The trip to Paris and Normandy turned out to be more than we expected…in so many ways. I suffer from history overload and the urge to sip Calvados by the harbor in Honfleurs. Along the way, I kept a journal, but all I had time to record were the events themselves. My reaction to each day’s journeyings, such a complex set of emotion, rumination and evaluation, remain buried, ready for exhumation at a later date.
First, the weather. It was cool but sunny most days. Only on the final walking tour of Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite did I suffer from the chill…overcast, biting wind and the shops were all closed so I couldn’t even buy hot chocolate! 🙁 Still, the images remain affixed to my memory bins…the Eiffel tower in the daytime and lit up at night, the flags at the landing beach in Normandy. The photos below offer a small sample of all we visited and the tremendous emotional lift we experienced as we traveled through the towns and the centuries.
Then, the land and its stories. D-Day is as palpable along the coast as it must have been that gloomy JUne day when the ships assembled off the coast and the young men prepared to storm the beaches, climb the cliffs. The cemetery, Museum and battle ruins on Omaha and Utah beaches gathered me in, whispering the names of the brave lads who knew the odds and charged forward anyway, willing to sacrifice their lives to restore peace and freedom to the people of France and the rest of Europe. Courage lives on there.
My favorite ruin was Chateau Gaillard, Richard the Lion-Hearted’s fortress three hundred feet above the River Seine. The wind crowed that day, too, challenging us to stand against its push as we listened to the stories of the building, of the princesses held captive and one strangled within the keep, and of the eventual surrender of the once-proud citadel. History mows down even the bravest and strongest…
The fellow travelers – Diane and Ann from Australia; Steph and Jon from Lincolnshire, England; Richard and Dorothy from California — each with a story of his or her own to share, of other travels, of life in their peculiar portion of the world. I promised to wrap them into a story of their own, so I’d best get busy writing.
So, recording each day’s travel log, I allowed stories to incubate, acknowledged the tendrils of plot snaking out to entwine around my psyche. Somewhere, a heroine lifts a sword, a soldier dons his battle gear, a child sneaks aboard a ship and ventures far from home. The traveler gathers memories, the writer weaves them into a tapestry, not as intricate as the one in Bayeux, but worthy fo the telling, nevertheless.