Bonjour, welcome to Kris Crossing France 2024. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you. As you know, some are planned and some unplanned. That’s the fun!
I hope you have enjoyed my blogs and have learned bit more about my love of France. I also hope you are learning more about XPF ( Experience France) and why its immersion program helped me overcome my hesitancy to speak French. I still have a lot to learn and can’t want to do so!
Given that 2024 is the 80th anniversary of the D- Day invasion and I recently visited Normandy for the first time, I wanted to share my impressions, suggestions and experiences with you.
The Normandy region is located in the northwest corner of France. As region, Normandy is known for:
Agriculture – apples, cider , calvados
Cheese (yes I visited a cheesemaker)
History – Bayeux Tapestry, Joan of Arc
D-Day Invasion – Pivotal WWII invasion of the Allied Forces
I was lucky enough to visit Normandy 2x in 2022. I know that may sound odd, but I can assure you they were two very different visits. That’s the beauty of France, there is simply so much to see.
My first visit to Normandy was in March 2022. This trip was more historically focused, primarily to visit the American cemetery. For our 3 hour drive to Normandy, our route was a combination of primary and secondary roads. Experiencing the secondary roads is one of my favorite things to do.
At every turn is another French village, different from the last one, churches, fields, black & white cows everywhere. I encourage you to leave the expressway and drive the French secondary roads. I promise you it will be unforgettable.
Visiting the American cemetery had been on my mind for awhile as a must see destination in France. I, of course, had seen pictures of the cemetery but that simply was not enough. I wanted to pay my respects. What I did not expect were the impressions made on me from the beach we visited.
Carl, founder of XPF, was driving so I was able to look out my window. Driving along the coast, the view was spectacular. I now understood why the Impressionistic artists traveled from Paris to Normandy, following the light. I had thought they traveled only to the south of France to paint. I was wrong. When you see the views, you understand why Monet painted left Giverney to paint in Normandy.
Before we visited the American cemetery, we visited Gold’s Beach. Gold’s Beach was the third of the five (5) beaches that were invaded on D-Day. Gold’s Beach was invaded by units from the British 50th Infantry Division. I will try to describe my time there but like the American cemetery, pictures and words do not do it justice.
From the cliff facing the beach, there is an open field. It was a grey, windy day. It was very quiet which seemed appropriate. As I left the car, I walked toward the cliff’s edge to see the beach. As I turned to my left, I saw one of the many weapons aimed at the soldiers.
As I looked at this weapon, I got tears in my eyes. Can you imagine being 17 years old, away from home,
maybe for the first time and running onto a beach where you know many guns like this are shooting at you? It was overwhelming.
After a few minutes, I turned to my right. In the distance I saw something in the water. I asked Carl what I was seeing. He shared that these were the remnants of the Mulberry harbors. Placed there by the first boats, it was a means to resupply the Allied armies. The Allies had to built ports because there were no ports on these beaches while being shot at from above. I simply stared at what I was seeing.
When I think of my time at Gold’s Beach to this day, I still am in awe and always take a moment to say thank you.
It was now time to visit the A merican Cemetery.
The American Cemetery was impressive, as it should be. Words cannot describe the crosses you see in every direction.
When you turn 360 degrees, all you see are crosses. Overwhelming is an understatement. As you walk around the cemetery, you will see the chapel that honors the Americans as well as the French and British soldiers.
I will be returning in early October 2024 with my family and will share my new experiences with you.
For my second trip to Normandy, our focus was the region. I am lucky to have a travel friend, Joyce, who is as passionate, enthusiastic and curious as I am about France. We have had many (and more to come) adventures on our travels in France. During this trip, we visited a family owned cider/Calvados farm. This family has been making cider & Calvados for several generations.
On a damp, foggy day, we drove into the hills of Normandy. Cows, black and white, were everywhere but also there were apple trees. Turning onto a gravel driveway, we arrived at La Galotiere, a cider mill that produces both cider and calvados.
Our tour guide was Ben, the son who currently manages the farm with his parents. Our tour was in French and I was pleased I understood it. Thank you XPF! Both Joyce and I engage with the French language as much as possible when we are traveling. It’s part of the fun! But don’t worry, if you visit La Galotiere, Ben speaks English.
Clearly from the photos you can see that La Galotiere is a family farm. In addition to cider, as I have mentioned, the family makes a very well known Calvados. I was surprised to learn that the oldest, most valued calvados is stored in the building below. From the outside you might think it was abandoned, but open the door and there are the casks of Calvados, aging in a perfect location. And of course, a visit is not complete without a taste.
Finally, it was time to visit to a local cheesemaker. This cheesemaker produces all 4 cheeses for which Normandy is known.
Now those of you who know me know that I do not like cheese. Yes, I love France and all about France but not the cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see the cheese farms the cheesemaking promise, gaze at the cheese selection in the fromagerie (cheese store ) and select the cheeses for my friends parties. So, when Joyce suggested we visit this cheesemaker, I said YES.
The day were there they were making Livarot. It was a self guided tour so we could take our time and watch the process. To say it was fascinating would be an understatement. What also amazed me was the amount of cheese that was aging.
Finally, I wanted to share the photo below for 2 reasons. Meet my friend Joyce. Joyce opened up France to me when we started traveling together. I have and will share some of our experiences with you. And for Donna, you know why I included this photo.
Stay tuned for the next blog which I will write from France.
Allons – y ( Let’s go there)