Oh my goodness. It’s been a whole month since the last time I posted! Whoops…it’s been so hectic and stressful here, and I’ve honestly forgotten about catching you up with my travels! I’ll try to address each week/weekend within the next few days, but in multiple accounts.
After only being in the Lausanne house for ten hours, I had to get up early Monday morning (October 8th) to leave with “Group 1” for the Geneva airport (the program was split in half – Group 1 got the luck of leaving early and having to wait for Group 2 for a few hours in the Paris airport). The bus ride to Geneva, along with the flight to Paris, was uneventful, seeing as pretty much everyone else was asleep. Once Group 2 arrived in Paris, we were given about twenty extra minutes to get food, and took off for Caen. That evening, we settled into our hotel (in which our rooms were like little apartments, which fit four people – two pairs of roommates), and went out for a group dinner. Because I was exhausted from going to Oktoberfest, I went back to the hotel and slept.
Tuesday we took off in the rain for the beaches. We stopped first at the World War II and D-day Museum, which was a lot to take in. A lot of the images really hit home, so that kind of made me a bit emotional. Then we drove a little bit along the beaches and ate lunch at a cute beachside restaurant, and spent our two hours almost exclusively in the restaurant talking to the three other people at my table: Nathan, Erin, and Kyle. Then, we headed out to take pictures and meander across the beach. After our lunch break came to an end, we went to the American cemetery near Omaha Beach. My emotions ran wild. Sure, I’ve been to big cemeteries like the Arlington National Cemetery in D.C., but it’s never hit home like this before. I realized that these fallen soldiers did not only fight for our country’s freedom, but also for the world’s freedom. Wow. The world’s freedon. And thinking about this made me disappointed and embarrassed that I never learned about D-day in middle or high school. The sheer weight of this realization, along with the numerous gravestones, names of unfound soldiers engraved on walls, and the rainy day brought me down. On top of that, we were all given a rose to put on a gravestone of our choice. I found (with Kyle’s help) the gravestone of a New Mexican soldier who had died in the war, and placed my rose next to Rito F. Arellano’s grave. This was the last straw, and I broke out into tears, just thinking about how honored his family should be, that their son, brother, or husband fought for such a worthwhile cause and gave up his life so others could. It was a bittersweet feeling, since I was so grateful for his service, but also sad for his family.
We then visited Omaha Beach, and got to walk on the sand that thousands of brave soldiers walked on coming out of the sea before heading back to Caen. I grabbed dinner with about eight other girls, and then went back to sleep. Overall, it was a contemplative and emotional day. But I was glad that I got to realize just how momentous D-day was.
The next day we went to Mont Saint-Michel, which was pretty awesome! We stopped for lunch just outside the city, and the meal was the most delicious food ever, and the butter we had was prime, and made from the milk of Norman cows, which we learned from our tour guide, were colored with three different colors in splotches all over their bodies. Anyways, lunch was fantastic, and I would go back to Normandy if even for an hour just so I could eat at that restaurant again…sorry I’m not sorry. We then went to the city and were given a tour by our respective tour guides (each group had its own bus, and its own tour guide as well) of the city and the monastery. After that was done, we were given a few hours to walk through the city, during which Kyle and I got crepes and sat on top of the walls overlooking the mainland and the city. Once our break was over, we went to a different city and moved into a different hotel. As with the previous night, we all separated for dinner. And like the previous two nights, I returned directly to the hotel to go to sleep early.
Thursday we didn’t really do much. We took our buses over to Honfleur, and were given two hours to explore before lunch, during which I walked with Nathan and Kyle around town and looked at shops before going to a park (I also bought a Pink Panther music box! WIN!). Lunch that day was great – I got to eat across the table from our director’s son, Tristan, who was such a delight to fool around with. I laughed more during that period of an hour and a half than I had laughed since probably the past Saturday. So it was a good day. After lunch, they gave us another hour and a half to explore the city before moving on to the next city and hotel. This time I walked with Celeste, Corinne, Jordan, Alex, Ryan, and Dan to a candy store. But when Corinne and I went to the bathroom, we got separated from our group. So we just explored the city a bit and ended up back at the buses at the denoted time. From there, we got to the next city around three in the afternoon and were allowed to go explore. Unfortunately, we were staying in the sketch part of town, so we had to take the metro to the nicer part of town. The group that I was with was being picky about food, and were also upset that none of the restaurants were open. It was 5:30, and in Europe, restaurants close between meals, so they probably weren’t going to open till 6 at the earliest, I explained. Nobody wanted to wait, so we went back to the mall near our hotel in hopes of finding food. All we could find was Chinese food and a Subway, so…we ended up eating at a McDonald’s nearby. Correction: everyone but me ended up eating McDonald’s. So that admittedly put me in a bad mood, and I returned to the hotel as soon as I could and just relaxed until bedtime.
Friday was our departure day. But before we left France, we went to Monet’s garden and house. Of the two hours we spent there, I spent a good hour and forty-five minutes taking pictures of the flowers and lily pond with Tristan (his nickname is T) and Kyle, and only fifteen in the house itself. But the flowers, combined with the gorgeous magic hour light of the morning, made for some great pictures! And T gave me a few flowers, so that was pretty awesome, too (we’re BFFs, just in case that isn’t apparent)! After a quick lunch, we got a group picture and went back to the Paris airport and flew back to Geneva. Since we didn’t want to wait for Group 2 to get to Geneva, Kyle, Richelle, and I went back on the train, which was a great idea, since the group didn’t get back for at least two hours after we did, and I had complete access to the Ethernet cords. Which never happens. Because of this, I got to Skype one of my best friends, Susan!
All in all, it was a great week. Some things, like our tour guide with her hilariously and sometimes obnoxiously high voice (saying “There are many, many Norman cows in this region,” or “There were many, many soldiers who fought here” – “many, many” many, many times), were kind of frustrating, especially since we were all sick with something, whether the twenty-four-hour flu or just really terrible colds. But our EFT was a great experience! And I’d have to say my favorite parts were when JJ (one of our RAs) was imitating our tour guide’s high-pitched voice. It was hilarious! But really. And my other favorite part was when Richelle (who’s our media coordinator) bought a small stuffed seal and started taking pictures of it on top of people who were sleeping in the bus. At one point, I tried to get one of her while she was dozing off, but she woke up just as I got it!
Well. That was Normandy. This account of my past month shall be continued…