First Day in France
First Day in France
Moving South
Vienne and Vinsorbes
Dutch Campground
First Days in Italy
Montelcino Antonio
First Days-South Italy
First Days-Giovinazzo
Living in Giovinazzo
Picking Olives
Outings and School
Rosa's show
Hols & New Yr
Back to School
Croatia-Plitvika, Krk, Cres
St. Pierre
Camping on the Med
Eli's Diary
Rosa's Diary


6 November 2004: Arrive Cherbourg.  Utah Beach.  Camped in field



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 new.

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 again.

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 crossing.



They haven't noticed me yet but I think the dog might be suspicious she spent the night in the ferry sniffing around the van.




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