every time I breathe in I inhale some of her hair.

Oh, the joys of international travel. . .

I said I’d write another one of these blogs on the plane, and I certainly want to keep my word.  We made it out of France no problem, and just have to make it to Chicago, through the joy that’s known as U.S. Customs, and then back to Marquette via American Eagle.  At least that’s the plan; if you’re reading this, you know the plan worked.  If you’re not reading this...well, then I did a lot of typing (on a screen I can barely see) for nothing.


(Speaking of things like U.S. Customs and U.S. regulations, did you know that if you’re flying out of France to the U.S., you have to take your shoes off, but that if you’re flying out of France to another country, even Canada, you don’t?  You can learn some wonderful things in airports around the really can)

Okay...what didn’t I write about in here that I was gonna write about?  Let’s start with one of the things that actually connects some of us, radio.  Unlike the U.S, France doesn’t have stations that individually program music or talk, instead having nationwide networks so you can hear the same thing wherever you go in the country.  The network that we listen to most is Virgin Radio, which gives you the chance to be exposed to pop-type music, some familiar, some not.  Two of the biggest songs over here are Maroon 5’s “Misery” and Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dreams”, as well as tracks by groups like The Muse and Indochine.  However, we kept hearing one song over and over by a guy named Julian Perreta, ended up buying his album because of it, and were happy to hear that the whole disc is actually a GREAT piece of work!  The song we kept hearing is called “Wonder Why”, and I’ll have to play it for you when we get back.  We’ll see if you get addicted to it the same way I did!

Now, let’s get to a few pictures I didn’t get a chance to post while in France.  The first is my chocolate stash!

I know I always joke that while Loraine goes over to Europe for the research, I go over there for the chocolate.  That picture probably proves the point, although it should be noted that Loraine actually ended up buying MORE chocolate that did I (if that’s even possible).  So chalk that up to being birds of a feather, I guess.

While in France we were also munching on some local cereal.   Here’s one that I found quite tasty—

The cereal was actually little chocolate and hazelnut-flavored biscuits; kinda of like eating Nutella, but in a cereal form.  As with chocolate, the cereals over in France come in combinations that you never see in the U.S., and it’s always fun to try a couple of them out.

Remember last year in Bayeux, when a gas explosion knocked out the side of a building on the main boulevard (and deprived us of a meal at an Indian restaurant)?  Well, it looks like they haven’t really done much to the building, especially the top floor, in the 13 months since—

I think I wrote about how we saw people pulling over to the sides of the road to relieve themselves, right?  Another thing the French have no problem with is the public display of affection, as evidenced by this picture from a park in Avranches.

Oh well...good for them.  And c’est la vie, right?

Finally, just a few of the almost 800 pictures I took, only a few of which I was able to share in here--



I hope you guys enjoyed following along on this little expedition; from some of the notes we received, it seems like you did.  This was one of those trips where we really didn’t know what to expect, but after meeting so many wonderful people and having so many wonderful experiences, I think I can safely say that it did exceed our wildest dreams.  So thanks for coming along.  And seeing as how the next one starts in a mere 10 months, although this time in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany...well, make sure your passport’s up-to-date, and that your tray table is in the upright and locked position.

Unlike, say, the lady in front of me on the plane right now.

Au revoir,


Saturday, October 16, 2010

10/16: Une Carte Postale Final de la France

SATURDAY, 10/16:

After 9 days, 2,700+ kilometers, and not a scratch on the car (which I’m sure Avis appreciates) I’m done with driving in France, at least for this year.


We made it back to the Paris suburb of Roissy-en-France, where we’re spending our final night in Europe before heading back to Marquette tomorrow.  We’ll wake up at 1:30am Marquette time (730 am here, so don’t panic) and make it back to Marquette just after 8 pm local time.  So that’s...let me think here....about 19 hours of traveling, most of it either in the air or waiting in line in airports.  But we’ll then be home, and this adventure will take its place in the history books.

Once again, bummer.  But not necessarily in a bad way.

