Inside Notre-Dame of Rouen
Our travel plans were this: Paris to Rouen, Rouen to Caen, Caen to the beaches of Normany and back to Caen for the night, Caen to Mont-Saint-Michel and then back to Paris. "Ooh la la" is an understatement (still, an expression I'm ecstatic to hear all over Paris. I had imagined it to be some ridiculous stereotype like that all Frenchmen wear burrets or that they all walk around with baguettes under their arms. Oh wait, that second one is true.. all Parisians literally walk around with french baguettes under their arms) Seriously though, I use the expression (of whose literally meaning or roots I am completely unclear) countless times every day, and it may be my hardest habit to break when I return to the States (although I started using it months before I left for the land of Sarkozy, Carrefour, and stylish scarves on every neck). On that note, I think it's some innate yearning of all Americans to call their own country "the
States"... but they do not feel qualified to do so unless they have lived abroad, thus necessitating a shorted nickname for their own beloved "United States of America" which they interject into every small comparison of life at home and life à l'étranger. It's true.
I'm off subject.
It was amazing to get out of the city. (I know... one should be so lucky as to be able to say how nice it is to get out of Paris) But it was... Paris is unyielding in grayscale tones in January, and somehow the north of the country is already blissfully green, with rolling hills of grass and forests separated by petites villes and farm communities. The cities of Rouen and Caen are both beautiful. Like younger siblings of an accomplished older brother, villages throughout France are tiny copies of Paris, yearning to be just like their big bro. They aren't jaded in the way Paris is, and offer a friendly exuberance in the streets that even Parisians themselves might look down upon with a roll of the eyes. Regardless, the two smaller tow
ns we visited (which in honesty aren't THAT small at all) are, like everything else in this country, beautiful. There are cute, quaint little side streets that meander and old buildings (but old in the French way, not in the American way) that are as beautiful as those of Paris. Therer are boulangeries on every corner (bakeries in France are like Starbuck's in the US) and absolutely stunningly magnificent cathedrals. In Rouen, among other things, we saw the exact spot where Jeanne d'Arc (Oh, sorry... Joan of Arc) was burnt, as well as the church built near the spot. Caen had a castle as well, no big deal... a legit Medieval castle. Ugh.. we have along way to go America. (Although in all truth, while I'm loving France, I'm adoring the US more and more each day).
We also saw the beaches of Normandy, Omaha and Utah, where countless American soldiers gave their lives (that sounds cheesy, but the whole thing with the museum and cemetery is pretty moving). The national memorial cemetery to honor the Americans (as well as Canadians and British) who died that day is absolutely breathtaking.. rows and rows and rows of perfectly aligned white Latin crosses. (above) 149 of those gravestones are actually Stars of David, for those brave Jews who defended our country as well.
Mont-Saint-Michel from a distance
Our final stop was, perhaps, the most amazing, unreal place I have ever been. Mont-Saint-Michel, an island city/cathedral/abbey, sits just offshore of the French countryside. Words can't really do it justice.. and aside from the Chinese/Korean/Japanese (I can't differentiate Asian languages well) being thrown around by numerous tour guides leading groups of black-haired tourists, I felt like I was thrown right back into the Middle Ages. Perhaps my favorite location to date.
A courtyard inside the Abbey
Moutards, tripe, starvation for the sake of beauty, Fanta light, galettes, cross-dressing bartenders, swarms of asian tourists defiling cathedrals, peace signs that aren't peace signs... so many inside jokes. I love roadtrips!