Our tour around northern and mid France was absolutely fantastic! Had a wonderful time – saw everything that was on my list and the driving turned out to be no problem whatsoever. Weather was just like the UK at first but it eventually brightened up. I think most parts of Europe were suffering the side effects of Hurricane Irma et al.
We went to Chinon castle – don’t bother going. I am ‘into’ history, especially the Plantagenets and have visited Fontevraud and other places before and thought we’d go to where Henry II died. Perhaps it was just me but I felt there was no historical atmosphere (or perhaps that particular king wasn’t important to the French!). A big plaque on the floor saying this was where the chapel in which he died used to be situated. Very disappointing.
We stopped off in Brittany – Mont St. Michel being one of the places to see. I’d been there back in the 1970s as a young teacher herding school children on a visit – I didn’t get to see much that time. This time I got to the very Abbey itself – very imposing. Took lots of photographs of wood engravings and plaster mouldings to inspire future projects!
Another stop was Bayeux – to see the tapestry of course, but also because my father was given a free haircut there! (More of that later). I was in total awe of the tapestry – or rather embroidery to be more correct. The only downside I felt was that we were given audio guides that you couldn’t stop and start so to get the full story you had to move along at the pace of the guide. And then you were at the end and you were in the gift shop! I’m going again at some future date and will use the audio guide as before but this time, will backtrack to have a better look at the embroidery – the stitching, colours, techniques etc.
After Brittany we pitched up in Normandy near the D Day landing beaches. This has been on my list to visit for many years ever since Dad let slip that he was involved in these landings and had landed on Gold Beach. He never said anything else about this event except that he had been given a free haircut by a very grateful French barber in Bayeux (see above!).
What can I say? If you’ve ever been then you will know what I mean. I stood on the beach and tried to imagine thousands of young men attempting to wade ashore – men like my dad who was just 22 at the time. It was impossible for me to begin to feel how they must have felt. Although there have been many disagreements between my father and I, this made me feel so very proud of him. I couldn’t have done what he and all the other very brave men did then.
If you never visit any other French site, do go to the beaches and the museums. You will not come away unaffected. And the French still commemorate VE day every year in every little village and town.