Fall 2001:  London, Normandy, and Paris


Omaha Beach
When we visited the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, several of the students walked down to the edge of the water. Later, it struck me that the boys in this picture--juniors and seniors in high school--were actually older at the time they posed for this picture than many of the young men buried on the cliffside above were at the time they were killed.  Each time we visit Normandy, I look at the open beach and steep cliffs  and am amazed that the invasion was a success, and even more amazed that the military leaders at the time could even conceive that it was possible.

Pointe du Hoc lies between Omaha and Utah beaches.  On D-Day, a small group of American Rangers scaled the sheer cliffs to destroy the German bunkers there.  Today, there is a small granite marker at the point, but otherwise the site is left as it was after the battle, with barbed wire and scarred landscape and bombed out bunkers.  A few walkways and viewing points have been provided for the tourists, but otherwise it has been changed little in the last sixty years.
D-Dav Landings

Mont St. Michel Street
High Street is Mont St. Michel's main street (and practically its only street) winding up from the city's main gate to the steps leading to the Abbey.  This is a rare sight on High Street, possible only in the off-season and before the tours starts.  In summer High Street is so crowded that it's almost impossible to move without touching someone else.  If possible, always spend at least one night in the town so you can experience it at its best. All the hotels are located along High Street, so you might want to choose one of the ones near the gate to minimize hauling your luggage up.  On this trip we stayed at the Auberge St. Pierre and the Croix Blanche (owned by the same people).

Mont St. Michel's Cloister is on the highest level on the western side of the Abbey and provides unequaled views toward the ocean.  If you are in Mont St. Michel on your own, check at the Tourist Office (on the left after you enter the main gate) for two important times for the day:  (1) the time for the scheduled guided tours of the abbey in English , and (2) the time for the high tides.  You can tour the abbey on your own, and the written brochure provides most of the information you need, but a guide can provide extra information and can answer whatever questions you might have.
Mont St. Michel Cloisters
Mont St. Michel Parking
At Mont St. Michel, an announcement is made thirty minutes or so before the tide comes in warning motorists to move their vehicles to higher ground.  A favorite pastime is to stand on the ramparts and take bets on which car will be the last to move before the waters fill the parking lots.  We haven't seen one get covered with water yet, but there have been several close calls. There have been plans for several years to replace the causeway with a bridge, making it possible for the tides to wash the silt from the bay and make Mont St. Michel an island once again. All parking will be moved to the mainland, and the tourists will take a bus to the Abbey.  But bureaucracies move as slowly as the silt, and the causeway still remains in place.

London  - Paris
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