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Haver... Havia.... Não era grande coisa... Mas haver havia...
Pictures: Robinson Kanes
At the mouth of the Couesnon lies one of the classics of any journey through Normandy and Brittany: the Mont-Saint-Michel. After Ponts and a long adventure laden with emotions, you need to chill out a bit.
The Mont-Saint-Michel is really impressive, the long distance already shows itself in all its splendour, I even believe that it is there that it shows all its beauty and magnificence always wrapped in a tenuous magic mist. We stopped the car dozens of times until we reached our destination.
The bay, is something amazing and is only 8000 years old (until then everything had been covered with ice). It's fantastic... Unfortunately the time doesn't allow us to leave the car behind and go on our bikes, we have tasks in Saint-Malo and we want to make the most of it to explore the "présalés" - covered by high tides but which are a fantastic landscape and even agricultural landmark. We want to take the chance to cross a part of the estuary and we know how dangerous that can be. Every year it is necessary to rescue a large number of people who do not watch out for the rising tides and only by helicopter can they be removed. Unfortunately, we are not at the equinox to enjoy the great descent of the tides.
It's fantastic, it's amazing to hear and see all those birds, because if the seagulls dominate the island. If we roam the fields, we will find a countless number of species that will leave us fascinated.
We walk through the quicksand (and a lot of caution in these lands) and we forget that it is possible to enter the "fortress" and go through the narrow alleys and visit the Abbey. But it becomes difficult... Even on the island our eyes look for everything that happens around it and it becomes a kind of central control room to observing nature. It's marvelous...
We notice something we had witnessed in childhood... The cars are far away which allows us to preserve the place.However, the interior is full of visitors which sometimes makes the experience boring, but we have to accept, in fact it is a stratospheric place.
We walk along the walls and we can't stand the weight of the architecture, so we are forced to go out, put our feet back on the sands and enjoy... We try to stop time, we wait for the "tramonto" and we don't want to leave. The light of the island becomes unique and everything that surrounds it seems to begin to gain a new dimension. That's where we stay, plunged in sand and water taking part in one of the most beautiful Nature performances and of Earth life itself.
Pictures: Robinson Kanes & GC
The death is someone's death and to have been someone's death is not taken by the dying person but by the survivor
Aristotle, in "De Anima
We left Bayeux and went back to near the memorable "Juno Beach", more precisely to Courseulles-sur-Mer. This is where the car rests and the bikes come off the roof. We go into "Tour de Normandie" mode and try to meet some of the places that for years remain in our memory due to the "D Day". From here on and before we aim at Mont Saint-Michel it will be on foot and on two wheels.
We began with a journey of about seven km to the Canadian Cemetery of Bény-sur-Mer, which is the repose of the first Canadian dead on landing - that of Bretteville-sur-Laize remained for those who died in later moments. Even at the roadside and one can already feel the weight of history, the weight of death. The first impression? So many dead and this is only the first... So many boys on the ground who died in the name of the liberation of Europe, in the name of a world that would never be the same... We feel cowardly for not having kept that desirable world that stupidly cost them their lives - and this is not even one of the biggest stone gardens. You breathe deeply, you hear the wind between the trees, you review the story, and you read the messages you find on each stone.
We realize that more than an hour has passed and there is still so much to feel, something without an obvious explanation... It's time to leave, return to "Juno Beach" and pay our respects to the memorial and also to the first house to be conquered on that fateful and deadly day.
I become redundant, but in fact, I always end up thinking, what for? Should we not, as we do with road traffic accidents, where many judges sentence the guilty to visit hospitals, particularly the victims of collisions, do this with those who seem to forget the past?
The beaches... you have to close your eyes, remember the history of the invasion and return to those times, otherwise, it will be more difficult, even if you feel the air coming from the Channel. We must continue, our destination on two wheels will be the German cemetery at "La Cambe" and before that, we must return to the War Cemetery at Bayeux.
On the way, a highlight and mandatory stop at the American Cemetery in "Omaha Beach", Colleville-sur-Mer. Until then, there are plenty of museums and memorials, the beaches and even at the entrance to some villages, do not forget those who have fallen for France and Europe. But we must stop in Colleville, the Americans know how to grace their soldiers and this cemetery is a real monument, a great tribute to the dead in battle who crossed the Atlantic and then the English Channel and fell on French soil.
The number of dead is overwhelming, the place is massive and the contrast between beauty and care of the place with those lying there is something remarkable. Someone tried to build a paradise so that those soldiers could rest there, right on the hills that lead to the beach where many have fallen. The stillness of this place, the way everything is taken care of (better than in many palaces), the silence... We look again at the sea that brought all these bodies to land, an Atlantic crossed, to then cross the waters of the spot and die in the name of us all. A sad life, not being able to face these young people and even the older ones, the tears... The thought of walking among the crosses of Christ and David is not enough, it leaves us powerless and unarmed. We think of today and even of tomorrow, we think of all the cemeteries like this one, which did not exist... We ask, what for?
