First of an occasional series
NO BUCKET, JUST A LIST
Around the world, you can find a handful of places where the destiny of humanity turned, one way or the other. One of them is here.
France pulls at me like some gigantic magnet. It’s not so much a country as it is a cluster of regions, each with its own geography, identity and charms, which dangle in front of you like grapes from the lovingly tended vines that yield all those incredible French wines.
I blame Paris. The city, not the skank.
Yes, I am hopelessly head-over-heels about the City of Light. But I am determined to experience as many of France’s wonderfully varied regions as I can.
And at the top of that list is Normandy.
If you think of the outline of France as a sort of oddly-shaped building, Normandy sits on the top-left corner of the roof. Its coastline, nearly 400 miles long, forms a good part of the English Channel.
It must be a pretty special place if the English were willing to spend a century fighting the French for it, the so-called Hundred Years’ War. The Battle of Agincourt, which Shakespeare would immortalize with his play, Henry V, grew out of that.
Normandy has given so much to the world. Seascapes and pastoral scenes vivid enough to inspire an entire genre of painting — impressionism — and one of its leading artists, Claude Monet. The water-lily pond he made famous was in the Normandy town of Giverny.
And I’d love to have a dollar — or a euro — for every master artist or wannabe inspired by the abbey on Mont St. Michel, pictured above, perched atop its tidal rock. A mud-flat bastion of the Catholic Church at low tide, a lonely island when the tide comes in.
Then there’s the food and drink.
Normandy is one of those regions that gives France several of its approximately 1,000 different cheeses (and no, that is NOT a typo!).
It also produces some of the best seafood in the world, which I know firsthand after having sampled some fresh Normandy oysters from a rue Cler market in Paris.
Do you like French pastries like brioches? You can thank Normandy for that. Macaroons? Those, too. The andouille sausage that Louisiana so loves to cook with? A Normandy specialty.
I told you all these French regions have personalities, right? Normandy is one of the few notknown for its wine. Around here, grapes take a back seat to apples. The area is known for its ciders — “hard” ciders — as well as an apple brandy known as Calvados.
All this would make me want to visit Normandy even if it didn’t hold a unique place in the world’s modern history.
It is because of that history, though, that I must see it. This is one of those places where something happened to re-direct the trajectory of the human race.
The event, of course, was D-Day, the Allies’ home invasion of Adolf Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.” We all learned the history in school, but do we really understand the magnitude of what happened here all those years ago?
For just a moment, close your eyes and picture your world with a Nazi Germany in it.
Without what happened here in 1944, today’s world would be very different from the one we know — and there’s a very good chance that you and I would not be in it.
So after I’ve shot some pics of the beautiful countryside and sampled some seafood and introduced myself to Calvados, I need, for just a little while, to walk the beaches and the bluffs where humanity itself hung in the balance, and Fate — with the help of a lot of brave men and women — tipped it to the good side.
Normandy is on my list.
Powered by Facebook Comments