We spent our final morning in Bayeux the way we spent our first morning in Bayeux, by going to Market Day.  We didn’t find any raspberries, like last week, but I was more than satisfied with the blackberries I picked up and ate—

By the way, that entire package, which was almost half a pound of blackberries, cost just a Euro and a half, which works out to around 2 bucks American.  And they tasted like they were picked yesterday.  Just heavenly.

We also made one final pilgrimage to our favorite local bakery.  I know I’ve babbled a lot about it in here, so I’ve decided to show it to you!

Those things we get all the time, those feuilletines?  These are them—

And trust me, a picture doesn’t do those tasty wonders justice.  Oh. . .I also can’t forget my mom’s flowers for today, either, courtesy of a merchant at Market Day—

You may be interested to know that she’s leaving the hospital today, just a mere five days after the accident.  She faces a long period of mending, but I have no doubt she’ll be back to fighting strength in no time.

Three and as half hours after leaving Bayeux (and one nice traffic jam in Paris later) we dropped our rental car off at the airport (a very nice experience this time; I highly recommend Avis if you’re driving in Europe) and hopped the shuttle to our overnight hotel in Roissy.  This is the fourth trip where we’ve spent at least a night here, and we like it quite a bit.  It’s an old small town surrounded by a bunch of new hotels.  You walk across the road with the hotels and you’re transported to a nice little village, with a park and a few quaint shops.  You just need to follow signs like this—

One of the things the town does every year it to put up a public display of pictures in the park, a display that deals with a certain theme.  Last year it was France by air; this year, it’s the history of Roissy itself—

This one actually tells the story of how the town butcher would put bells on his horse wagon when he drove through town to let everyone know he was coming...kinda like a modern-day ice cream man!

Now, we just sleep and get ready to go home.  I’ll be writing another blog on the plane tomorrow.  When it gets posted, I have no idea, but it'll be written.  There are so many things about which I still wanna talk, plus put the wraps on the whole experience.  Not only that, but I also have dozens of pictures I want to show you that I haven’t had the chance to yet.  So that’s tomorrow...or whenever I can get internet.  I will, however, be posting Twitter and Facebook updates as we head along, and the Twitter updates appear on the top of this page.  So if you're REALLY bored and want to follow along, you know what to do.


Before I go for today, two people I need to thank.  The first is Kristy from AT&T, who once again set up my phone so I could call back reports to you guys every day.  It also became an invaluable tool on the day my mom was hit by the car.  I have no idea what I would’ve done without it, so Kristy, you once again have my sincere thanks for setting it up.  You rock!!

The second person I need to thank is the person without whom this whole trip would not have been possible.  I know how much work Loraine puts into planning each of these expeditions, and I don’t think I have ever been anything less than blown away at the results of all that hard work.  Once again, my dear, you’ve given us an experience of a lifetime, and for that you have both my love and my mouth widely agape at the wonder of it all.  Thank you very much, and like I said before, Happy Sweetest Day!


Friday, October 15, 2010

10/15: Les Grenouilles et les Meilleurs Plans ...

FRIDAY, 10/15:

I bought a frog today.

That’s how we wrapped up the final day of action on this trip, a day that began with a wasted hour as we tried to find a location that the Michelin Green Guide said was supposed to have a great view of the city of Cherbourg and the surrounding ocean.  Unfortunately, the Green Guide did not have very specific directions.  And unfortunately, unlike many French cities, Cherbourg does not have any of its roads marked with either signs or directions, and we couldn’t for the life of us find where we wanted to go.  Every other French village, town, and city has ample signage so that both residents and visitors know where to go.

Unfortunately, Cherbourg does not.

So after that wasted hour, we gave up on finding the view the Green Guide said was so great.  Instead, we went to find another hill, one Loraine found not in the Green Guide but in a special section of a French newspaper she picked up last year.  And thanks to that newspaper, we found ourselves driving up a very long, curvy, and narrow road, where we found a church and an observation platform, where we saw views like this—

You could see for miles and miles and miles in several different directions, made all the more stunning by the fact that the vaunted Michelin Green Guide didn’t mention it, and a little local newspaper supplement on the 65th anniversary of World War II did.

Go figure...

