1 0 Tag Archives: Normandy
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Memorial Day in Normandy

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember those men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. While it is of course most commonly recognized in the United States, what many people may not realize is that there are also Memorial Day celebrations to remember the courage and sacrifice of American soldiers here in France.

Yesterday there was a huge ceremony at the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-James, Lower Normandy. I only heard about it while driving through Saint-James on our way home from Rennes late last week; while driving through town I was surprised to see a collection of American jeeps and troop transports from the 1940s, surrounded by groups of people dressed in 1940s civilian and military garb. I stopped to ask them about what was going on, and they mentioned the ceremony to take place on Sunday the 26th.

On Sunday we drove to the cemetery and discovered huge numbers of cars parked along the sides of the roads leading to and from the site. I ended up parking at the farm of someone who was letting people park their cars there for the occasion. As we walked up to the site, an American twin-engine light bomber was soaring overhead. Inside were throngs of people, mostly French, with some British and a few Americans thrown in.

The ceremony was nicely done – the Consul of the United States for Western France was there, as was Brigadier General Kevin McNeely and a few other American military officers. After the French and American national anthems were played, speeches were made in both French and English, and there were prayers given by both a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi. Afterward they played taps and a variety of different people laid wreaths at the cemetery, including a variety of French VIPs, some American representatives, and mayors from both a British town and a German town.

I’m not American myself, of course, but my wife is, and my children are half American, so I was very happy that they were there to experience the ceremony. I feel it is important for the kids to understand what happened during World War II and the role that the United States Armed Forces (as well as the Canadian Armed Forces) played during that era. The courage of those young men and women who, in many cases, sacrificed all they had to win freedom for their allies should be remembered and celebrated. And here in France, as you can see, they have not forgotten.

Memorial Day at the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial

Speeches being given during the ceremony, with the cemetery in the background

Flags at the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial

Flags being held during the ceremony

Amelia with the Texas flag

Amelia wanted a picture of herself beside the flag of the state where she was born

The Florida flag

The Florida flag, for grandma and grandpa

An American jeep from the 1940s

There were a number of different American vehicles from the 1940s at the site; I wish I had taken pictures of more of them!

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Saint Hilaire du Harcouët

Amelia and I took a walk around our local town of Saint Hilaire du Harcouët, in Basse-Normandie, France. We shot a quick video of our tour. In this video, Amelia points out some of the landmarks in Saint Hilaire, and we walk through the Wednesday morning market. It was a nice day for it!

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snow in the French countryside

I just got back from a run in the countryside. It was a bit chilly out there – the snow’s gone, but the bite remains. However, I feel much better having returned from my run than I did before I went. I can remember many times I’ve gone out to exercise, but I don’t remember a single time when I’ve returned from a run – even in the wind or rain – and said, “I really wish I hadn’t done that!” Something to think about the next time my mind is looking for excuses not to get out there and move around a bit.

it took until mid-January to get any real snow here in Normandy, but it finally came. And as we live in farmland – on many days I see more cows than other people – it was wonderful to see the snow blanketing the grassy fields and foliage. The snow didn’t last very long – only a few days – before the temperature rose and it melted away. But it was nice to see while it was here, and considering it is only the end of January I’m sure there will be more of it coming next month.

A cold morning in farmland

A cold morning in farmland – I felt bad for the cows!

Snow falling on the river

A light snow falling on the little river near our house

Snow on the piggery

Snow on the piggery near our house – it is where people used to keep pigs in the 1800s

Amelia's snowman

Amelia and her snowman buddy – a lot of the snow had melted at this point

Morning snowfall

The next morning it snowed again

Snowy countryside

A snowy countryside

Here’s hoping that it doesn’t get too much colder this winter… though if it does, I hope we get some more snow along with the chill! There’s something very magical about this area when it is covered by a blanket of fresh snow.

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almost winter in Normandy

the reason I say almost winter in Normandy is because technically winter doesn’t start until December 21st. I always get zinged by this, because it gets so wintry here in France much earlier than December 21st, and even more so where I’m from in Canada.

today is definitely one of those pretty-much-wintry days… there’s a light frost on the ground, which is beautiful to look at, and the pastures near where we live are glistening and white. If you dress warmly it’s a great day to take a walk in the sunshine, which makes the grounds sparkle, but isn’t quite strong enough to melt the frost covering the ground.

here are a few pictures that I took of frosty mornings in France (with my iPhone, so the quality might not be all there).

A river through the farmland

A tiny river through the farmland beside our house

Fencepost and frosted fields

A fencepost beside our driveway

Frost-covered fields in the morning

Frost-covered fields in the morning

A statue in Saint-James

A statue in the town of Saint-James, overlooking the countryside

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Normandy

the big news from our family is that, as of earlier this month, we have moved from Paris to a small stone house near the town of Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët in La Manche, Basse-Normandie (department 50). The differences between our old lifestyle and our new lifestyle are staggering… while in Paris things were quite busy, with lots of cars and scooters and people, here in the countryside it is extremely quiet and we’re surrounded by cows. Here’s a picture of the place where we’re staying (click for larger):

Fields of Normandy

the property on which our house stands contains a river that serves as the border of the French regions of Normandy and Brittany, in the northwestern part of France. Our kids are enrolled in a Catholic private school in the nearby town, and so far they seem to be doing quite well there – their French has definitely improved since we arrived in Europe in January. It’s been great to have experienced Paris, with its trains and crowds and bustling lifestyle, and then to make the switch to this area, which is one of the most peaceful I’ve encountered. We really like it here so far.

last weekend we went to Le Mont Saint-Michel, an island off the coast of Normandy that features a walled town and an ancient abbey. We had a great visit there – it was certainly one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited! Afterward we went to a nearby beach, where the kids played and collected shells. Here are some pictures of the place (click for larger):

Le Mont Saint-Michel

The abbey at Le Mont Saint-Michel

our other big news is that we now have a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) puppy named Lilou, who we bought from a reputable “éleveur” in the Franche-Comté region in the east of France. She is still quite young (now only three months) and full of energy, but already we’ve been teaching her tricks (sit, down, stay, and come) and she’s been catching on quickly. Shelties come in three colors: sable, blue merle, and tri-color; Lilou is of the tri-color variety. The kids have learned a lot from being “puppy owners” – they take her for walks, teach her tricks, and basically carry her around the house wherever they go. Here is a picture of her at eight weeks of age:

The abbey at Le Mont Saint-Michel

finally, this afternoon I took the kids to the nearby metropolis (relative to where we live, at least) of Avranches to buy some running shoes and fall jackets at the Décathlon. While we were there we visited a jardinerie (garden center) and found out that they stocked something the kids have been obsessing over lately through books and websites – carnivorous plants! We bought two different types of pitcher plant (Nepenthes) and a Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula). When they caught sight of the display in the store their faces lit up like light bulbs. Here are the kids in the back of the car with their new plants:

Carnivorous plants

I’ll admit that the pictures I’ve posted here on my blog I’ve stolen directly from my Twitpic page, which I’ve been sharing pictures through via my Twitter page. If you’re a Twitter user, follow me if you care to – I’ll be adding more pictures from France as soon as I take them!

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