One of the many consequences of the ‘rona on travel is that airlines had to completely revisit their routes. Many of them were cancelled, momentarily or long term.
To reach my destination during recent travels, ie the Brittany coast of France, taking the car thus became the favoured option, allowing for pit stops on the way.
First port of call was Etretat, with its famous “needle”; it stands high in the memory of French 20th century readers thanks to Arsène Lupin, renowned fiction character recently revisited by Netflix.
The landscape is quite special and drew many visitors, some seemingly coming from far away to see the famous cliffs.
Less well known is the Etretat garden created in the beginning of the 20th century by a Russian individual but by no means less appealing.
The premises were absolutely immaculate, the trees manicured to perfection. A real joy to look at.
Some might argue, and rightfully so, that it was not the right time of day, ie golden hour, to pay that visit. Right you are, I indeed had to make do with a glaring sun baking the alleys.
What is also worth mentioning is the artwork present at this garden which allows some interesting combination with the scenery, enhancing its dramatic appearance.
In the area, one has to watch out for sea gulls. They have a piercing eye (and cry); whenever someone is eating, they are ready to pounce in a determined and skillful way, and take that food away. Be warned!
The second part of this stint proved much more dramatic, if for quite different reasons, being devoted to some of the D-Day landing beaches and associated landmarks.
The generation before mine fought the war. My relatives wanted that door permanently shut, having lived (or rather survived!) through a period which was quite traumatic for both of them.
Additionally, at the time of my studies, World War II was not yet considered “history”, since it had ended too little time before, and was thus not wholly part of any school program yet.
If this visit was long to take place, it was all the more moving.
First port of call was the Canadian cemetery.
The carnage that took place is impossible to imagine when you read the detail of the tombstones. Children barely 20 years old for most; what makes it particularly painful is that most of the descriptions includes words like “good husband” or “proud father” despite their very young age.
Close to two thousand soldiers are buried there. Beyond the gripping emotion, I was most impressed both by the very good care taken of the premises, as well as the baffling absence of any visitor, save for the lawn mowing gardener on duty that day.
Next stop led to the memorial monument inaugurated two years ago by the French President and British Prime Minister to celebrate Anglo French cooperation to stop nazi terror.
A U shaped corridor with the names of all the soldiers who devoted their lives to that assault on the columns leads to the main marble monument.
Again, there was not a soul to be seen, except for lawn mower man.
I could not but be shocked by the crowd present at Etretat and the absence of visitors at such quintessential (in my view at least) landmarks especially as the weather was clement.
Trying to imagine what these brave among the brave must have endured to land on these beaches is beyond possible.
Final stop was at the American cemetery, which was something altogether.
There were more visitors at that site, which I read as positive news.
Ten thousand soldiers are buried there, the vastness of the location is overwhelming. And they only represent some forty percent of total casualties, the others having been brought back to the USA to be buried.
Trying to convey the emotion is difficult.
For all the Edward Daleys of this world, we must always remember and pass on the memories of their ultimate sacrifice.
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