because of an amazingly timed series of events, i was able to meet up with some friends in le mans who just so happened to be in caen when i was! 3 girls form the czech republic, a french guy and his french girlfriend piled into a van and wandered around northern normandy for the day. they picked me up, and we first visited pegasus bridge, the first place the allies landed in german-occupied france in WWII.
next we scurried through and around bunker hill, a series of command posts and missile bases amazingly hid underground what is now peaceful farm land. a series of trenches connected about 20 different concrete-block posts around the area; arnaud, french boy, managed to find an escape route in one bunk and popped up like a groundhog in the middle of a field nearby. i learned that hunting fowl on public land is totally kosher- we ran into several hunters and their dogs exploring the hills, and the girls were afriad we would get shot on accident.
then we wound our way up a bit and hit the coastline. we visited several of the 5 ally beaches and their monuments, and tried to imagine this picturesque and serene stretch of ocean the way it looked in june 1944. the algae and sand were different than i had seen before, which was cool. we wandered a small town, checking out the local fish market on the bay and seagulls so large they could eat me. i tried mussels for the first time, smothered in rocquefort cheese, piled about 9 inches high and 9 inches wide (just ok, the cheese made it yummy).
then we jumped back in the car and drove to the american troop's cemetery, right before it closed. ironically, i was the one most neutral about visiting it; but when it was time to leave, i was the last one ready to go. it's pretty straightforward and not a lot to see, but still so much to take in at the same time. as we were leaving, i realized for the first time just how much of my family has been in the military.
i napped on the drive back to caen, and when we got to my host's home arnaud and laura refused to accept gas money from the internationals, which was incredibly generous and a sweet surprise. i spent another night eating italian food with the two hosts, and except for a two hour theological discussion we spoke entirely in french. i ended up speaking almost entirely french for 3 days straight!