My in-laws have a condo in the seaside town of Villers sur Mer, Normandy. The town is so cute that it looks like a movie set rather than a place real people live. Doctor Seuss trees shaped by sea breezes and houses built by people seeking to escape Paris on the weekends for a couple of hundred years. It is less than three hours from Paris by car (it took us five, don’t ask…) and even less by train.
History runs deep here. The cliff faces are filled with dinosaur bones. They wash down onto the beach during storms. Many are in the local museum and many more are sitting around like seashells in people’s homes. The beach is wide, the promenade is long and the food is really good. But if you stand on the beach and look up at the cliffs you can spot a Nazi bunker. Covered in graffiti and surely full of cans and butts, it sits just above the black layers of Jurassic stratigraphy. The Norman invaders left their name and the dinosaurs left their earthly bodies but the Nazi’s left a few things behind, too. Acres of buried fathers and sons. Cement blocks full of giant guns. Scarred landscapes and new building where medieval ones once stood. When you visit the graveyards and the monuments and the museums the sheer scope and size of the Nazi occupation and the heroic forces that destroyed them is mind boggling. The steep cliffs and the wide beaches below are shocking in their severity. How did one soldier survive that climb with Nazi guns aimed down at them, much less scores of them?!
I’m sure I wrote a blog post last year saying the same thing. I have felt the same exact way every time I’ve ever been here. Awed, shaken, shocked and proud of the Allied war efforts and the obstacles overcome. But at the same time, hungry for clams, local berries and fresh cheese. I want to sit on the beach and watch the waves roll in and the kids catch crabs and forget that the water was once red with the blood of other people’s Finns. In addition to never forgetting and keeping the monuments gleaming the people around here live a happy sea side life. Life goes on, even after a blitz. This place makes you glad to be alive.
More pictures soon. The wifi here is too slow for loading photos.