|Thrilled at last to be done sorting the mobile and packing,
as well as the last 2 months intensive work projects, we head for the boat. By degrees it
is beginning to sink in, only
now, that we are really doing this.
Arriving in Rosslare, we drove onto the boat, dumped our gear in the
cabin, picked out a spot and plonk down beside the soft play area. When
the ferry gets underway, after a short delay, we all wave and shout goodbye to Ireland, Wicklow,
Granma, Sorcha, all our friends, Tayto and our house. Bedtime for me
was early, as the boat started to roll a bit, only continuing until we
past land's end, the rest as they say, was plain sailing. Finn woke once
in the night, a bit unsettled by his surroundings. It was very calm by
morning but it dragged a bit waiting to get to France.
Driving easily off the boat and en route, we shouted hellos to France, and goodbye
to our ferry, heading almost immediately to a supermarket for breakfast
and lunch things Francais.
I'll leave Mike, the gastronomic expert, or obsessive, to continually
fill you in on what we eat. We wanted to let the children have as much
time outside in the afternoon before attempting a bit of night driving
to get some miles South.
So we headed for the coast and Mike spotted signs to Utah beach, which
he was very keen to visit. He and the kids went off while I did a bit of
sorting, and so when I could join them to look around and read the
inscriptions, I was very unprepared for the place.
I think the "Plage
d'Embarcements" are not places to be visited lightly. The reality of
what happened there hits you immediately and I was fighting tears,
reading even the simplest of signs, including a little road named after
some Private. Also it's an odd juxtaposition to have kids there, as
their innocence and the exuberant games which became war games, after
Mike attempted to explain the setting, seemed both life-affirming while
simultaneously irreverent. We were surprised for the time of year at the
number of mainly American visitors, who luckily smiled as we made our
way back to the camper, stealthily crossing the enemy car park,
avoiding, not always successfully, enemy artillery.
After our tea at Utah Beach, everyone got comfy for a long night
drive which lasted until about midnight. I drove lots with Mike doing a
late stint, finding it hard. So we pulled off the road before Orleans.
The landscape was vast and flat, big plowed fields, tiny villages, after
a few km we found one with a little road leading to a dead end in a
field. So we pulled into the field, at which point, bedlam erupted. We
meant to stop earlier and pre-sort the van for beds. Instead, we had to
sift through debris of toys, move children, mainly all onto my knee.
Sammy had wet himself, and everybody howled for the 20 minutes it took
to get the beds out. Just as things were quieting down, two men arrived
with torches. Mike and I thought, "oh, no, they're going to make us
move!" In fact when I popped open the door to chat, they seemed
embarrassed to be checking us out, explaining they'd seen the lights and
heard the noise
|The ferry was quiet and the crossing was
calm. In the morning it was a long wait until we got to France. I passed
on the prewrapped cuisine de France pan au chocolate as I wanted to wait
for the real thing.
Off the ferry, no one manning customs or immigration or looking for pet
passports, so we arrived on the French roads - driving on the right so I
get to start. We drew a rune (from Ralph Blum's Book of Runes and
appropriately got the blank one, which signifies the end of something
and the beginning of something entirely new.
Seeing as we have left schedules, our home and much of our
responsibilities (except for the 4+woof we brought with us), we do have
a sort of blank slate as we drive away from Ireland and to somewhere
Auchan hypermarket in Cherbourg got us food, lots of croissants and pan
au chocolate, baguettes, hard cheese from Anecee (where Sam, our au pair
from years ago, was from), wine, cider and new shoes for the kids. Then
we headed off to see how far we could get while they were in good form.
Not long after, Finn was unhappy so we made for the beach, and
fortuitously we were at that point very close to Utah Beach. So I took
the kids to see the tanks, boat and monuments and then onto the beach
itself, drawing illustrations for Eli in the sand of a military attack
and defense of a beach. Suzie stayed and retidied the new purchases into
the already packed camper. Then we all had a picnic and a walk around
I felt affected by the history-changing significance of the place and
the personal stories that were implied by the engraved lists of names. I
walked along the beach and tried to see things from the perspective of a
soldier landing, under fire, on this same sand.
The choice to join WWII feels so straightforwardly
right, compared to the
ambiguity of conflicts now. The well-preserved tank, so solid in front
of us, with "USA" printed on the side and BF Goodrich tires: it was good
feeling proud to be an American - I don't feel that way very often.
I'm writing this on the road to Caen as the kids play games with their
stuffed animals in the back. Cal at their feet resting quietly; she seems
to have forgiven us for her long stay in the car on our overnight