Normandy, France

Trip Start Jul 11, 2008
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Trip End Aug 06, 2008


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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Monday, August 4, 2008

Saturday morning we packed up and headed out to Normandie.  It was a carful and I mean literally.  Agathe's parents and her brother will be staying there for two weeks, so we had a lot of stuff and a lot of animals, including the cat, dog, and the talking parrot, Coco.  We all got packed up in the car and Agathe's mom Florance forget her key.  We call kind of laughed at her.  We retrieved the key and headed out.  About half a mile away from home, I realized I didn't have my return train ticket back from Normandie.  Shit... We turned around once more and retrieved it, I was just a little embarrassed.
Three hours later we made it to Normandie.  This place is beautiful, everything I had imagined.  The Felzine's apartment is just across the street from the beach.  Agathe and I went out to dinner at a creperie and I had a French crepe for dinner.  Although I love Paris, it is really nice to get out of the city for a little bit.  After dinner we had walked down to the beach.  Now, I don't remember exactly how we got to this, but, through some random events, Agathe and I made a bet.  If I went skinny dipping in the ocean on the beach in plain daylight, right then and there, she would pay for my bungee jump.  We're talking 90 euros here.... I did it!  It was crazy... probably one of the craziest things I've ever done.  This video, I don't think I'll be posting on the blog!  Unfortunately, the point at which I left my clothes, a wave came up and drenched them.  But, it wasn't the end of the world because nothing was ruined. 
Afterwards, we walked the beach back to the apartment.  I was, of course, drenched and soaked, but it's all good, I'm in Normandy.  A cool thing here, is that they legalize fireworks.  As we walked back along the beach, we saw an arrow of fireworks set off in front of us on the beach.
Next day was a big one.  We drove nearly two hours and arrived at Arromanches.  This is just east of Sword beach, the beach invaded by the British and Canadians, June 6th, 1944.  Here we saw a 360 theater that took historic WWII footage and new footage and showed the exact same places in how they were during the war and how they are today.  It was really fascinating.  I've had a natural attraction to the WWII era and I loved all of this.  Next we walked down the hill that some of these photos were taken from (note: on this hill where the theater was, is also the white angel statue that is seen in the WWII film, "The Longest Day").  We had lunch here and saw some WWII cannons and tanks.  This was also the site of an artificial harbor that was constructed during the war.  To this day, some of the planks and outline of the harbor still exist.
Now, the beautiful day started to rain.  We drove about 20 minutes to the American Cemetery.  The Cemetery lies just above Omaha beach and is featured in the opening and closing scenes of "Saving Private Ryan".  This place was undescrable.  There are over 9 thousand graves here.  Nearly every gave had a date between June 6th, 1944 and August 8th, 1944.  The Jewish graves were marked with the Star of David.  I don't quite know how to put the feeling of being here into words.  I just hope you can look at the pictures and somewhat understand.  We must have spent nearly an hour here. 
At the cemetery, there was also a visitors center with a video and many exhibits and actual gear used on June 6th, 1944, including; An M1 Grand, Paratroopers outfits, bayonets, knives, helmets, and German obstructive obstacles.  I was amazed by all this stuff, I loved it.
Next we drove around to Omaha beach, just at the base of Point to Hoc.  This is where it all happened.  I took numerous photos to try to show you the site.  I think I will put them together at home to make a panoramic portrait view.  I took a grocery sack full of sand as a keepsake as well.  On can only imagine
We packed up here and headed to the Point to Hoc.  This is the hill at the point of Omaha Beach.  This point was heavily shot at by the battle ships from the battle ships prior to the invasion.  On the morning of June 6th, 225 Army Rangers scaled the cliff's face and destroyed the Nazi guns pointed at both Omaha and Utah Beach.  They were not relieved for 4 days and at that point only 90 of them remained. 
As we made our way to the point, it started to pour.  This truly gave one the reality of the true conditions on the day in June.  The whole plateau was covered with craters left over from the shells that landed on the point.  The remains of Nazi bunkers and gun wholes still stand.  This site truly looked like a war zone.  No modernized or recreational changes have taken place here, it looks just as it was abandoned in 1946 or the end of the war.  I had a unique flash back to where I had seen similar structures and remembered identical missions to what had occurred here from my WWII video games that I used to play as a kid.  But this was the real deal.  Very, very intriguing. 
We then made the 2 hour car drive home, it rained nearly the whole way.  Weather one would never experience in the summer back at home in Chico.
Now, it's Monday, Bungee Jump Day.  Agathe's family knew of a place about an hour and a half from their apartment where they had gone bungee jumping in the past.  I had seen Agathe's photos and really wanted to do this for myself.  I must say, I was a little nervous prior and told my family I loved them, just in case the unimaginable occurred.  We arrived and Agathe and I were the first ones to go.  I was very impressed at my ability to centralize my mind and focus on the enjoyment and not the fear.  Agathe went first, and because it was her second time jumping, she was allowed to go backwards, as she did.  She yelled upon departure and I must say I laughed, but I knew I was next.  They tie your legs together and you literally have to hop to the edge of the plank.  I smiled for the camera, looked out at the beautiful Normandy valley and jump.  At first it's like doing a ski jump when you wave your arms in circles, you can feel you body accelerating and after 113 feet, your body reaches it maximum speed (learned that from Myth Busters).  You can truly feel the point when you reach your Max speed and then it's like you floating in the sky, weightless.  You reach your lowest point and SPRING back up towards the sky, by now I was having the time of my life.  I let out a loud Simmons Roar of excitement, one that sounds a lot similar to what my dad does...  The experience was great, I loved it, now I feel I have to go sky diving.
Some facts about the place, it's run by a company named AJ HACKETT. They have sites all over the world including, Las Vegas and Australia.  The site here in Normandy was actually an old bridge for trains prior to the war.  After being bombed, all that stands now are the giant pillars that held up the bridge.  The point that I jumped from was 61 meters, I don't know exactly how many feet that is but I think it's close to 200.  Oh! And I found out that I weight 81 Kilograms.
So now I'm at a cyber McDonalds.  Free internet, shitty food, I guess it's a comparable trade off.  One might be surprised that they sell beer at McDonalds.  I heard that in Paris and I see the man across the room drinking a McDonald's beer as well.  Like I said before, everything here in Europe is just a little bit different that America.  Tomorrow Agathe and I will return to Paris and Wednesday I fly home.  Normandy has been amazing and I love it here.  It has been a great conclusion to my trip.  I will have more entries soon, I have 12 hours on a plane Wednesday and a lot of reflection to do so expect to read more.  I'm pressed for time, so if I don't get all the photos or Bungee video online right now, I will tomorrow when I have internet in Paris.  Talk to you soon!  Good night from Normandy, France!
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Comments

grandpacharles
grandpacharles on

AJ Hackett
Actually, AJ Hackett is from New Zealand. I was at his original site several years back and took photos of people Bungie Jumping from an old railroad bridge over a river. One guy went almost completely into the water before he snapped back up. Later, I read that if you were over 60 yrs old, they would let you got for free there, but I wouldn't of had the nerve to do it anyway. Congraduations to you David for doing it for all of us. Love, Grandpa Charles

davidofcali
davidofcali on

Correction
New Zealand is right! I saw their promotional video and that confirmed it!
I finally got all the photos and videos up from these days in Normandie, HOPE YOU ENJOY!

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