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Modern Europe: Normandy
by Student, Natalie V.
Our first stop in Normandy was Rouen.

After checking into our hotel we walked around the city, with charming buildings and cafes. We passed by several gothic cathedrals and walked through narrow cobblestone streets. I already knew I was going to enjoy being there for two days.

We had some free time after the walk, where we just explored and talked to each other. We had already become pretty close and were comfortable around each other. Later that night, we went to one of the cathedrals for a light show. Though it was canceled because of technical difficulties, the weather was perfect and we still had a good time.

The next morning we went to a museum dedicated to the story of Joan of Arc. In each room, a video clip was projected onto the walls that took us through the story. I really enjoyed learning about it in such a fun and interesting way, and I think more museums should be like that.

 

Later that day, we departed for Deauville.

We separated into two groups, one group going shopping and the others going to the beach. I walked to the beach with the rest and we put our feet in the water. We had a group dinner right after and came back to the hotel. We had a class session where we reviewed an article written by a journalist during D-Day. He wrote about what the beach looked like that day. Books, letters that would never be sent, Bibles, shoes, and bodies everywhere. Unlike others, the author told the sad truth about D-Day. Others described it like it was a glorious victory with no bloodshed, but it was far from that.

…dedicated to WWII, D-Day, and the Battle of Normandy. We read about heroes of the war, learned about army equipment, and saw advertisements from the time of the war.

From there we went to Arromanches-les-Bains he where we watched a 360° documentary about D-Day. It was shown on 9 screens, each depicting a different scene. It showed us the path of the armies and included video clips of the beach. It was very emotional and really helped me understand how tragic that day truly was.

After that we drove to Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where there were rows upon rows of white crosses dedicated to the soldiers that passed during WWII. Walking through the graves was a very solemn sight, because you don’t understand how big a number is until you see it with your own eyes. We walked in silence to Omaha Beach. It was surprisingly full of families and children swimming in the ocean and building sandcastles by the shore. We took a moment to reflect on it, and expressed how we felt about a beach with such a tragic past being used so casually. Most of us didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of a D-Day beach, where so many innocent soldiers had died, being used as a hangout spot. We left the beach in a bit of a serious mood, but I think that that was a good thing and allowed us to understand the event better.

Later we went to Pointe du Hoc which was made to honor the American 2nd Ranger Battalion. We had dinner in Port en Bessin and returned to Deauville.

On our last day in Deauville, we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry, which is a 70-meter long tapestry telling the story of William the Conqueror’s victory over the English. We listened to an audio guide that described each scene of the tapestry as we walked through it. I found it pretty amazing that it was from so long ago and had been preserved until now. We had lunch and then we’re on our way to Mont St. Michel, which I had been looking forward to the entire trip. It was a Church, but after the French Revolution, it became a prison because it was so difficult to escape. It then became a Church once again after being criticized on the conditions.

On the road there we saw it from a distance and it looked like something out of a fantasy novel. When we got there our leaders placed us into groups of three and gave us a list of things to look for in the area. So we all separated and tried to find everything on the list, from a horse-drawn carriage to the longest staircase in the entire mountain. It really made our time there more enjoyable, and I got to bond with some of my peers.

After getting back to Deauville a friend and I went to the beach and watched the sunset. The view was beautiful and so was the weather. I still miss it a lot and it’s on my bucket list to visit again. The next day we’d be on the road to Paris, which of course we were all ecstatic about, but I just wanted to enjoy the Deauville while it lasted.

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