(By the way, I also found my mom’s flowers for the day there—)

That whole drive, along the Utah Beach coast where several of the men Loraine’s researching came ashore, had some wonderful opportunities for taking pictures.  Here’s a shot from outside of the town of St-Vaast-La-Hougue of fishermen gathering mussels left by the retreating tide—

We spent a large part of the late morning and early afternoon just driving along the beach, enjoying the sights and stopping to check out a few memorials.  Our other primary task for the day was to visit a small road upon which PFC Arthur Lemieux of Marquette, a paratrooper in the 505th, spent part of his final day.  Last year, as you may remember, we found the exact field where Lemieux was killed; this year, we tried to follow the path he took as he headed toward that field.  It was basically a long tvwo-track dirt road, where we walked for more than a mile seeing nothing but grass and a lot of cows.  This cow, in fact, took a particular interest in us—

While I have a strange fascination with taking pictures of cows, I don’t know that much about them.  So it was interesting whenever we walked passed one and would see the cow’s nostrils flare.  Apparently, that’s their way of checking us out, and making sure we’re not dangerous.  Either that, or they were just insanely curious as to why we were walking up the road.  It hasta be one of those two.

We then made our way back to Bayeux and washed and gassed up the car.  The lines at some of the gas stations were insanely long; one of the ongoing strikes about the raising of the retirement age is being led by workers who are blockading the exits from some of the country’s oil refinery plants, which means that some stations could run out of gas soon.  Luckily, ours is filled up, clean, and ready to go.  We just have to hope that the car rental place doesn’t find a nick or dent that we didn’t see when we checked it over today.

After getting the car prepped, we walked down to several of our favorite patisseries, which is where I bought the frog I mentioned at the beginning of this.  C’mon didn’t think I bought a REAL frog, did you?  Imagine what the people at U.S. Customs would think about that.

Instead, I bought a marzipan frog—

I think I’ve mentioned before about just how artistic bakers can be over here, and our frog proves it.  Every single color of marzipan you see on the frog is a different flavor, and all those flavors surrounded a yummy cake & cream interior.  Aside from frogs, they also had cows & pigs, as well.

But we settled for the frog, and it was delicious.

Tomorrow, we drive back to the Paris suburb of Roissy, home of Charles DeGaulle International Airport, where we’ll spend our final night before heading back home.  But before that, we have one more market day here in Bayeux (goody!)  So until tomorrow night from outside of Paris...


Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/14: Loraine Gets Swag!!

THURSDAY, 10/14:

You know you’re doing something that few people have ever done when you find yourself standing in a Normandy farm field, watching an 80-year old lady pick airplane parts out of the dirt.

That’s what Loraine and I did today.  In trying to find out some information on what happened to Marquette’s Royal Madden, a pilot who died when his P-38 crashed while returning from a mission, we found ourselves on the farm of Monsieur et Madame LeCaudy, who live outside of Trèvieres, a little town a couple of miles from the invasion beaches.  Through our friend Jean-Paul, we were able to meet the LeCaudy’s, and it was an amazing experience.  Monsieur LeCaudy actually witnessed Madden’s plane going down in one of his father’s farm fields on a foggy morning on August 18th, 1944.  And in the 66 years since the crash, he and his son, who now farms the land, have been finding bits and pieces of the wreckage underneath the land on which they make their living.

When we first arrived at the farm, we were greeted with warm hugs and an ample display of the stuff they’ve found over the years—

We were then entertained by an intense discussion between the LeCaudys and Jean Paul, all in French, I might add, regarding what happened the day of the crash.  It was fun watching Monsieur and Madame LeCaudy debate the happenings of that morning; she would “shush” him when she thought he was mistaken, and would roll her eyes at some of his tales.  I guess married couples are the same all over the world!

We were then taken on a stroll through several farms fields and past many animals

to the field were Roy Madden died

While Monsieur LeCaudy was telling us what happened, Madame LeCaudy was casually strolling through the freshly cultivated field, digging up a few new pieces that had been recently brought to the surface by the tractor.

