Sunday and Monday 9th & 10th June
Our drive from Oudon to Barneville-Carteret was very smooth and quiet after the howling winds and rain we struggled through on Friday. A couple of podcasts and a few playlists made the four and a half hours fly by.
Talking of flying by, as we got closer to Cherbourg we noticed that the sides of the road were littered with parked cars and soon the slip ways off the dual carriage way we were on were temporarily closed by traffic police because of the log jammed traffic and there were people everywhere standing and looking up. Then the reason for the crowds became clear. At 1515, five old, large aeroplanes appeared from the North West and were flying over us as we passed the village of Sainte-Mère-Église. They were soon to drop their payload of parachutists.
75 years ago, in the early hours of the 6th June 1944, two units of US paratroopers were dropped on Sainte-Mère-Église ahead of the D Day landings to secure the village and the N13, the road that German reinforcements were likely to use. Many of them were shot before they could land but the mission was successful and by 0500, Sainte-Mère-Église was the first place in France to be liberated.[ I am not a big fan of WW2 history, but apparently the film ‘The Longest Day’ is a pretty good interpretation of the liberation of Sainte-Mère-Église.] We were driving up the N13 at the very time of the re-enactment of their mission, part of a weekend long series of events to commemorate the 75th Anniversary. The French were under occupation for four years, it’s hard to really imagine what life must have been like.
Not long after we turned off the N13 and drove through the small town of Briquebec and past an amazing chateau. Why isn’t Briquebec underlined in green? Next time we are in the area we will be give Briquebec a visit.
La Gerfleur Camping was pretty disappointing after Oudon. It clearly has a high opinion of itself, with loads of fussy little notices around the place saying; “Don’t do this, don’t do that!” It was mainly static caravans around a fishing pond, with a few touring pitches. The showers and toilets were pretty ‘agricultural’ and not in a rustic sort of way. We even had to use tokens, so we were rationed to one shower a day.
After a late lunch/ early tea we strolled the kilometre or so to the centre of Barneville Carteret. It was a typical small Normandy town, tidy, but nothing special, so why is it underlined in green? It turns out because it has a ferry link to Jersey and Guernsey, but the port is a couple of kilometres in the other direction so we will have to investigate that tomorrow.
Our last full day in France was announced by a spattering of rain which continued until middle of the day. As soon as it stopped, the three of us bounced out and we were off to find the port. We did find the port, but we also discovered the old fishing village of Carteret which was a pretty combination of houses from the 19thCentury and before and a big marina.
The village is stuffed full of cafes and yachtie shops but around the corner it has a lovely beach, redolent of Llanbedrog, as it has a line of shades of Farrow and Ball blue and white beach huts standing guard at the foot of the hill. By now the sun was fully out and it was warm enough to sunbathe. When Wendy felt she was crisp enough, we walked back along a cycle track to the campsite and agreed that Barneville Carteret is much better than it looked at first sight, but next time we will park in the aire down by the port.