There was one thing on our pre-travel checklist that we never got around to purchasing: travel umbrellas! For some reason we kept putting them off, telling ourselves we’d get them in Portland . . . or Dallas . . . or Philadelphia. But as the days went on, and the weather stayed lovely, we forgot about the fact that we might need them one of these days. And up to now we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather.
That all changed yesterday and today. Rain had been in the forecast, but before we went to sleep on Friday night the last report we looked at showed that chances for rain had diminished, and we thought we just might be able leave Normandy without seeing rain.
Nope. We woke up to steady rain Saturday morning, and it stayed rainy all day. Today turned out to be even worse, or at least it started out that way.
Our first goal yesterday was to visit the American Military Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, which overlooks Omaha Beach. The drive over there from Balleroy was lovely, even in the rain, but as we approached the cemetery I noticed that the GPS had once again pretty much drained my phone battery. I went to get my portable charger out of my purse and realized I had left the charging cord back at the apartment. NO!!!!!! Thankfully Brett’s phone was almost fully charged but we knew we had to be careful with how we used it to get around. A trip out to Mont Saint-Michel was not going to be possible with only one phone charged.
Our visit to American Cemetery was sobering, and in retrospect it seemed fitting to be there in the rain and gloom. Brett and I both almost stopped breathing when we first saw all the graves, more than 9,300 of them, all laid out in perfect rows. So many dreams unfulfilled, so many memories never made – how can we ever thank all these dead for the sacrifice they made? We walked slowly through the cemetery, stepping in at times to read the names on the marble stones, and to see where the deceased were from and when they died. There were many markers for the dead whose names were not known.
Because of the rain and phone/GPS situation we decided to head over to the nearby Bayeux historic district to view the Bayeux Tapestry and the Bayeux Cathedral. The tapestry was fascinating to view as was the cathedral (plus we were inside and out of the rain). The rain did have the benefit of tamping down the number of visitors that might otherwise have been there that day. It was easy to get in and out of places, find parking, etc.
Less rain was predicted for today, but if anything it was raining even harder than it had been on Friday. Still, today was our last chance to get out to Mont Saint-Michel (or “Mont Saint-Mitchel” as the GPS voice kept pronouncing it) so off we went after breakfast. The further along we traveled the more the rain seemed to increase, to the point at times where we could barely see in front of the car. At one point all I could think was, “What ever made us think this would be a good day to do some sightseeing?” I told Brett that if it was raining at all when we got to Mont Saint-Michel I was not getting out of the car because I was tired of being wet!
However, almost unbelievably, the rain stopped as we arrived and parked the car. We walked over and caught one of the free shuttles out to the island, but as soon as it started off the heavens opened and the wind came roaring in. Oh great. When we stepped off the shuttle to make the final walk to the island we (and everyone else) were practically blown over by the wind and umbrellas were useless (no one could get their umbrella opened, let alone hold it over their head, because the wind was blowing so strongly).
Once we stepped under the outer ramparts guarding Mont Saint-Michel, the wind thankfully died down, although the rain continued. Brett and I stopped at the first gift shop we saw to see if we could maybe get a couple of ponchos, but we instead found some very nice travel umbrellas at an affordable price, so we each got one – our first souvenirs of the trip! We were also very hungry at that point, and after reading a few menus stopped for lunch at a restaurant attached to a hotel. Brett finally got to enjoy the big bowl of moules marinière (mussels) he’s been craving since we arrived while I had a small Margherita pizza and a bowl of ratatouille – yum!
Then it was up to view the abbey only to discover we couldn’t go in because they were offering a series of concerts today. Although it was still cold and windy, the rain had finally stopped so we took our time walking around outside the abbey and on the ramparts, looking out over the tidal flats to the shore in the distance (where strange as it seemed, several groups of people were walking!). The rain had done a fairly good job of keeping the number of visitors to a manageable level, and we tried to imagine what it would have been like on the little island during peak tourist season (not very pleasant, we assumed). We eventually climbed back down and to our car and headed home to Balleroy, a much easier trip this time without all the heavy rain that had accompanied us on our way out.
There was one last stop we wanted to make in Balleroy before returning to our apartment: the Balleroy Chateau, located just up the road from where we’re staying. Constructed between 1626 and 1636, it was last purchased by Malcolm Forbes (of Forbes Magazine fame) in 1970 and is still owned by the Forbes family. The chateau has a real moat (although there’s no water in it currently), its own chapel, and beautiful, traditional French gardens. Although it wasn’t raining when we arrived we didn’t stay long as the temperature had dropped to where we were more than ready to get back to our warm apartment.
Tonight we finished up the last of a baguette, some cheeses, a piece of paté au champignon and the last of our wine and have gotten everything packed up for tomorrow’s journey to Strasbourg. Once again we realize we have spent too few days in a location we have come to love. Our crazy GPS has taken us through all sorts of backroads in Normandy, and provided us with views and villages we would have never come across and enjoyed otherwise. We haven’t even left and we’re already ready to come back, rain or shine!