Best of Normandy

August 6, 2013 at 8:53 am 5 comments


normandysights.com

From Loire Valley, our group took the 5-hour bus ride to the Normandy region where we stayed for a few days.

On the way, we stopped by the hill town of Fougères, on the border of Maine and Normandy, to have lunch and take pictures. It was cold and raining when we arrived there so we didn’t have much time to walk around.

While on the bus, our guide took the microphone and talked about French culture a bit.

First, he clarified misconceptions about the French being rude. He said that the French can’t be any more rude than other people. If they appear that way, it’s only because they are shy and tend to be perfectionists.

For example, if you talk to them in English and they don’t respond in kind, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand you. For all you know, they know English more than you know French. It’s just that they haven’t mastered the language enough to speak it well. To help break the ice, you can try speaking in your broken French. there’s nothing more distressing that seeing somebody in distress and making a fool of himself. As a result, it will likely lead them to warm up to you and either correct your French or be encouraged to practice their not-so-perfect English as well.

In addition, when in doubt, be formal always. Although the French are polite by nature, they are more formal than polite. Adding Monsieur (Mr.), Mademoiselle (Miss), Madame (My Lady), Merci (Thank you), Pardon (Excuse me) or S’il vous plaît (If it pleases you) to the conversation can go a long way.

Our first stop in Normandy was Mont St. Michel where we slept for the night. It’s an island with an area of less than half a mile and a total population of 44. It’s off the coast of Normandy and connected to the mainland by a bridge.

It was named after St. Michael the Archangel who appeared three times to St. Aubert, a 7th century bishop of nearby Avranches, in a vision and instructed him to build a church on the island. On his last visit, St. Michael touched the bishop’s forehead leaving a permanent mark where his finger rested.

Mont St. Michel is one of the most visited places in France. When we arrived there, it looked like another tourist destination with restaurants and shops selling souvenirs. Once we started the climb to the abbey, however, I had an epiphany of sorts and got a real feeling of the place. It took about 1,000 steps to reach the top.

The following morning after breakfast, we drove into the heart of Normandy to the city of Bayeux where we slept for two nights. It’s famous for the 1,000-year old tapestry featuring a 230-feet-long embroidered art that chronicles William the Conqueror’s victory over King Harold of England at the Battle of Hastings.

While in Normandy, we didn’t miss going to the beaches made famous by World War II hollywood movies like Saving Private Ryan. It was very touching to visit these places where thousands from both sides of the conflict died before their time. Since we went during the 69th celebration of D-Day, it made our visit more special.

On our last day in Normandy before heading back to Paris, we left early in the morning to stop by the village of Giverny which was home to Claude Monet, the famous impressionalist painter. He painted and lived with his family there from 1883 until his death in 1926. During our visit, we were able to see his house and the garden and ponds that inspired his masterpieces.

While inside the house, I started snapping pictures only to be politely reminded by a guard that no photos were allowed. I immediately apologized and put the camera back in my pocket.

I wished we could have stayed longer in Giverny. It’s the place where we come face to face with some of the objects that we see in his works like the Japanese bridge, water pond, and flower garden. But, alas, we didn’t have the luxury of time.

The tour ended in Paris with a dinner at what our French guide referred to as the city’s oldest restaurant. Unfortunately, I forgot the name. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and stopped at a spot where we had a good view of the Eiffel Tower. We gazed at the tower, looked at one another, held our glasses of champagne high, and gave our two guides and each other a toast for the wonderful time we had together.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Spencer Z. Lawrence  |  August 6, 2013 at 11:43 am

    The bay around Mont St-Michel is famed for having Europe’s highest tidal variations; the difference between low and high tides can reach an astonishing 15m. The Mont is only completely surrounded by the sea every month or two, when the tidal coefficient is above 100 and high tide is above 14m. Regardless of the time of year, the waters sweep in at an astonishing clip, said to be as fast as a galloping horse. At low tide the Mont is surrounded by bare sand for kilometres around, but at high tide, barely six hours later, the whole bay can be submerged.

    Reply
  • 2. Nortehanon  |  August 8, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Ganda naman ng mga lugar na yan! Hindi, hindi ako naiinggit. Hindi talaga, pramis hehehe

    Reply
    • 3. plaridel  |  August 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      nortehanon:

      i wish i could borrow your eyes, miss n., so i can take better pictures. 🙂

      Reply
  • 4. Stevie T. Cobb  |  August 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    The tides in Mont Saint-Michel bay are very impressive: covering a distance of almost 13 metres on days of high tidal range, the tide goes out very quickly over some 10 kilometres, and comes in again just as quickly. The expression used is that it “comes in as fast as a galloping horse”. Today, Mont Saint-Michel is only surrounded by water to become an island during the great equinox tides, fifty-three days a year and for a few hours. In order to return it to its original grandeur, major development work was launched in 2005 (new dam on the Couesnon, dredging work, a road barrier and a car park), which will allow Mont Saint-Michel to become an island once again by 2015!

    Reply
  • 5. Emory Reese  |  August 8, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    When visiting the island you can park on the causeway or sands below for €3, although parking on the mainland and walking is a good option in summer. Entrance to the abbey costs €7 and includes multilingual guided tours that last 45 minutes. Your efforts are well rewarded when you witness the architectural genius of the buildings, which prompted Maupassant to describe the abbey as “delicate as a piece of lacework”. The cloisters and grand hall are particularly awesome, with light playing as much a part as the stonework itself.

    Reply

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