For the last week or so of our trip, we’ll make a loop around northwestern France, beginning and ending in Paris. While I’m looking forward to Paris, I must say there are a few things in nearby Normandy and Brittany I really can’t wait to see.
Show of hands here: who doesn’t love thousand-year-old tapestries? In particular, who doesn’t love this one?
I remember reading about this famous tapestry as early as sixth or seventh grade, not realizing it was still in tact somewhere I could visit. The tapestry is housed in a special building in the city of Bayeux, Normandy, and tells the story of the Battle of Hastings, where William Duke of Normandy conquered England. He established the royal line that rules England to this day and sparked several hundred years of power struggle between the two nations. It’s almost like an early political cartoon in style, and the sheer size of it staggers the imagination when you realize that it was all made completely without modern machinery.
We’ll sleep three nights in Bayeux, and the day after we plan to visit the tapestry, we’ll get a taste of another over-the-channel invasion: D-Day. The Memorial Museum in nearby Caen tells the story of that fateful day when the course of World War II changed, and offers tours of the beaches themselves for people like my husband and me who don’t want to rent a car. Like the tapestry, it’s something I’ve heard about for many years, but I can’t wait to put a real place with the cold, hard facts.
As we leave Bayeux (in a rental car–alas, train service gets spotty as you
head west from here), we’ll travel to one of the most celebrated abbeys in France: Mont St. Michel. The abbey was built on a coastal mudflat around AD 708, and the tides can wreck havoc on unsuspecting hikers (and drivers who don’t read the signs and park on the correct side of the causeway). But the abbey itself is supposed to be awe-inspiring, for its views of the sea if nothing else. And for a history buff like me, it’s a thrill just to think about walking through a place built 1300 years ago, on a rock that was a close to heaven as the monks of that day could imagine.