Part of us felt that we had to attempt at least one international road trip during our time here in England. When you can drive from your house all the way to Russia or Spain it is pretty tempting. Then again, laws are different, driving is different, languages are different. This will probably be our only car trip outside of England. The trains are too convenient and flights between countries are cheap.
Luckily Lance did look into guidelines for driving in France and, no surprise really, the French do have guidelines. We needed headlight deflectors since our headlights point to the left as we drive on the left side of the road. The French drive on the right. We also were required to have a reflective vest, an emergency triangle and our own breathalyzer. Yes, in France, every vehicle is required to provide their own breathalyzer if they are pulled-over by the police!
Travelling through the Chunnel was a breeze. L&G had already accomplished this on school field trips, but it was a first for Lance and I. The whole system was very smooth and efficient. As you enter the facility your license plate is scanned so they know if you have a reservation or still need to pay. As we rolled up the screen said, “Welcome Mrs. Hastings” and our “boarding” card printed out. We waited for a bit in an area similar to a large rest stop with food, shops, etc. When our boarding letter appeared on a big screen we drove over to the industrial looking train and rolled right in. There are train cars for tall commercial trucks and motorhomes and two tiered train cars for the rest of us. We could drive continuously from the back of the train to the front. Then doors came down after every fourth car and we were off. There are small windows to see out of and you can exit your car to stretch a bit or use the yucky toilet. Twenty five minutes later we were in France.
Our goal for this trip was to visit the Normandy region of France along the west coast and visit the D-day beaches and the American cemetery. We stayed in the city of Caen and toured their large Memorial museum. In the afternoon we headed to Omaha beach, one of the two that American troops conquered. We also visited the beautiful American cemetery which is a vast sea of white crosses and Star-of-Davids. The rain poured on us as we walked, with many other visitors, along the rows and then down onto the beach. The beach now looks like a peaceful long stretch of sand with little sign remaining of its history.
On day three we headed south a bit to visit Mt. St. Michel. This is an incredible place to visit. If you go to Paris, you can day trip out to the coast to see it. On a large rock island just off shore, a monastery, church and small village were built over the course of 100 years. Just a few years ago you had to time your visit with the tide in order to access the island. Now there is a raised road and walkway that grants access all day. The little narrow street of the village was so interesting. In some spots it was about six feet wide but filled with multiple restaurants, shops and hotel rooms. Yes you can stay right on the island if you choose. A very steep and slow walk brings you up to the entrance of the church and monastery which was such a nice treat. There are still monks and nuns that live and pray in the monastery, and Mass is said every day. We toured through the church, a multitude of rooms, the crypt, the gardens, etc. And there was much more that is not open to the public. They packed a lot onto that rock and it is an incredible sight from miles away.
On our last day we visited Rouen which is where L stayed last spring with a family for language immersion. She showed us the old (really old) cathedral and we roamed through the town a bit and had lunch. The French don’t get going until mid-day on a Sunday so not much was open.
Then the journey home began. Our last surprise was as we approached the edge of France at Calais to catch the Chunnel back. The English Channel is so narrow at that point that we could see England and the white cliffs of Dover. We didn’t expect that.