The Longest Day

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I’d like to start this post with a little housekeeping. The GPS has been named R.A.L.F. (retired Aussies loving France) and the motorhome, after visiting the Bayeux Tapestry, is now called Norman (click the link if you don’t get the connection). Thank you all so much for the many wonderful comments and we will try to implement some of your suggestions, starting with adding more photos. Remember you can subscribe by clicking in the ‘Leave a Reply’ field at the very bottom of the post and then beneath that tick the box ‘Notify me of new posts via email’. I should also point out that if you would like to see a larger version of any of the photos (especially the panos) you can simply click on them and then just hit the ‘back’ button to return to the post.

Leaving Picardie and entering Normandie the scenery just kept getting better, Etretat beach
The rural countryside viewed from the backroads

Our first stop in Normandie was the quaint little village of Yport then onto the slightly larger Etretat. It was here we had our first French meal ‘out’, Moules Mariniere Frites (for you uncultured lot that’s mussels in a white wine sauce with chips.).  As yummy as it sounds and quite filling it supplied enough energy for us to tackle the breathtaking coastal cliff walks that surround the town.

Etretat cliffs pano
Cliff walk, Etretat
Deb sans computer

So far not as many WWII remnants as I would have thought.

WWII German fortification

From here we ventured inland to Rouen where after many hours of trolling through Lonely Planet I had planned a very busy day.  By now I was starting to learn that many of the cities & towns had an old quarter at their heart (think Sydney’s Rocks area), and while these usually turned out to be the most interesting place to go it also usually meant they were built in the middle ages, so think cobblestone streets and buildings on either side of the streets that nearly touch each other…. in other words not the sort of place you would want to drive down in a motorhome let alone park one.

Notre Dame at Rouen

It was a chance visit to an Office de Tourisme that alerted me to the fact that most of these places would have a place for what the French call ‘camping-cars’.  It appears that touring by motorhome is very popular with the French and so there are facilities for them everywhere around the country.  Ranging from up market caravan parks to what they call Aires (free camps).  The Aires are usually just a car park style area put aside for motorhomes and most have services from a single vending machine style unit that allows for the dumping of grey water & toilet cassettes and provides limited amounts of drinking water & electricity. If needed these services are around 2 euro but staying there is free except for the more popular areas near a major attraction which may be up to 10 euro overnight.

A rare modern church on the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the Stake in 1473, Rouen

In Rouen the nearest car park I could find was 4 km from the tourist area so by the time we had walked into the old city we were ready for a coffee & croissant.  This is when we learnt our next lesson…..I haven’t quite figured out the criteria yet but opening hours appear to be arbitrary depending on industry & location but here at 10:00am everything was not quite open yet .  One thing that is consistent is that all retail businesses except eateries close between 12:30pm & 2:00pm and stay open ’til 7:00pm

Norman camped by the Seine

So while it was ‘safe’ to walk around the shops with Deb I had a list to get through.  We quickly ticked off the impressive Palais de Justice, Notre Dame (another one), and the site of Joan of Arc’s burning, the only place left was the Musee de Beaux Arts which I had allowed 2 hours for.  Next lesson…… when planning trips to museums or galleries always ensure it is not on the one day of the week they close, in this case Tuesdays.

The French sure know how to do a ham & cheese sandwich

Having had enough of the big city for a while it was back to the coast to the medieval fishing village of Hornfleur.

The charming town of Hornfleur is straight from a postcard

Fun Fact: Shakespeare’s line “Once more unto the breach…” was spoken by Henry V to his army whilst they lay siege here.

A stop at a country market where they sell some strange & exotic smallgoods

As we were now heading to the D-Day beaches it occurred to me that the 70th anniversary of that event would be upon us in a few weeks and many events are planned for the area to be attended by big crowds, not to mention the ‘ganse machas’ (French for heads of state). Thinking it wise to not be too leisurely, we started our trek along the historic coast, Swordfish was first followed by Juno.

Juno beach

There are many monuments, museums & cemeteries along the route and the first major one we visited was again the Canadian Memorial at Juno Beach.

All the D-day landing beaches from one lookout

However it was the American memorial & cemetery at Omaha Beach this time that had the biggest impact.

Memorial at the American Military Cemetery, Omaha beach

Some 9000 graves are marked here among the magnificent grounds that overlook Omaha Beach. If everyone was able to visit and experience a place like this we would hopefully view the worlds troubles in a different light.

the American Military Cemetery, Omaha beach

Travelling south-west just before we left Normandie is the Unesco world heritage sight of Mont-Saint-Michel, pictured at the very top. Obviously designed by Walt Disney, it was started in the 10th century and kept receiving additions until the 15th century. It is built on a small patch of land that is about 1.5km from the mainland and joined by a narrow causeway, but the bay that surrounds it drains completely at low tide so it is possible to walk around it then.

