War And Peace In Normandy

While the last few days have been a bit misty and dreary, it’s on the sunniest, most perfect day in a while that I find a bit of motivation to put some updates down. So get ’em while they’re hot! And sunburned!

I’m currently in Normandy, staying at possibly the most relaxing place in all of France. My incredible, ineffably fantastic hosts, Paul and Caroline, have devised a place where even nature comes to kick back, sort of a Norman oasis. It will be hard to leave. Let me get a bit poetic and describe it here for you:

The wind sails aimlessly from tree to tree and the sun takes catnaps behind wandering clouds, while down on the ground cows trundle from pasture to pasture. Doves and sparrows flit about the sky. The sun fondles your skin as distant moos, rustling leaves, and the officious calls of the local roosters form a ragtag accompaniment. Undulating valleys are carpeted in a jungle-green grass and copses of provincial apple trees stand around gossiping about the hedges. Throw in a curious pig, talking sheep, and a pensive James Cromwell, and you’d have Babe.

This area also happens to be where many battles were fought in WWII, and biking around the place it’s difficult to imagine, really. You see monuments and signage every so often, but the tranquility of the place belies the fact that 67 years ago, the fighting was reaching a fever pitch during the Breakout. I’ve yet to visit the beaches and nearby cemeteries, but I’m sure when I do it will bring the reality home a bit more forcefully. Look at these photos (click here for more and higher quality) and try to fathom entire infantry divisions trading volleys with the Germans. Hard to do.

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Incidentally, this area is also home to Calvados, which it turns out might be the only booze I’d ever fight for. I never thought I’d find a common thread between my love of apples and getting buzzed (and I have tried appletinis), but the regional apple brandy has finally filled that void.

I biked down the valley into the village today to pick up a couple things. On the way down, I felt like Lance Armstrong, minus the drug allegations and the balls to make a cancer joke. On the way back up the hill, which was almost certainly a hors catégorie climb (in my opinion), I understood why cyclists use EPO in the first place, and I mentally apologized to Lance in between gasping breaths for the gibe I had thought up on the way down.

But when you’re not bombing a hill, it’s very hard to move fast around here. I tried to rush somewhere the other day, but the mental effort required was like running through mud. So needless to say, my attempts to actually plan things for the rest of the trip are moving along at a snail’s pace. However, tomorrow I’m hopping the ferry to Portsmouth and renting a car to head up to London. I’ve got a bead on a couple of 4x4s that should make passage through the mountains, or North London for that matter, a little saner. (Suffice it to say, I’ll be staying well away from there, unless I can loot an Isuzu Trooper.) When I come back I will finally be able to populate the Car section. But for now, it’s time to pour a little Calvados and kick back with the countryside.

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One thought on “War And Peace In Normandy

  1. Adam:
    Thank you for writing about Normandie, it is beautiful country.
    Can’t remember if we talked about it, but Normandie, specifically Caen, was the destination of a business trip that a couple of colleagues and I went on last February (2011). We spent a week there. Our hosts took us on a tour of one of the German cemeteries, and one of the five beaches where the Allies landed – Americans in this instance – Omaha Beach and the American cemetery there. And we ourselves went to visit Juno Beach, the “Canadian Beach”, and the Pegasus Bridge Museum on the day we left Caen. The places are now tranquil and picturesque, and yet, knowing the raging battles and all the suffering that went on during Op NEPTUNE both for the combatants and the local citizens, one cannot help but feel a bit sombre and varying degrees of profound sadness.
    Yes, Calvados is exceptional! We’ll have to raise a glass (or two) of that when we meet again.
    We are following your blog and Seb’s with a lot more than just passing interest.
    Meanwhile, Adam, all the best, God speed, and fair winds (yes I know you are going over land for the absolute majority of your journey, but my professional colour does come through either deliberately or sometimes subconsciously!).
    John C.

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