It was both an amazing and a surreal experience, especially when Madame LeCaudy gave Loraine a bag containing several pieces of metal that came from Madden’s P-38.  When you go on research trips like this, you never know what’s gonna happen or who you’re gonna run in to.  On this occasion, we certainly struck gold...or, to be more specific, we struck aircraft grade aluminum and the warm hearts of a very friendly and very caring French couple.

That was the highlight of the day; the rest of it was spent driving in the first gloomy weather we’ve seen since arriving (not a good day for taking pictures, sadly).  I shouldn’t be surprised—every single time we’ve planned on visiting the Normandy American Military Cemetery (you know, the one from “Saving Private Ryan”), it’s been rainy or windy or gloomy.  It was the latter two today, although that didn’t stop us from our appointed rounds, including visiting paratrooper Roy Chipman of Marquette

Loraine said a few of Roy’s relatives are following along with what we’re doing, so our greetings to them from Normandy.  I also don’t know if you guys have ever seen what Omaha Beach looks like these days (Omaha being the “Private Ryan” beach, where 3,000+ Americans were killed on June 6th, 1944), so here that is—

Sadly, tomorrow’s our last full day of doing what we’ve been doing for a week now.  But the weather looks to be better and we’re visiting a few places that promise more cool pictures, so keep your fingers crossed!


Now, on to a few other things.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that Marquette and the French city of Fougères are quite similar, except that Fougères has a castle and Marquette doesn’t.  Well, someone (hi, Tyler!) left a comment saying that Marquette DOES have a castle of sorts, the last remaining building from the old brewery.  And in looking through my laptop, guess who has a picture of it?

So I stand corrected.  Marquette and Fougères are more alike that I thought!

Next...the flower that I’m sending my mom today—

Apparently she got out of her hospital bed and walked for a few minutes, although it did hurt her to do so.  And she’s starting to get back to her normal self in other ways, giving my dad a list of chores to do that includes getting her some shoes with Velcro instead of laces, seeing as how she has a broken arm and can’t tie laces.

Good for her!

Finally, today’s the day that my favorite 12-year old in the world becomes my favorite 13-year old in the world!  My niece Mallory probably doesn’t realize this, but she’s been to Europe with me each and every time I’ve been here.  When she was four or five, she gave me a bookmark with her picture on it, and I’ve brought it with me every time.  I know that if she knew I still used it she’d probably look at me like I’m some kind of weird creature, but since I AM some kind of weird creature, here’s Mallory, on her 13th birthday but with a picture taken many years ago, on her fifth trip to Europe.

Happy Birthday, Mal.  Sorry I can’t be there, but hope you heard your voice mail from France!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/13: If It's Wednesday, It Must Be Brittany


Once we got the word late last night that my mom was gonna be okay, we pressed on with our plans for today, plans that had us doing something I don’t think we’ve ever done while in Europe—

We played tourist!

We spent the day driving around Brittany (Bretagne), which is akin from driving from Michigan to Wisconsin.  Brittany, though, is a lot like the U.P. with gently rolling hills, a ton of bike riders (Brittany being one of the biking capitals in a biking-mad country), and a fierce independent streak among the people.  In fact, there are many people in Brittany who refuse to speak French, instead speaking a hybrid of French and Celtic, this region being a part of Britain (hence the name) until William the Conqueror wreaked havoc across the English Channel in 1066.

Okay, enough history.  On with the pictures!

First stop was Fougères, a town with almost the exact population of Marquette.  The two cities are also similar in other ways, including big churches, a nice performing arts theater, and lots of public space with parkland, including one that has this--

The one thing Fougères has that Marquette doesn’t is a big castle sitting in the middle of it.  Unfortunately, the picture I took of it disappeared, thanks to batteries that were running out.  But so you’re not left out, here it is, courtesy of (and copyright by) Wikipedia—

Next stop was Vitré, home to an 11th century castle that’s still pretty well preserved—

Following Vitré was a stop in Combourg, home to this chateau—

where a famous French writer, Francois-Rene Chateaubriand, lived through a depressing childhood with his sister Lucile before penning several famously depressing classics.  Maybe that’s because he didn’t spend enough time in the beautiful neighboring town of Dinan, where we scoped out the 14th century church--

