Sunday, June 17, 2007

Visiting Normandy

One of the decided advantages of living in Paris, besides living in Paris, is the ability to explore the countryside on the weekend. This weekend I had the opportunity to take a quick trip to Normandy.

Some American friends invited me to visit, at the chaumiere that their family has owned for 40 years. For them, a place of fond memories of childhood summers spent lovingly restoring and furnishing a beautiful but once-ramshackle compound of buildings. For me, a chance to escape the "golden prison" of Paris and marvel at huge trees bending in the breeze, smell freshly-mown grass, and to wake up with the cows and an explosion of birdsong.
You can get to Heaven. It takes only 1-1/2 hours on A-13.

Directions to get to the house were so delightfully country-esque. "Go past three fields, take a left at the white house, go past the manoir that you can't see any more; then the road takes a dip, and go right at the allee of trees. If you reach the forest, you've gone too far." I missed the turn and, ending up in the village by mistake, waited to be retrieved by my hosts. I parked between the local restaurant (which serves up intoxicatingly delicious 5-course meals for about 16 euros) and the small chapel.

Villages in Normandy seem so magical, and yet there is a deja-vu familiar quality to them. I finally realized that it came from having watched so many World War II movies and television shows in my youth. Driving through Normandy, I think I subconsciously expected American "soldiers" such as Vic Morrow or Lee Marvin, in Army uniform, to spring out from behind a grey stone building to surprise the enemy and save the day.

I don't know about other girls my age, but when I was in grade school I was a die-hard Combat! fan every Tuesday night (I think I can still hum the theme song) and thought that The Dirty Dozen was one of the most romantic films of all time. Not for any love scenes -- I don't remember any -- but for the thrilling romance of bravery, valor, and ... all those men in uniform. When I watched those action-packed dramas, and Good triumphed over Bad, I felt that all was right with the world.
In Normandy, it still feels that way.

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