Thursday, August 29
We enjoyed a fine continental breakfast at the hotel, where I met the man and daughter who were almost our bunk mates. He, in French asked if I had slept well and I, in my fractured French, asked if he had also slept well and did they have a room? He smiled and replied that they did.
After breakfast we were off to Juno Beach, about an hour’s drive from Honfleur. We travelled through farmland that was green like the Fraser Valley but flat like the prairies. There were some “rolls” of dried hay, like you see in the valley, but there were also stacks of baled hay at least two stories high. We’re guessing a crane was involved in the piling process.
We approached Juno Beach through the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, which is a busy resort town. As we drew closer to the beach, we passed beach-bound holidayers, seafood restaurants, beach rental shops and so on. Not quite the isolated grandeur of the Vimy monument. The Juno Beach Centre is a large, modern building with a museum and displays about the Canadians’ role in the Allied forces’ invasion of German-occupied France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The section of beach assigned to the Canadian forces, along with some other allies’ support, was given the code name Juno Beach. The beach was heavily fortified, so the Canadian met fierce resistance, which cost them heavily in casualties and wounded men. Still, they advanced the furthest of any of the other invading forces and against resistance that was second only to that met by the Americans at Omaha Beach. All this is commemorated at the centre. We spent some time in the centre, but then went to walk along the shore to see the various information displays, memorial sculptures, the remains of German bunkers, a cross marking where General De Gaulle landed upon his return to a free France.... It was a sunny, peaceful day and boats motored in and out of the harbour while families enjoyed time on the sandy beach. As we walked along the beach, it was difficult to imagine the chaos and violence of the scene seventy-five years ago.
Around 1:00, we left the Juno Beach Centre in search of lunch. Less than a couple of minutes’ drive brought us to La Maison Bleue, a seafood restaurant that had a patio beside a presumably salt-water pond, since we were still very close to the ocean. We took a chance and ordered a dish new to us all, the Bowl Normande, a salad featuring duck meat. I liked it, but the others did not enjoy the taste of the smoked duck. However, the meal was redeemed by the dessert, Ile Flottante or Floating Island, which we all agreed was delicious. A dog, which we think belonged to the restaurant, wandered freely amongst the tables as we ate, not something you see in Canadian restaurants.
After lunch, we headed towards Honfleur, but this time to the city’s harbour. Honfleur is an ancient city, founded in the 10th century, which for much of its existence was a prosperous trading and fishing centre. Nowadays, tourism is a major industry and the harbour thronged with people who have come to admire what is considered one of France’s prettiest harbours. The harbour is ringed with attractive old buildings and moored sailing boats. We walked about admiring the views and exploring some of the narrow side streets which, as Marilynn said, seemed like settings for Shakespearean scenes. Restaurants line one side of the harbour and we read the posted menus as we walked past, menus that always included seafood, especially mussels. We strolled through the small but attractive city garden. Eventually we sought out a restaurant where we tried local dishes. Maureen and I had chicken in Normandy sauce (cream and mushrooms), while Pam and Marilynn had galettes, a folded salty pancake containing various fillings, like a savoury crepe. We enjoyed both dishes, which some of us followed up with gelato or sorbet cones from a stand that we passed on the way back to the car.
By 9:00, we were back to our rooms, satisfied with our day