It has been a very long while since my last “A Weekend in Normandy!” post. I blame it on the fact that I haven’t been traveling much within the Normandy region these past few months, instead going to many other places in France and out of the country.
In any case, though, the series has returned! 😀
I spent my long weekend (Friday to Monday) in Basse-Normandie, re-visiting places like Caen (which I had visited back in December and wrote a post about here), as well as new ones like the Landing Beaches and Le Mont St. Michel. I went with another assistant (let’s call her “Nicole”), and together we spent the time getting from place to place, using all sorts of different public transports (BlaBlaCar, train, bus) to save time and to cut costs. I am amazed that all went so well: no late dashes to catch the train on time, no last-minute cancellations on our BlaBlaCar rides, and so forth. We did good, yo! 😛
Any case, let’s start from Thursday afternoon: I got off work at 16h00, went back to my flat to grab my belongings, and took the bus to Le Havre to meet up with Nicole, who lives there for her work. Spent the night with her before we caught our BlaBlaCar ride to Caen the next morning. We had a couple driving us who was super nice, and we even had a mini-language exchange (French and English) during the 90-minute drive!
Got dropped off in Caen, where Nicole and I proceeded to take the train to Bayeux, a small town about fifteen minutes away that is the gateway to accessing the Landing Beaches of Normandy. Took the train over, and caught the regional bus around noon to Omaha Beach, one of the two American landing beaches during World War II (the other is Utah Beach, but was further down the coast; Omaha was closer to Bayeux).
Arrived at Omaha Beach, where it was super windy and chilly (then again, it is winter!). There weren’t many people there, perhaps at most a couple of families and a group of British students on a field trip. Despite the wind, the ocean was very calm and flat: no crashing waves onto the shore! I was expecting some old cannons and weaponry to be lying along the beach, as reminders of the war. However, they were all actually stored in the nearby World War II museum; there were some memorial statues, though, that were placed close to the beach, though.
Afterwards, Nicole and I decided to walk along the beach to the Normandy American Cemetery; it was about three kilometers from Omaha Beach, and so we decided to walk over there. Even though it was a bone-chilling afternoon, it was nice to take a stroll along the northwest coast of France, with the sea, sand, and all.
We arrived at the Normandy American Cemetery around 16h00. Although we didn’t go into the museum over there, we spent a good time just wandering around the cemetery, with its hundreds of tombstones lined up in perfect alignment. Morbid as it sounds, there is beauty to cemeteries, no matter where you go; they represent sort of a return to the beginning, when we were nothing but earth (as so the Bible goes- I’m not religious, but it sounds very poetic!).
By 17h00, we were basically done exploring the D-Day Beaches and the memorial. Caught the bus back to Bayeux, where we then took the train back to Caen, where we were to meet our BlaBlaCar driver to go to le Mont St. Michel (we were lucky to have found a ride who happened to be going there, too- makes getting there a lot easier!).
Had dinner at the train station, and caught our BlaBlaCar ride at around 20h30 from a young couple to le Mont St. Michel. They dropped us off at our hotel, where we checked in and turned in for the night.
The next morning, Nicole and I set out to visit le Mont St. Michel. Now, this site is the second or third most-visited place in France, behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris (of course). It is really neat, as it is an island-village that used to be a multitude of things: a pilgrimage site, a prison, and now a popular tourist attraction. Simply put, the way it looks is just so stunning; I can see why it is considered a UNESCO Heritage Site!
Nicole and I were staying about one to one-and-a-half kilometers from the island, and even though there’s a *free* shuttle to and from the site, we decided to walk over there along the bridge, which I had heard was just built in 2014. Again, super cold weather, but nevertheless a nice stroll over.
Arrived on the island around 10h00, where we proceeded to climb the stairs up to the abbey. Passed through the touristy old town with souvenir shops and overpriced, sub-par restaurants (from what I’ve heard) before arriving at the site. We had bought tickets from our hotel earlier (9 euros), and so we just directly went in.
Now, I was expecting the visit to be underwhelming, especially for its cost (what can I say? I’m cheap!). But the abbey surprised me by having more than I had thought! Yes, there was the nave (aka the main part of the abbey), but there were also crypts, pillared halls, and a lovely cloister. In other words, there was a good amount to see in the Abbaye du Mont St. Michel! 🙂
We spent about two hours on the island; I believe that was enough time to see everything. We left around 11h00, took the shuttle back to our hotel (wind was getting too crazy then), and had a nice lunch at our hotel’s restaurant. I had read its reviews beforehand, and it seemed to have good ratings, as well as decent prices (19,50 euros for a three-course meal: not bad!). I ordered mussels (being near the sea, of course), as well as the “puffy omelette” (literally, an inflated omelette), and shared a cheese platter and a chocolate-cardamom cake with Nicole for dessert. Delicious!
After lunch, we were ready to leave le Mont St. Michel, and so we decided to take a long walk (seven kilometers) to Pontorson, the closest town from the site, that has a train station, in order to get back to Caen. Yes, there is a bus that goes between the two places, but we didn’t mind the exercise (and again, being super cheap!).
Started at around 14h00, walking along the stream and in the countryside, which was very pleasant. Arrived in Pontorson around 16h10, where we headed to the train station to sit, rest up, and wait for our train to Caen at 17h30.
Took the train back, had a thirty-minute delay in Lison, but eventually made it to Caen around 20h15. Checked into our hotel near the station, and crashed for the night.
We checked out around 11h15 the next morning. Being that it was a Sunday (and also the fact that we had already visited Caen back in December), there wasn’t much to do. Nicole and I ended up wandering around the city, visiting a pretty nice botanical garden before catching our final BlaBlaCar ride back to Le Havre. Arrived back around 18h00, and since I knew that I wasn’t going to make the last bus back to my little town, I stayed the night with Nicole again, leaving the following morning at 10h00 to return to my flat (thankfully, I don’t work Mondays at my collège, and so I had the day to make a *last-minute* lesson for the week, as well as catch up on other things).
Overall, I am super glad that I was *finally* able to visit the famous Mont St. Michel, as it had been on my list for a while. And it definitely was worth the journey, even though it was a bit tricky to get there, as there are no direct ways to do so in the big cities. Spending time, as well as bonding, with Nicole, was very rewarding, as we got to know each other more, even finding common interests!
…more travels to come very soon! Until then! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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