And then walked over to the public gardens, which sit in a former castle about 250 feet above part of the town.  And thanks to that elevation, you get views like this—

After spending 20 or so minutes doing nothing but saying “wow”, we made one final stop, the coastal town of Cancale.  Here’s a dork you may know on a bluff overlooking the town—

On the other side of the city sits the Brittany coast, which isn’t like the beaches we’re used to back home, or even the beaches around Normandy.  These are some seriously rocky beaches—

We then made it back here to Ducey, where we’re getting things packed up so we can head back “home” to Bayeux for two more nights there.  We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to stay here for part of the trip; we didn’t know the area, and we didn’t know the people.  But neither of them disappointed us.  This has been a great way to spend some time in France, and we’re already looking forward to coming back again some day.

Now, onto a few quick other things you noticed while driving around here (1,700 kilometers so far)--

For the first time today, we actually saw leaves that had changed colors.  In Normandy, as you may have noticed from some of the pictures, everything is still green, thanks to the influence of the Atlantic.  But once you get away from the warm water, things are different, just like in the U.P. away from the lake.  And just like in the U.P., the water influences the weather in other ways, too.  We had a LOT of sun today, at least until we got close to the Channel.  By the time we hit Cancale, clouds were everywhere.  And when we came back here inland just a bit, the sun was back out.

Think of it as lake effect multiplied by a power of 10.

We’ve also really noticed something around here, too.  Every little town has a church in it, usually a beautiful centuries old building.  But there’s one thing you always notice when looking at these churches—the steeples on them aren’t centuries old.  In fact, the steeples on most of them are only 60-some years old.  Most of them were used by German snipers & artillery spotters during World War II, which means most of them were blown to bits by the Allies during World War II.  We’ve even developed a little game, trying to figure out where the old church ends and the new steeples begin.  If you’re ever over here, try it yourself!

Finally, an update on my Mom.  She’s doing a LOT better today; in fact, she should be out of the ICU by now.  Any internal bleeding has stopped, and they just need to set her broken arm.  Her broken ribs will probably hurt for a LOOOOOONG time (based on personal experience), but, as time goes on, she should mend fully.  You can’t believe how glad we were to hear that.

And speaking of my mom, here’s her French flower for today, courtesy of a gardener in Dinan—

Back to Normandy tomorrow, and hopefully a story on what happened to a WWII fighter pilot from Marquette.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/12: C'est Comme Ça

TUESDAY, 10/12:

I have a feeling this is going to be a strange blog entry. I just found that while we were enjoying our day in France, my mom was struck by a hit & run driver while walking on Bluff Street back in Marquette.  From what my dad knows for now, she has a broken arm, 12 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a concussion, and possible bleeding in the brain.  She’s awake and lucid, which is good, but also in lots of pain, which is bad.  They seem hopeful that she’ll be okay, but whenever you hear something like “bleeding in the brain”, your mind automatically assumes the worst, at least until the tests come back and the doctors know something more definitive.

That’s all I know for now; if there are any updates, I’ll try to post them.  They may also appear on the Twitter feed that’s above the blog.  Just think good thoughts, if you would.


Okay...I suppose I might as well write about our day.  After all, that’s why these blogs keep popping up, right?  For us, it was just a day of driving around and visiting a bunch of towns that played a part in the war, although no place where someone Loraine’s studying was killed.  Mostly, we just enjoyed the scenery, and found ourselves “oooh-ing” and “aaah-ing” every time we went over a hill or a curve and saw sights like this—

We also visited a lot of little towns like this one, Tessy-sur-Vire...

Needless to say, we did a lot of “oooh-ing” and “aaah-ing” in those little towns, too.

Now, on to a few other things.  This is the hotel we’re staying at here in Ducey, the Best Western Le Moulin de Ducey.

It’s an old wind/watermill converted into a hotel, sitting on Le Selune, a little river in this part of the country.  It’s a wonderfully cozy place, with an amazing, helpful staff and a great location.  Not that you’ll ever be in this part of Normandy, but if you ever ARE in this part of Normandy, now you know where to stay!

