samedi 27 septembre 2008


When I was in Vienna, and in Germany, I noticed there is a chain store called Douglas, which is my nephew's name! Inexplicably for a store with this name, it sells... cosmetics?

jeudi 25 septembre 2008

My fave stop: Dinan

After checking into our scuzzy hotel room, we drove over to St Malo, which appeared to be equally swamped with people. As there was no parking to be had anywhere, we drove a bit further to the down on Dinan, which turned out to be pretty and considerably more mellow. We wandered around the medieval old town. and went up the old clock tower...
We had a great dinner that night.

All in all, a completely hectic holiday weekend. I’m glad to have seen Normandy though.

mercredi 24 septembre 2008

Mont St Michel

The next day we drove to see Mont St Michel. It was gorgeous as we approached from the east; you can see it rising from the farm fields several miles away. As we got closer we were trapped in a seemingly endless line of traffic approaching the isle. It was low tide, and we parked with the rest of the crowds on the adjacent sea floor. It was mobbed-- like going to the NC state fair, without the fried dough. We worked our way through the sea of people to the church at the top. By this time I was almost having a conniption from the crowds; B kept his cool. I wanted to cut our losses and leave immediately, but B wisely suggested heading into a quiet café for lunch. We had crepes and relaxed for a few minutes before braving the masses to get back to the car.

mardi 23 septembre 2008

Normandy continued: Bayeux

That night we headed to Bayeux where we had a reservation at a hotel. Unfortunately said hotel is a bit loose with its reservation system; even though I had sent them my credit card number they didn’t bother to hold the reservation on the busiest holiday weekend of the year!! There were no other rooms in Bayeux, or in the other nearby towns we tried, or anywhere in Normandy that we could discern, for that matter; we drove around for several hours before returning to Caen, where a hotel clerk advised us to drive to Rennes for the night, 200 kilometers to the south. We arrived there at 1 am, miserable, tired, and hungry, and went right to sleep. The next morning we drove all the way back to Bayeux because we had reservations in another hotel room there that night.

Despite the proceeding misery we had a nice day in Bayeux. Here is a street in downtown Bayeux. We went to see the Bayeux tapestry, which tells the story of William the Conqueror’s conquest of England. The tapestry was commissioned at the time by William’s brother, the bishop Odo, and is about 2 feet high and 50 meters long, showing successive scenes of the event.
When you walk into the gallery they hand you an audioguide, which once it started, could not be paused. The audioguide whipped through a description of each scene: “On panel 37 you can see them bringing the horses onto the boats; on 38 and 39 you see the channel crossing…” and we dashed alongside the tapestry trying to keep up with the guide. It was like the scene in Airplane where the announcement says, “plane arriving gate 9. gate 10. gate 11,” and the passengers run across the terminal. Whew!

Here is B outside the building that held the Bayeux tapestry.After this workout we wandered though Bayeux and stopped to try the local Calvados (apple brandy). Here was the view across from the bar: it says "hall of meats."
We stayed that night at a lovely B and B owned by a British couple, who also kept a goose, a cat, a bunch of rabbits, and a large collection of WWII paraphernalia. We checked out their map room and learned more about the D-day events.
The house goose.

mercredi 10 septembre 2008

We also went to see the American cemetery.The gravestones show people's home state and regiment.There are also many anonymous graves.There is also an elaborate diagram of the invasion.

mardi 9 septembre 2008

D-day Beaches

Later that day we picked up our rental car and headed out to see the WWII beaches.

This is a view of Gold beach, where the British landed. Americans landed slightly further west. The large concrete caissons were put there by the troops to create bridges onto shore, onto which they unloaded tanks and equipment after landing.
Here is one up close.
The town of Arromanches. That region of France is the only place I have ever seen US and British flags waving! Also, this area is one of the few places where the historical plaques and signs are translated into English.
Here is the memorial at Omaha beach, or L'Ohama beach, as the French signs said.
We last went to Pointe du Hoc. This was the place with the greatest allied casualties, in part because of the strength of the German troops there, but also because of the geography, as the rangers had to scale the cliffs. The story of this battle is undoubtedly best explained elsewhere. I was interested to see it because my great uncle Jim Holt was there for the invasion, on a boat offshore called the Satterlee, covering the rangers.
Pointe du Hoc is full of craters from the bombings.
You can still see the German gun posts.
You can't get that close to the edge of the cliffs, but this picture does give an idea of the height that they had to scale.

lundi 8 septembre 2008


I've been meaning to post info on my Normandy trip for a while... we went on the holiday weekend of August 15th, which turned out to be completely insane, because all of France is on vacation that weekend. Everywhere we went, every train ride, every hotel, was absolutely booked or overbooked. It turned out to be totally hectic. I'm glad I've seen Normandy, but I am making a little mental note to never travel in France on that weekend, ever again. If I must, go to Germany or some other non-Catholic country instead.

The first night we took the train to Caen. Caen got bombed to bits during WWII, and was rebuilt with blocks and blocks of unexciting 1950's apartment blocks. It was the one place we went that was not crowded, because it isnt much of a tourist destination. But it is well situated to explore the surrounding area. Also, as we walked around that night looking for a place to eat dinner, we saw tons of college students relaxing at outdoor bars with a beer (rarer in France than elsewhere, people usually drink wine or a kir or a pastis or something-- the beer must be the British influence?) or chowing down at the dozens of Asian restaurants (again: rare. The French like French food). So, it seemed like Caen was a happening college town. It made me feel like getting in the swing of it, eating sushi and drinking beer. When in Rome, right?

Here is Caen.
A statue of Joan of Arc. I believe she was burned at the stake somewhere near there.Caen was also the home city of William the Conqueror, a.k.a. Guillaume le Conquerant. We went over to look at his castle. Here were the outer walls of the fort, which you can still walk around.Here was the castle in William the Conqueror's day. William himself actually lived in this small castle right next to the main one. Although it is pretty much gone, this picture can give you an idea of the size of it-- fairly small. It was smaller than your typical McMansion.

jeudi 4 septembre 2008


I just found out this minute that my contract has been renewed. FINALLY. This has been so stressful!! I really didn't know as of this morning what the hell to do about my lease and about leaving France, and packing up my apartment, and where I would be living 2 weeks hence... I am getting ready to leave for a vacation on Monday and was facing returning to unemployment, and trying to get back into the country on the 22nd with an expired residency permit. Actually, there is no way I can get an updated residency permit before I leave town, but at least I am an American, so generally immigration officers don't pay all that much attention.

This has been a really stressful week. I do like my boss a lot, and I like the place that I work, but it gets old being at the bottom of the totem pole, and being subject to the whims of the higher ups. Sometimes I think that there are people at the administrative level who must simply not remember what it is like to work for other people.

mercredi 3 septembre 2008


Here were some signs that I liked in the town in Dinan.