Friday, 16 August 2013

Battlefields Trip: Day One

I woke at 4.30 am to Kid Creole telling Annie that he wasn't her Daddy, and we were away by 5.00, driving into the sun, East towards Portsmouth.  Can't recall anything at all about waiting for the ferry. Possibly dozed. Ferry itself pretty empty, which was fine by me.  We had seats in the front lounge, and lounged in them.  Son C. spent the crossing on the deck, gradually joined by others, so that by the time we reached France it was fairly crowded.  A really lovely day. Warm but not too warm.  Fluffy white clouds making the sky interesting.  C. told me about a friend of his at school who "hated bangs" but who was already a Sea Cadet and was going to join the Royal Navy.  A real cockney according to C and his chief rival in the Classical Civilization class.

At my uncle K's suggestion we drove West along the coast road, through tiny little resorts, all very comfortable with themselves idling in the sun, to Arromanches. K wanted us to see the Mulberry Harbour, the concrete harbour the British designed to help in the invasion of Europe in 1944 (by dragging it in pieces across the channel and reassembling it here).  Not much of it is visible at high tide, but the scale was astounding.  C & I did a cursory tour of the museum.  A lot of models, uniforms, badges and so on.  Just the right size.

On then to the German battery at Longues-sur-mer.  Impossible not to think of The Guns of Navarone, although disquieted to find my mind mixing history and fiction.  We looked from the big guns to the sea and wondered what the Germans must have made of the Armada approaching them. I noted a surprisingly large number of French tourists.

C wanted to know why there were so many Canadian flags, Hotels du Canada, Quebec Bars and so on. Followed a discussion as to whether there were enough Canadians to make an army or whether they simply provided Divisions to British armies.

Headed now to Caen to find the hotel. My heart sank when I discovered we had been given rooms on the top floor.  K. has trouble with two steps let alone a twisting staircase of 18th century wood.  The place had recently lost its tourism badge, and although the staff were lovely, it wasn't really an appropriate spot.  Should have gone Ibis.  My and Cal's room had a single double bed hardly wide enough for me let alone the both of us.  Having said that, the windows were lovely French casements that opened inwards and gave a view over Caen towards the Gentlemen's Abbey (there's a Ladies' too). I could imagine having TB and writing poetry here and killing myself with absinthe.

After a little wandering we were directed towards the restauranty part of town - a pedestrian street lined with restaurants tawdry and poshish.  We went into a place specializing in galettes (omelettes really, no?) and crepes, chiefly because K had spotted that they sold tripe. We drank a seriously delicious Cidre Bouche.

We returned to the hotel and the dreaded stairs. Selfishly I thought only of the double bed, when I should have thought of K.  I hadn't slept much before Kid Creole.  I had a long drive tomorrow.  I took Cal to the local Ibis, and slept like a log.

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