We had several comments about our “date” last night, and here’s the scoop behind it.  The first time we went to Europe, back in 2004, we were in Germany and Loraine decided she wanted to take me out to dinner.  One of the only restaurants open in the small town was an Italian restaurant, so since then, every time we’ve come to Europe, we have to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant.  Dorky, I know, but then what do you expect, right?

Anyway, here’s the restaurant, “La Marionette”—

And yes, they DO have puppets inside.  Here’s the dinner we both had, a pasta dish with ham & gorgonzola/cream sauce—

By the way, the dish WAS as big as it looks in the pictures, and it was just as delicious as you think it was.  We weren’t the only Americans in the restaurant, and I had been planning on using those Americans as an example of what NOT to do when you’re visiting someone else’s country, but after everything that’s happened today, I think I can save that for another time.

Finally, aside from taking the usual pictures of animals, I’ve also been taking a few pictures of French flowers, as well.  I had been planning on posting this picture for daily blog reader Cyndy of Au Train, because I know she likes looking at them, but maybe I can use it as a way to send flowers and my love to my mom, as well.  Mom, I wish I could be there with you, but based on what you say every day when I call you and tell you what we did over here, I also know that you wouldn’t want me to miss out on a second of what we’re doing.  It just sucks that I can’t be in two places at once.

Be safe, everyone.


Monday, October 11, 2010

10/11: The Trouble With Tribbles

MONDAY, 10/11:

You know, it’s amazing what you can find around the next corner.

We discovered that several times today as we spent 7 or 8 hours driving around southern Normandy.  We had a couple of things we wanted to take care of, the first of which was a return to the town of Mortain.  We visited Mortain briefly last year; basically, long enough to head to the top of the hill on which the town sits and enjoy the spectacular view, a breathtaking view that extends for kilometers and kilometers.  This year, I wanted to take pictures of the town, something I didn’t get to do last year, and we also wanted to retrace the steps of PFC Everett Beerman of Big Bay, who was a member of the 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division.  Unknown to us when we visited Mortain last year, Beerman died trying to defend the hill from a German attack.  Because it has a spectacular view that extends for kilometers and kilometers, it was high ground that both sides wanted.  After a long and very bloody battle, the Americans kept control of the hill, but not before many died, including Big Bay’s Everett Beerman, who was killed on August 12th, 1944.

We actually started in the town of Romagny, which sits at the base of the hill that holds Mortain.  Take a look at this picture, then imagine having to claw your way up it under fire.  And just so you know, the picture only shows the very lowest ring of homes in Mortain.  The hill itself goes up over 600 feet.

By the way, Beerman is buried in the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James. 

We stopped by there to say ‘hi” to him today, where we were also inundated with tribbles.  But I’m getting ahead of myself...

After we left Mortain, we found ourselves driving around many more corners until we ended up in the town of Vire.  Vire’s been around since Roman times, and was once the home of one monster of a castle.  How do we know it was a monster of a castle?  Parts of one wall still remain, and to give you an idea of just how much of a monster the castle was, see if you can spot Loraine in this picture--

I have no idea why, but every time I look at this picture I hear Billy Crystal saying “Have fun storming the castle”...


After Vire and visits to a few other places, including an amazing public garden in Avranches, where you can see Mont St. Michel (the Statue of Liberty of the French tourism industry) from 12 miles away, we ended up at the Brittany American Cemetery, and when we walked into the place and turned the corner, saw nothing but tribbles—

Okay, they’re not REALLY tribbles, they’re chestnuts.  The cemetery has dozens of chestnut trees, and this is the time of the year when they fall to the ground.  The really cool thing is that while we were the only people in the cemetery looking at the graves, there were a dozen or so other people in the cemetery picking up the nuts

I’m thinking these are French bakers gathering the chestnuts to use in those heavenly pastries of which we’ve been eating waaaaaaay too many since arriving.  Nice to see they don’t let them go to waste, though.

