Omaha Beach, late January, early morning. The cold is intense, the beach is wide and empty. I close my eyes for a moment. I always do that when I visit a place full of history. I try to feel it with all my senses. I listen to the wind, I touch the sand, wet and soft, I smell the salty air. A group of seagulls and other birds, that I don’t recognize, are making loud and screechy noises looking for food. The cold is penetrating through my multiple layer of clothes. I cannot stay longer. A last look, a deep breathe to remember and I go back to the car. I head to Bayeux to go far in the history of the area. Bayeux is a charming little town, even in the soft light of a grey, cloudy day.
The next day a girlfriend join me and we drive through the countryside to visit some cheese makers. We make a quick stop in the little town of Pont l’Evêque, who names one of the four most famous cheese of Normandy. The other 3 are Livarot, Neufchatel and, of course, Camembert, also named from the villages where they are from.
In the late afternoon, we drive to Caen.
The capitol of Calvados department is a fascinating city, full of history and at the same time very modern, industrial and working class style. The castle of William the Conqueror is imposing and yet, lot of people stroll around for a evening walk (I admire their stoical way to face the cold weather!), chatting and having fun in the inside court of the building or along the paths around the walls.
The last day we decide to visit Rouen. We cross one of the amazing bridges of the Seine river and make a stop at the ruins of Jumièges abbey, a church destroyed during the French Revolution. Here, again, I can feel history around me. And again, the birds seem to be the masters of the place. And here again, I touch the stones, trying to imagine life almost a thousand years ago, when the first part of the monument was built and the first monks established their home here.
In Rouen we are welcome by the astonish beauty of the gothic cathedral (yes, the very same that the French painter Claude Monet represented several times at different moments of the day). In the christian history, Rouen is famous for the process to St Joan of Arch, patron saint of France. But ‘’the city of a hundred spires’’ as the XIX century French novelist Victor Hugo called it, is home to an extraordinary number of historical buildings.
There are some many place to visit, but I prefer wander around with no aim, just to enjoy the atmosphere of the city, admiring the typical medieval houses, the unusual cover market, the beautiful square of the old city.
And finally, we have a gorgeous lunch at La Couronne France’s oldest inn!!!