We’re doing well in France with our special brand of diplomacy that is Charlie. The title quote was said to the grocery store clerk yesterday when Charlie read the young man’s name tag. We’re on a train to Paris this evening, coming home from a full-day, private tour of Normandy. Charlie has already greeted and asked (in French) the name of the young man sitting across from him. With some effort he was able to carry on a brief conversation with Xavier.
Now the D-Day Tour: Today’s guide, Guillaume, can trace his family’s roots back six centuries in Normandy. The Normans/Northmen/Norwegians have been in this part of France for over a thousand years. William the Conqueror (of 1066 British fame) came from here leading Guillaume to describe Britain as Normandy’s first colony. 🙂 Guillaume is very blonde, identifies first as Norman and second as French, and speaks Norman in addition to French and English. His grandparents spoke only Norman (the precursor to English, he says). So this area was isolated for a millennium, but now risks losing its language and heritage. Norman is now taught in schools since French is now the predominant language of the region. Some churches in the area date to the Middle Ages; one that he pointed out is from the 11th century. Today’s tour was about the D-Day invasion, but I found Guillaume’s history fascinating and wanted to include it here.
Our first stop was a small church that had been used as a field hospital by two, young, American paratrooper medics who treated eighty people on its pews. Protection from the Germans was provided by a Red Cross painted in blood on its door. Guillaume said that like so many American soldiers, these two medics never spoke to their families about their war experiences. They ended up visiting France as old men and were hailed as heroes in the village they served. Americans who complain that the French don’t appreciate the US sacrifice have never been to Normandy to see the ubiquitous American flags and memorials large and small.
At this church, the windows were blown out during the fighting. The villagers replaced them with a variety of American paratrooper windows.
In one of the photos you can see blood on the bench.
I’m home now, and it’s quite late. Tomorrow we tour the catacombs. I’m going to post this, but I’ll add more Normandy photos in another blog post in a day or two.
Here’s a photo of my dad, circa 1952, that Barb came across recently. It’s shortly after he returned to Ohio from Europe, where he served in the infantry and was stationed in Germany during the Korean War (made a side trip to Paris, as you can see).