Saturday, July 16, 2011

France - Day 8

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Two days based in St Malo went by much too quick. During the morning before heading off to our fourth destination we went to explore another of St Malo's beaches. There is also another fortress of interest but we had no time.

I photographed birds while Marjolein looked for shells.

Part of the old town's gate.

Early arvo it was time to leave for Lannion, where we would be picked up by the mother of a friend of ours. She then drove us to our destination du jour; Perros Guirec.

The harbour of Perros Guirec. It's a tiny village but it's smack bang in the middle of the Côte de Granit Rose (pink granite coast) where we would explore the next 4 full days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

France - Day 7

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Mont Saint Michel. We took a bus from St Malo here which took about 1.5 hours. We got there around 11AM and it was already getting busy. Tip of the day: Take the first little alley or whatever you find off of the main street! When you leave the beaten track you'll find views so much more interesting and you'll get to the entry of the monastery just as fine.

So, centuries ago, monks founded a small monastery on top of the mountain. It wasn't more than a few rectangular buildings. Through time it expanded in to what it is now and a tiny village emerged at the foot of the mountain as well.

Mont Saint Michel is very, very picturesque and it offers stunning views. You can get in to the monastery which is very much worth a visit.

Off the beaten track you'll find tiny stairways leading up. You will leave the masses and the tourist shops behind and slowly work your way up and come across more tiny hidden streets and alleys and parks and also a graveyard. Stunning views will be yours to find :-)

Little courtyards build on top desolate parts of the monastery that can be entered only from underneath.

A little hidden path that leads to a tiny shed build on the edge of a cliff.

The view down on to the village from within the monastery.

If you are ever in the neighbourhood, Mont Saint Michel is very much worth your time!

We returned to St Malo early evening, had a shower and went for a walk again. So much to see, so little time! This is the little chapel of Saint Aaron who was a hermit that lived close to St Malo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

France - Day 6

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Behold, for I present you; A tourist!

Marjolein walking on the old city wall. The wall includes all of the old town. You have many interesting and beautiful views from up here.

A tiny ladder-thing sticks out of the sea.

It's the diving board of the sea-side swimming pool! The difference between low and high tide must be at least 9 metres!

When the tide is low paved pathways emerge and you can walk to the 2 islands directly in front of St Malo.

From the first island you can continue walking to the second islanf called "Petit Bé" on which is one of the many fortresses which were used to defend St Malo from sea attacks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

France - Day 5

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Having left Bayeux by train we had to change trains at some hole called Folligny. The train station is a 20 minute walk away from the actual town. We had a few ours to kill and walked there with our backpacks in the burning heat only to find out that the pub was closed. I was not amused to say the least...

We arrived in St Malo early evening. We ditched our gear and hit the wall surrounding the old town. We were very fortunate to catch the sun set with no clouds blocking the view!

St malo is a very old pirates town. In the 17th century pirating was legal as long as you helped fighting for the King of France in times of war and 1/3 of your "proceeds" were for the same King, another 1/3 was for the city and you were allowed to keep 1/3rd yourself. The old part "between the walls" is beautiful and unlike you've seen before. Lots of little streets and squares, not many cars either.

During WWII though the whole city was bombed to bits however, in the 1950's they rebuild the old city exactly like it was before! You will hardly be able to tell!

St malo sunset.

This pub was very close to our hotel. Lovely place with a fun bartender who actually spoke English! Marjolein and I went here all three night we were in St Malo.

The only stout available is "Odo", named after a bishop who played a part in the tales depicted in the Bayeux tapestry. It's a very good stout though!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

France - Day 4

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This morning we visited the famous Bayeux tapestry. It's an embroidered cloth with a length of a whopping 70 metres! This was unexpectedly interesting. I'm not really in to these things however, we were given an audio guide that explained what was pictured.

It depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England as well as the events of the invasion itself.

