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Battlegrounds

Filed in Blog, France by on December 12, 2016
by Taylor C.

This weekend I traveled with my study abroad program to the regions of Normandy and Brittany. I’ve been to a small part of Normandy before, but I was super excited to go back and see even more of its beautiful landscape.

Day one started at the Caen Memorial Museum. It’s home to a fantastic and tragic collection of items from World War II. The museum itself is built on the side of a short cliff. Inside the cliff is a bunker that is now part of the museum but used to be home to Nazi soldiers.

From there we moved on to the American Cemetery. It’s a good thing I’d been there before, because we didn’t get to spend much time there. It was raining and cold, and it all seemed to make everything more real, really put things in perspective.

American Cemetery, France

We then headed off to Pointe du Hoc. From there, you can see both Utah and Omaha beach. This was one of the bloodiest parts of the battle of Normandy. American troops were faced with the task of scaling the cliffs and taking down the Nazis waiting for them on the top. The cliff top is full of crater holes from bombs and only a few bunkers still remain. It had stopped raining at this point and sort of changed how I looked at how things went down. It felt better looking at what the soldiers had accomplished rather than the tomb stones of all the men that died making it happen.

Pointe du Hoc, France

We all settled back onto the bus as we headed to the awesome town of St. Malo. Up until this point, I had been everywhere we had gone that day, so it was cool to see something new. St. Malo is located in the region of Brittany and is absolutely lovely. The main town is surrounded by a very large stone wall with water surrounding one side. You can get an incredible view of the sunset and sunrise from the wall. The seafood is so fresh and the crepes are unlike any of the ones in Paris — they like to put their own spin on it and even have some you can only find in this region.

We woke up early the next morning and headed to Mont St. Michel. This is the part of the weekend I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. It was absolutely stunning from every angle. Let it be known that St. Michel is actually an abbey, not a castle. One of my ISA instructors made that very clear. As of two, a little more than two million people visit and about half actually enter the abbey. I guess that’s because you have to pay to do so, but it’s totally worth it. There are 21 people who live on Mont St. Michel. Nine of them are “regular” people, who have inherited the residence and will continue to pass it down. These properties cannot be bought and you can’t even find a list of residents online. The other 12 inhabitants are a collection of nuns and monks who study there.

What I found most interesting is that Mont St. Michel is both an island and not an island at the same time. While there is a bridge that takes you most of the way, when the tide is really high at certain points of the day, you can only get there by boat. But when the tide goes back down, your boat is stuck in a field of quicksand. There are several days a year when the island remains completely unreachable because the tide is too high. Mont St. Michel has an incredible history and I highly recommend looking into it.

Mont St. Michel, France

This trip was great. The entire thing was relaxing and beautiful and just want I needed. I would revisit everything we did, even the things I’d done before.

About the blogger

Taylor C. is studying abroad on the ISA: French Language and Liberals Arts program in Paris, France.

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