The final surprise around a corner came as we were leaving the cemetery, and Loraine noticed that there was a sign for a nearby orientation table.  They have a bunch of those here in France; basically, they’re maps placed atop a big hill pointing out what you can see in the distance.  And as we were driving toward the table, we saw something else that caught my eye.  I didn’t think I translated it correctly, until we found this and found out I HAD translated it correctly—

This is a Moroccan military cemetery.  In the middle of France you can see all kinds of American military cemeteries, British military cemeteries, German military cemeteries, and Canadian military cemeteries, but this one blew my mind.  Morocco was a French colony back in the 40s, and apparently eight Moroccans died fighting for France.  The eight of them are buried in a small graveyard on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, with this monument to mark their contribution to the French war ewffort.

Like I said...sometimes, it’s amazing what you can find by just going around the corner here .

Tomorrow, the story of how NOT to be an obnoxious American in Paris (or anywhere in France).  By the way, if you have any questions or comment, feel free to drop me an e-mail or leave a comment here.  I’ll see if we can answer ‘em!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10: Duck Season Or Wabbit Season?

SUNDAY, 10/10/10 (!):

Today we got to ride in a 1944 Army jeep.

But before I get to that, let me explain the title of today’s blog.  We left Bayeux quite early, because we had a long day of driving before us.  When we left, the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see more than 200 or so feet in front of you.  As we drove away from the coast, the fog started to burn off, and soon we were able to see the farm fields we were driving past.  Out of the haze we noticed figures walking around, and it looked to us as if those figures were carrying guns.  As it turns out, they were, because once the haze lifted even further, we were treated to a sight very common in our neck of the woods, guys carrying rifles and dressed in blaze orange.

That’s right—those figures we saw outlined in the fog?  Hunters, possibly going after duck or wabbit, but more than likely going after pheasant.  We saw quite a few of them today, along with another sight you usually DON’T see in our neck of the relieving themselves along the side of the road.

C’est la vie en France, I guess!

Now, our primary task today (aside from driving 400 or so kilometers to Ducey, our home for the next few days) was to visit the town of Marolles les Braults and accomplish two things—meet some nice people and visit the site where Joseph “Cherry” Roberts (he grew up on Cherry Street in Negaunee) was killed in a tank battle in August of 1944.  And both of those tasks were accomplished well beyond our wildest dreams.

In Marolles, we actually met up with a group of people, including an old friend from last year, Jean-Paul Pitou and his wife Christiane.  But we were glad to meet a local historian by the name of Fabrice Avoie, who’s about our age and has written a book on the battle.  Along with his wife and several neighbors, he took us out to the field where the battle occurred, the field where Joseph “Cherry” Roberts of Negaunee was killed—

Fabrice and several local citizens got together to put up a monument to all the Americans killed there, including Roberts—

After talking about that for a bit, we were then treated by another of the people we met, a farmer named Pierre, to take a ride in his pride and joy, a fully restored (and fully working) 1944 Army jeep named after George Patton’s daughter Helen—

It’s part of a collection he has of stuff from that battle.  He was 6 when it occurred, and he’s never forgotten the sacrifices that the Americans made while liberating his parents’ farm (and the entire town of Marolles), as was evidenced by the fact that while driving us around in the jeep, he had a young man riding along in the back seat holding a giant American flag.

No, really.  I’m not kidding.

Loraine and I both really wish we could’ve spent more time in Marolles—we had even been invited out to lunch—but because we still had a long drive ahead of us, we had to sadly say “au revoir” (although we sure hope to return in the future!) and hit the road.  Although, you know, if you have to hit a road, it’s not bad hitting one with views like this—

That was typical of what we saw on the drive to Ducey this afternoon.  Ducey is our home base for the next four days.  It’s a town about the size of Munising, and it looks just like this—

Like Munising, it sits on water (in Ducey’s case, La Selune, a small river).  But unlike Munising, one of Ducey’s big tourist attractions is this manor, built in the 1600s.

Tomorrow, we visit a few new places and a couple of towns we went to last year, including Mortain, which sits high atop a hill and has some of the most gorgeous views in Europe.  I’m thinking we won’t get to ride in a jeep again, though.