Basically the dying king Edward of England sends Harold to France to tell the there battling William the Conqueror that he will be Edwards successor to the throne. Harold returns to England first however and it takes William a while to come back. And so Harold decides to crown himself the King of England. William doesn't quite agree and meets Harold on the battlefield at Hastings and defeats him.

The tapestry was a very nice and educational (in a fun way!) visit. I can highly recommend it :-)

Later we walked to the English cemetery. They got a few tanks there as well.

The English cemetery. There are also polish, Russian, Czech, Arab and other nationalities buried here. Marjolein and I were the only ones here. It was grey, cold and windy.

In town there was a picture show on the wall of a hotel. We waited 40 minutes to enter and then we found out we had to stand another 25 minutes. Our feet were killing us after this so we went back to the hotel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

France - Day 3

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This morning we visited a botanical garden in Bayeux. Very nice actually. The weather was awesome and the air was crisp. This was Marjolein's favourite part of the day I think. Mine was yet to come ;-)

In the afternoon we went on a D-Day tour. It was a guided tour in a mini van with 5 other folks. With us came a young American couple, not very social for some reason, an older Australian couple from Perth, nice folks and an older gentleman from America as well. He was lucky enough not to have been sent to Europe to fight but he still wanted to see some sites.

The first site we got to was Pointe du Hoc. This is where American elite troops were sent up the cliffs to secure a German gun battery because the cannons there were a very big threat to the invasion fleet. This picture was taken from the calculation room. A German soldier was calculating the settings for the cannons on site which could sink a ship about 12km away.

They used to have the cannons stand in the open air when Germany was still master in the skies and there was no air threat. The cannons stood in these semi circles. However, as Germany weakened and the allied forces took control of the skies the need for more protection became greater and orders were given to build bunkers for the cannons.

And that is why these structures showed up in places.

A lot went wrong with this operation and it took them longer to secure the site. Once they did they also noticed that something wasn't right; the cannons were made of wood! Later on a few scouts accidentally ran in to the stored, unguarded cannons a few miles in land. The bunkers you see were so new that the concrete was still drying and the cannons were hidden for protection. The German's trick had worked though but their cannons did get destroyed by the scouts and this site was never a threat anymore.

This is what your bunker looks like after it gets shelled (bombed); blocks of concrete in a big hole. The whole site was like a moon-landscape with grass grown over it. Holes and rubble everywhere. It took heavy bombing and most holes were man-deep.

The next stop of the tour was Omaha beach. American troops landed here in the early morning of June 6th, 1944 under very heavy fire because the shelling earlier that was supposed to minimize the German resistance here was inaccurate and missed almost all targets.

The people on our tour. In the middle our guide. A young bloke who does this work 9 months a year, 6 days a week and then has 3 months off which he spends in Brasil. Sigh...

He was a good guide though, knew a lot about the landings and sites we visited.

It's hard to fathom that in the first few hours of the landings about 4000 soldiers died on this beach alone.

The allied forces also constructed an artificial harbour here, these were called "Mulberry" harbours. In this picture you see the remains of one such harbour. There is another Mulberry still complete but that was too far for the tour we were on...

Omaha beach on June 6th 1944.

Omaha beach on July 11th, 2011.

After the beach we visited the American cemetery. Very impressive.

The last stop was the gun battery of Longues sur mer. These guns were used in the movie "The longest day".

One lucky shot from a ship disabled this cannon. You can see that the left window is a little bigger at the bottom. That's because the shell entered the cannon there and exploded inside. It stayed silent after that.

The tour was impressive and educational. I only wished we would've had more time on our own. It was all a bit rushed.

In the evening we found this gem of a restaurant "La Fringale". Lovely place, good food, nice people.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

France - Day 2

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Arriving in Bayeux, Normandy, France. View from the hotel: Check!

We arrived late afternoon. After dropping off stuff and showering we hit town! Main shopping street in Bayeux.

The oldest house in Bayeux.

Bayeux cathedral.