Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday, September 23rd, Pontorson


We’re in Pontorson, which you could find on a map if you found Mont St. Michel (the 1,300 year-old monestary built on a rock off the coast on the border between Normandy and Brittany), and then walked backward to just beyond the high tide mark. After dinner tonight, we’re going to drive out the causeway to see it in lights.

Our drive today took us to Arromanches Beach where we viewed the 360 degree 15-minute surround sound film of the landing of allied troops on D-Day in 1944. It’s a pretty spectacular experience resulting from the integration of actual film footage interspersed with present day flyovers, drive and walk-throughs, and even the view from the front and rear of a tank. I found myself spinning at times to take it all in, while holding my digital recorder to try and capture the sound. I’m not sure why I taped it. It won’t have anywhere near the impact without the visuals.

We drove up the coast, visiting Omaha and Utah beaches, and also Pont du Hoc (where 225 rangers scaled the cliffs to secure a strategic point between the two beaches where powerful German artillery was located. Standing there amidst huge crators and broken concrete bunkers, the result of the shelling by our ships just offshore, I remembered what I felt like listening to the rockets land around me in Vietnam. They sounded like a railroad train fell out of the sky. These shells were many times more powerful than what the North Vietnamese were using, but the feeling of imminent death must have been the same. We used to say that it was okay if you heard the sound of it coming in and landing, because you’ll weren’t going to hear the one that hits you.

We had lunch in the town square in Coutances, a mid-sized rural town, and we talked with some young people hanging out on the steps. I felt very close to the skateboarders, as they worked on their skills in the sun.

I have decided not to try to get to Guernsey on this trip to see if I can learn more about my Anthoine family history. As you might remember, I have a distant relative who family lore has it was picked up by a merchant captain, and who eventually married his daughter once they arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1700s. I decided that I needed to do more research before a visit there would be enjoyable, so I’ll contact some genealogists on the island when I return home.

As a result, we’ll spend the day we had budgeted for there instead in Dinan, about a 45-minute drive from here. Rick Steves says that if you only had one day to spend in Brittany, you should spend it in Dinan. Once we see Mont St.Michel tomorrow, and Dinan the day after, we’ll head west into the heart of the Celtic ruin country. We’ll be spending about four days along the Britanny coast before we head inland back into the Loire Valley again.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on:
Wednesday, September 23rd


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