We have to continue... It's time to move on, but after that day, we are no longer the same... After that day, already adults and without the magic that being a child causes us naivety, we will never look at that shore again after this return
Photos: Robinson Kanes
One of the most beautiful cathedrals in France is located in the department of Calvados, in the Normandy region, more precisely in Bayeux!
However, before entering the cathedral, Bayeux has the curiosity of having been the first city to be liberated in the Battle of Normandy! It is also for this reason that it houses the cemetery of all the journalists who have been killed following scenes of conflict since 1944! It is also in the vicinity of the centre of Bayeux that the largest British cemetery of the Second World War is found. But leaving the less good experiences, Bayeux is known for its 11th-century tapestry and where the conquest of England by the Normans led by William II is "reported". It deserves to be visited even because it is catalogued by UNESCO, especially for its carpets.
But what can take someone like me to Bayeux is the opportunity to get to know another Norman town and appreciate the calm and friendliness of its residents, in a near trip to the past. If we expect to spend a morning or an afternoon, we quickly realize that we have to stay longer.
Returning to the cathedral, we quickly realized the Gothic style that is due to its reconstruction during the 11th century. I would like to emphasize the central nave that guides us through the immense stained-glass windows that spread throughout the entire structure. For lovers of this art, no doubt you will see here your thirst for knowledge quenched.
Nor can we forget where we are, so in every corner, we are reminded of a not too distant past and where all those who fell in the name of freedom in Europe are remembered.
If you like Normandy, surely you can't miss Bayeux, because any of the roads there is a real tour full of landscapes that are the real postcard of Normandy.
Photos: Robinson Kanes
Caen is one of those cities that, at least for me, always deserved a visit. Not for the whole city, not for being extremely beautiful, not for being close to the PSA factory... For those who appreciate history, Caen is mandatory to visit, especially when we talk about the history of the Middle Ages, the German occupation, and the landing in Normandy - it is the ideal place to rest after a visit to the Normandy beaches.
Located in Basse-Normandie, more precisely in the Department of Calvados, Caen is a peaceful city and has in William "the Conqueror" one of its great names, moreover, it is buried in what is the most imposing monument of the city, the "Abbaye-aux-Hommes", a Benedictine abbey of extraordinary beauty and a true example of Romanesque construction. It is here that we find the "Mairie" (Town Hall) and the "Église de Saint Etienne". It is worth walking through the streets to get there, especially if you come by the "Rue de Fossés Saint Julien".
However, when we visited the Abbey, we entered the "Jean Marie Louvel Esplanade". It is nothing more than a very large garden that places us in front of what is the monument that most fascinates me in Caen, the "Église de Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux". I must confess my passion for ruins but also for the fact that this church is still standing after being practically destroyed during the "Hundred Years War" at the time of the siege of Caen. I admire the building for having remained in ruins for centuries - despite some attempts to rebuild it - and for having been almost reduced to rubble by a German projectile during World War II. Standing is a real achievement. Perhaps that's why it deserves such interest, and it's quite interesting from an architectural point of view.
To travel through Caen is indeed to know a Norman city, but it is undeniable the historical burden in terms of wars and conflicts that the city carries. It is impossible not to stop feeling the strength of the city that several times was reduced to ashes. A fortified city, as it couldn't be otherwise, it is interesting to see its peacefulness, sometimes too peaceful for the Mediterranean, even when you climb its walls and try to glimpse all the details of the city.
But it is within the walls that the soul is animated because when you least expect it, especially if a medieval Norman fair is taking place, you find a work of art which, even in the distance, lets out a "that is a Rodin"! It is also between walls that we find another of the great works of the master, one of the best sculptors of all time!
In fact, we end up liking this city, the ideal refuge in Normandy, especially if we choose a hotel that is right inside a hospital. It's not a top hotel and we don't see or hear ambulances all the time - neither are the helicopters landing right on top audible - and from what I've seen it's several times that you land and take off.
We left Caen, not before finding another ruin, the "Église Saint-Julien", a church whose first reference dates back to 1150 and which also suffered from the "Hundred Years' War" and was left in the rubble at the time of the famous bombing of 7 July 1944.
It is an interesting and calm place, even if it is close to a busy street and right in the centre of Caen. The visit to this landmark and to the "Mémorial de Caen" promises to mark who visits the city.
