To say Normandy is beautiful is an understatement. The color of the sand was like something I had never seen before. It was hard to believe that so much devastation happened on those beaches. Normandy should be a trip for anyone who visits France.
I would suggest taking the extra time to drive to St. Malo. Walking along the beaches of Normandy and Pointe du Hoc can be overwhelming. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a place where many people come to mourn. The cemetery, especially, is incredibly moving. We saw old veterans in front of graves and just as we were walking through, it began to rain. The rain had an almost magical quality as it seemed to reflect the mood of so many of the patrons at the cemetery.
As I said it is worth it to drive a little further, especially if you are staying the night and drive to St. Malo. St. Malo is something else. The wall surrounding the city offers up these incredible panoramic views of the water. It has been the first place in France that I have felt at home, or at least closer to home. Being from southern California, I do miss the sound of the ocean and walking along the wall at St. Malo I could have never left. The local cuisine will make any foodie’s stomach rumble. I gorged myself on a meal big enough for three that night and only wanted to keep going. The restaurant, Grand Mere Augustine, had the most delicious muscles I’ve had in my entire life. The restaurant itself is small and homey and the servers had no idea what to do with a party of nine! First, they took us upstairs to take our order while they fumbled around downstairs finding space big enough to cram three tables together. It was completely family style and I loved it. I ordered two dinners, muscles and fries, and a savory ham and cheese crepe with more fries and, surprisingly, still had room to tackle the local speciality- a salted caramel butter crepe. Despite being stuffed beyond belief, the salted caramel crepe was probably the best crepe I’ve had in France, and I’ve been making it a point to try as many crepes as possible! Who knew nutella could be this good? I highly recommend walking the streets of St. Malo at night. But the nightlife is something very hard to explain. All I can say is I went to the only bar, in the entire world most likely, that was decorated floor to ceiling with marionette artifacts and had swings for seats. The people and the atmosphere in St. Malo were so warm and welcoming that I felt I was stepping into an extension of my own family’s home. Needless to say I wish I could have spent an entire semester there for so many reasons. If anything it is a nice change from the noise and tourists that flock to Paris.
I do believe my trip to Normandy opened my eyes to all there is to see in France. As a study abroad student my biggest concern (outside of classes) is to visit as many countries as possible. With the discovery of skyscanner and ryanair I instantly began planning trips to Amsterdam, Italy, and Morocco. But I was forgetting that I was in one of the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world. I try and remind myself daily how lucky I am. I still have so much to see and the time is running out!