Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Normandy, and Beyond!

Our first weekend in France (yes, I'm that behind..) was spent on a ‘bonding’ trip to several cities in Normandy, including Honfleur, Deauville and historical sites and memorials of WWII. We left at about 7am Friday morning for the three-hour bus ride with stunning natural views the entire way. By the afternoon we had made our way to two very different graveyards—one for the American soldiers of WWII and one for the Germans. The difference was black and white, literally. The American graveyard was bright and beautifully maintained, white crosses atop every grave in an intriguing diagonal design. Germany’s was dark, off-setting and we didn’t stay for very long.

Several sites later, I had met nearly everyone on the program but I was tired and fasting and just wanted to eat and sleep (preferably at the same time). We arrived late at night to our dinky hotel in Caen just in time to break my fast. Hira and I were excited to have our first real French dinner (not one of St. John’s mystery meals). We were told about a pizza place nearby but we were adamant that we did NOT want to eat pizza as our first French meal. Thirty minutes later, we were eating the pizza. Caen is a college town dead during the summer. I missed Paris—bad. Overall, day one of this trip just felt forced and over-programmed but luckily, things quickly turned around on Saturday.

Enter Honfleur. The most beautiful little sea-side town I will ever know.  Walking its streets felt like we were walking through a Claude Monet. Why? Because we were. Honfleur was the inspiration behind the impressionist movement and it’s hard to imagine why. If you gave even me an easel and some oil pastels I’m sure I could create a masterpiece in moments. We had five hours to explore the French town on our own and the day’s plan was simple: explore, eat, experience. Well, 2/3 ain’t bad. I got to vicariously watch everyone else eat the fresh fruit from the market, the warm croissants from the bakery, the intoxicating gelato through the window. Honfleur’s narrow cobblestone streets and quaint, muti-colored houses had me ready to quit everything and move. After a few hours, we had seen every little nook and kept running into each other so we just spent the last hour sitting by the port, feet over the edge, watching the boats and the people pass by, wishing I could stay forever.

Our last stop was Deauville (where Coco Chanel opened her first boutique!) where we spent the second half of our day. Luckily, once more, the only plan was to meet back on the bus at 6pm. Deauville was an interesting paradox of a town. It was aesthetically similar to Honfleur  but it was also the place of an annual American film festival. Walking the boardwalk towards the beach, I saw both nude children playing in the sand and old men in speedos. How French, I thought. Two steps later and I felt transported to a Texas state fair where we found ourselves watching the most bizarre 'Cotton-Eyed Joe' square-dance tutorial given by a group of French women. I kid you not. It was hilarious, confusing, and oddly disturbing. Disturbing for me to realize just how ubiquitous American culture really is. I’m in France, whyyy is cotton-eyed Joe here too?!


  1. Expect the unexpected is all I can say. Lol. Enjoy the food now!!!

  2. How did you and Hira spend Eid??