Imagens: Robinson Kanes & GC
My passion for these towns is more than obvious... Throughout my childhood and adolescence (and why not... adult age) the sea was always there. Having a part of the family connected to the sea it is natural that genes are playing their role here.
Honfleur, although not a colossus, is that city where the Seine meets the English Channel and, according to some (i.e. me), where that river loses all that romanticism, which some (i.e. me) do not recognize it. I like, in spite of everything, Honfleur... A quiet town in Calvados, just in the middle of Normandy. A quiet town, with a small bay where we find some leisure boats that contrast with those that work and seek the sea riches of the English Channel. I still prefer it the other way around, but tourism, the cities, and the functionalism of the city itself force this change.
I love downtown... Being in Honfleur and not enjoying the bars and restaurants by the sailboats is not going to Honfleur - this area is called "Vieux Bassin". However, and knowing Normandy relatively well (for a visitor), I had never been to Honfleur. I like the cafés inside the city, especially the quiet streets, in a different way from being in a port city that ends up being invaded by tourists or was not one of the first tourist attractions for those crossing the English Channel or even entering from the north of France.
A trading city in the midst of history and one of the most disputed during the Hundred Years War (once again the proximity to England), I am also pleased to be the city where Erik Satie was born - who knows, some of his "Gymnopédies", will not have had any inspiration around here... I don't think so, but that note reinforces a need to visit this city. With a history linked to Impressionism, it is also a city where the plastic arts have their place, I highlight only the "Eugène Boudin Museum" which houses paintings by the artist and also from Monet.
One of the great attractions, however, is the "Church of Saint Catherine"! Totally made of wood, much because of the naval tradition, it is really a charm for those who like architecture! A wooden church, with the intense smell of old wood and all that particular austerity, is a surprise of those that mark!
Tired of the smell of wood and of such great wealth, nothing like stopping at the coffee shop near the restaurant "Entre Terre & Mer". Being the same owners, I have to thank the two collaborators who, serving only two expressos, treated us as if we had lobster dinner or other delicacies from that sea so close by - without advertising because I paid the respective two euros for each one.
Finally, and talking about this aspect in a country with such beautiful bridges as Portugal is not exactly fascinating, however, nothing like enjoying the (expensive) views from the "Ponte de Normandie" to the Estuary of the Seine or even from the same river still confined in a shorter space by the "Ponte de Tancarville" - coming from Le Havre, there is no escape.
Imagens: Robinson Kanes & GC
The only true voyage, the only bath in
the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other
eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to
see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and
this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to
Marcel Proust, in "In Search of the Lost Time - Volume V: The Prisoner"
I have already had the opportunity to talk about Erik Satie or even Eugène Bodin in my article on Honfleur. However, now it's the turn of a master of letters to deserving a highlight: Marcel Proust!
I'm mentioning Marcel Proust so that I can also approach Cabourg. This is a city, especially known for having been the writer's favourite holiday spot! Go for a visit in Trouville-sur-Mer, or even in Dieppe, and not to pass through Cabourg will end up being almost a crime, namely committed by those who have in Proust a reference.
Cabourg, still in the Department of Calvados, is one of those places in France where flowers and plants adorn a city... And a typical "cataplana", I must confess. For me, it is also a place where, as a lover of the study of the 2nd World War, looking at the sea, I already start to have a less good feeling. I must admit that the first time I visited Cabourg - and I explain why it was important to go back there - I could not put one foot in the water. I already had in mind part of the feelings.. when arriving in Caen.
But Cabourg is more than a majestic 19th century Casino. Cabourg is to be able to walk on the "Marcel Proust Promenade" and feel the aura of times I did not experience. It is a certain glamour of the '60s, '70s, '80s, or even the end of the 19th century, and to imagine the charm and refinement of such a seaside resort. It will not be difficult to realize Cabourg, and therefore it is important to return, as one of those unique romantic escapades. This town is known for its Film Festival, also dedicated to the romantic cinema! Part of the show includes a cinema on the beach!
This magic doesn't stop there when it comes to romanticism! Saint Valentine's is also celebrated in a very special way, with night baths and a lot of fireworks - this tradition is so taken seriously that cycles of debates and a countless number of cultural and even scientific initiatives linked to love to open up... Maybe, and I'm not a fan of the date, the next 14th of February will be passed in Cabourg!
Still thinking about love, Cabourg, more precisely, the "Promenade Marcel Proust", is also the place where we find "Le Méridien de L'Amour", a celebration of love on a universal scale and where various "kiosks" open up perspectives in this matter and in 104 languages" - something that does not remain indifferent to anyone! It's easy to wander between the telegrams in different languages and feel the love on a walk by the beach in a privileged and romantic location. Maybe that's what that couple is feeling in the second picture.
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