One of the high points of Scotty’s parents visit was getting out of Paris and heading up to Normandy. It had been a while since I’d left this lovely city and it was wearing on me. There’s something about Paris that is truly magical but it can also be overwhelming, frustrating, and obnoxious. I was reaching the point where the city seemed overcrowded, dirty, and just a bit suffocating. So, being able to get on a train to a little village in the countryside was exactly what my soul needed.
Scotty’s sister Marty had made a treck to Normandy last year and made all the arrangements for us to stay in Bayeaux. What a treat! And my nerdy side was ecstatic that I would have the opportunity to see the Bayeaux Tapestry.
Bayeaux itself is a very interesting town. It’s main industry is now tourism and that has definitely shaped the modern form of the village. In the midst of all the charm, there were gifts shops that were identical to those you would find in the more tony suburbs of the US and the UK. And that was a bit strange. It’s obvious that there is a definite catering to the WWII history buffs that come over from England, Canada, and the States. I mean the medieval scholars who come to see the tapestry aren’t dropping the big bucks! Once I sort of wrapped my head around that and just accepted it for what it was, I really loved this little town. Its stone buildings are beautiful, the countryside is idyllic, and there is a lot going on for such a small space.
While Tim, Beth, and Marty took in a World War II tour, Scotty and I spent the day exploring. The Bayeaux Tapestry Museum is excellent. We couldn’t take any pictures, but I did write a post about the history of the tapestry over here. Basically, it records the story of William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, and his invasion and conquering of England. Following his submission of England he would become more well known as William the Conqueror. The tapestry is over 230 feet long and records in full color and comic book style the events leading up to the historic Battle of Hastings. It is amazing.
The museum was very well done with interactive displays and even a video that aired in English and French. I was especially struck with something mentioned in the video that really brought home the value of knowing one’s history. The movie closed with the reading of an inscription that appears in the Bayeaux Cemetery. A portion of the cemetery was designated for British soldiers who died during the D-Day invasions. It states “We who were conquered by William, have now liberated the homeland of the conqueror.”
After sating my historical curiosity, we wandered through the town to the cathedral. For being such a little town, this building reminds us that this town was a bustling center of activity at one point.
I really loved this cathedral. There was something about it that was more welcoming than most Gothic cathedrals I’ve visited. Maybe it was the fact that the sun was streaming through the windows, creating an airy feeling. I don’t know, but it was beautiful.
Afterwards, we took in more Bayeaux, got some delicious lunch, and just enjoyed a quiet day in the country.
What a treat this day was! Also, the people we encountered in Bayeaux were so friendly. We were able to practice our French more because people were more relaxed than they are in Paris. We really have mostly had positive experiences here in Paris and have found the people pretty friendly but it’s still a huge city and that affects people. I know I can be quite brusque when I’m in a hurry or annoyed with the mobs of tourists crowding the sidewalks. We didn’t encounter any of that here. People seemed relaxed and genuinely kind. I would love to go back some day!
- Normandy (waywardpioneer.wordpress.com)
- Normandy holidays: Exploring the corner of France that’s full of history, art and pink concrete (dailymail.co.uk)
- American, British paratroopers jump into history (dvidshub.net)