Inside one of the many chambers of the abbey on Le Mont-Saint-Michel

The site contains not only the abbey at the upper levels but many restaurants, shops & hotels around the base and we managed to spend a full day exploring. While there is a free shuttle to take you to/from the car park at the mainland it was much nicer (&cheaper) to walk along the river from our caravan park another 2.5 km away.

Next up is Brittany with more walled cities and the mysterious stones of Carnac.


32 Replies to “The Longest Day

  1. Great to see the places you visit. Stone the Crows was again a fantastic time, met some of the Slickers. Signed 16 new members a bit of talking to the converted this time but well worth it. Love to you both, Bill & Una

  2. Hi Mike and Deb, sorry for not responding earlier by our internet connectivity here in the back blocks of WA can be problematic. It’s now 8:30pm and 31° here in a free camp by Robe River. It looks like you are having fun and so are we. Great blog. Cheers George

  3. What a wonderful time you are having. Thanks for letting us share some of your experiences.

  4. You certainly know how to have a great time. Great to see that Deb is not feeling the cold, it was 4 deg here this morning, still in shorts and T shirt. Your trip makes our one week, soon to be 2 week stay at Farm Stay near Beechworth look quite Lame.
    Hurry back Mike and teach me how to set up a Blog. Lots of love and keep enjoying yourselves.

    1. Beechworth is also a great spot Russ. Beanie, gloves and my michelin man jacket make sure I don’t feel the cold!!!

  5. Just stunning. I feel a little like I’m there with you both. What a journey. Amazing pics. I hope you’re enjoying your camera too Deb. Love to you both xxx

    1. You were already invited…you can come anytime you like your suite is waiting for you – maximum stay 7 days.

  6. Wow it all sounds so amazing. Such beautiful photos but h do look a bit cold Deb LOL. The scenery is breathtaking. Looking forward to your next blog stay safe and happy xx

  7. Your blog as always is fantastic. Thanks. Brings back memories places where we have been and makes us want to go to some of the others.
    Keep up the great work on the blog, but even more important, continue having a great time

  8. Absolutely brilliant! The photography gets better and better and better and better still. I love the village scenes and the buildings. Not so interested in war memorial stuff (personally). Again, thank you for putting up more pics this time, but may I ask if you can up the ante on that. Enjoy yourselves, lotsa – Raps.

  9. Wow, what an amazing trip you two are having. The photos are fantastic. Seems like you are on the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy & keep those blogs coming, which I enjoy reading so much! Love, Janette.

  10. Fantastic blog and great pics. I didn’t use any Aires but instead used ‘France Passion’? A network of Chateaau, farms, etc where self-contained motorhomes can stay overnight free. No obligation to buy anything but I finished up with the under seat storage full of French wine!


    1. Know the feeling Lionel, we also have a France Passion membership and are using a combination of the two. Now at a chateaux in the Loire Valley at a passion site, it is beautiful. The only dud we have bought was some ostrich pate – erk it wasn’t great. Deb

  11. I think one of the most memorable part of our brief visit to France (more specifically Paris and the south coast is the magnitude of history and the architecture. These photos bring it all back. Whilst we only had a month we soon realised we had packed a lot into every day and Guys you a right about the narrow cobble streets or should i say lanes and almost anything you eat comes with French fries., even croissants if you really want. A gastronmocal nightmare is chocolate croissant chips and a latte. That was big in rue de France cafés in Nice. But you have no choice but to walk it off. Ps love the photos mike. I want to go back.
    Luv Ian & Rachelle

    1. at least we are walking the food off! We have had a few days of over 10km walks as we can’t park in town but the walks have been lovely and well worth it. Deb

  12. Wonderful. Enjoy your photos and commentry. Seems like you are having such a wonderful experience. Keep enjoying.
    Colin & Sue

  13. great piccies Mikey – shame one had this little old Greek lady in it with her head covered. where did you find her. Must have picked her up on the way hey. And there she was again by the sea with her winter Parker jacket on and a beanie to boot. No swimming auntie Debbie? go on, you haven’t experienced France until you take a dip in the sea. great to see you are both having a ball. Uncle Gee

    1. hi big bro, thanks about the little old Greek lady comment… It is too bloody cold to go swimming.. speak soon xx l’il sis

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