Posted by: Shannon | May 26, 2011

Normandie en Famille

We are now nearing the end of our 2 weeks in Normandy and what a fantastic time we have had.  We were fortunate enough to have my parents visit us for 10 days of our two week stay here.  When we first told my parents that we were thinking about spending a year in France, my Mom said that she would love to visit Paris in springtime and if we were there then maybe she and my Dad would visit us.  Of course that all sounded great, but none of us really knew how or if our visit or theirs would become reality. After much planning, many Skype calls, and a lot of internet research, my parents embarked on their first ever trip overseas.  They landed in Amsterdam and spent 3 days exploring the gardens and canals and then took the train to Paris where they took in many of the famous sites and even some late night Metro rides! Manoeuvring through these two major cities is not always the easiest, but they overcame the language barriers and the navigating challenges and were still talking to each other when we went to pick them up in Paris last Monday.

Our Wheels and Digs (top floor)

We had decided to travel through Normandy together since they were both very interested to see the D-Day beaches and visit some of the Canadian memorials, and we had planned on spending some time here anyways. We rented an apartment with room for 6 in a small town just north of Caen and rented a car with 6 seats so we were ready to roll!  We have covered a great deal of ground since we picked them up in Paris.

We visited Sword, Gold, Juno and Omaha beaches, the Canadian centre at Juno beach, both of the Canadian cemeteries as well as American and German cemeteries, The Caen Memorial, Pointe du Hoc (where the American rangers had to scale very high cliffs) and saw many other remnants of the war, like bunkers and batteries.  Of course, it was very sobering to try and imagine what it was really like around here in June, July, and August 1944. It’s interesting to see that all the towns  have something that commemorates their liberation, be it a physical memorial or a street name or even the town name (the town of Coleville-Montgomery added the name of Montgomery in memory of the British general).

Mom & Dad at Juno Centre

It is a good feeling to know that our country was a major part of this effort and makes us very proud to say that we are Canadian. My Mom brought with her the article that was printed about my great uncle who died flying over the Mediterranean as part of the Italian campaign, and even though we were not able to visit his grave, it was nice to have a personal connection. When we go to England, we will visit the grave of another great-uncle who died in England during WWII.

Lunch in Bayeux

We mixed in some Norman history along with the WWII focus by visiting the Bayeux tapestry (a 70 m long, 1000 year old tapestry that recounts the story of William the Conqueror and how he became king of England).  It may seem strange to visit a tapestry, but it was very interesting and informative and even my Dad (retired farmer) enjoyed it! We also visited the castle in Falaise which is the town where William the Conqueror was born.  The climb up to the castle and then the many stairs within the castle proved to be a bit challenging for my Mom (she has an arthritic knee and a leg prosthesis) but she stuck it out, covered almost the entire tour and was still smiling at lunch time!

Farm visit with Lisieux cathedral in background

We also followed several tourist car routes through the very rural parts of Normandy (the Suisse Normande, the valley of the Vire and the Route du Cidre) where we tested Marco’s ability to twist and turn our Grand Scenic around the smallest 2-way roads we have driven. Around every curve and over every hill was another beautiful scene.  It gave us all a good idea of the varied landscape and the deep rural roots in Normandy.  It was nice to show my parents that there is much more to France than Paris.  My Dad was particularly interested in the farming and was quite surprised to see the John Deere tractors!

Cheers / Santé

Cheers / Santé

So after 10 memorable days together, we drove my parents back to Paris to catch their plane today.  We were all sad to part, but thankful to be able to share some of our European experience with them. It was a big undertaking for them considering they had never travelled so far before and we are so pleased that they were up for the challenges and thrills of travelling to Europe.  My Mom says that she would love to go to Ireland so maybe that will be next year’s trip!

We will leave France on Saturday by taking the train to Great Britain where we will spend our final month. It is very hard to believe that we have only 1 month left of our trip.  We are starting to think about our return to Perth and our friends and family, but there are still a few hills to climb in Scotland, and sites to see in England (like the “London Eye” monster ferris wheel  says Owen).


  1. Hey guys. Hard to believe you’ve been gone for 11 months. We just wanted to drop you a note to say we’ve enjoyed your posts and photos over the year. I’ve shown some of the albums to a woman I work with in the web content department — she’s from France so of course finds many of the shots familiar. Thanks again for taking the time to chronicle your adventure. Ian and the gang.

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