Normandy: War-Torn Yet Full of Life

Normandy: War-Torn Yet Full of Life


HI, I’M RICK STEVES, CONTINUING TO EXPLORE
MORE OF THE BEST OF EUROPE. THIS TIME, WE’RE IN NORTHWEST
FRANCE, ENJOYING NORMANDY. FRIENDLY LOCALS,
CREPES, CAMEMBERT, WATER LILIES, AND BIG ABBEYS. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THANKS FOR JOINING US. WHILE IT’S SEEN MORE
THAN ITS SHARE OF WAR, TODAY NORMANDY IS A PEACEFUL
AND WELCOMING PLACE. WITH ITS THOUGHT PROVOKING
SIGHTS AND MEMORIALS, DELICIOUS CUISINE
AND IDYLLIC NATURE, IT’S NO WONDER THIS REGION
IS SUCH A POPULAR GETAWAY FOR NEARBY PARISIANS.AFTER EXPLORING THE
HALF-TIMBERED CHARM OF ROUEN,WE REFLECT ON LILY PADS
AT MONET’S GARDEN,PEEK IN ON LOCAL CRAFTSPEOPLE,SET UP AN EASEL AT HONFLEUR,ENTER ERIK SATIE’S
ECCENTRIC MUSICAL MIND,REMEMBER D-DAYAND ANOTHER INVASION
NINE CENTURIES EARLIER,AND TAKE A PILGRIM’S HIKE
TO AN ENCHANTED ABBEY.OF FRANCE’S MANY REGIONS,NORMANDY IS STRATEGICALLY
LOCATED ACROSS FROM ENGLANDAND HANDY TO PARIS.FROM ROUEN WE SIDE-TRIP
TO GIVERNY,TRAVEL TO HONFLEUR,BAYEUX,AND VISIT THE DRAMATIC
D-DAY BEACHES,BEFORE FINISHING
AT MONT-ST.MICHEL. THE HISTORY OF NORMANDY
IS FILLED WITH WAR. VIKING NORSEMEN WHO SETTLED HERE
IN THE 9th CENTURY GAVE NORMANDY ITS NAME. THE 7th DUKE OF NORMANDY,
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, INVADED ENGLAND
FROM THESE SHORES. JOAN OF ARC, WHO RALLIED
THE FRENCH AGAINST THE ENGLISH, WAS BURNED AT THE STAKE
IN NORMANDY. AND ON THESE BEACHES, A WORLD
WAR II BATTLE WAS FOUGHT THAT CHANGED THE COURSE
OF HISTORY. THE STIRRING SIGHTS ASSOCIATED
WITH EACH OF THESE EVENTS TURNS MANY VISITORS
INTO HISTORY BUFFS.NEARLY 1200 YEARS AGO,THE VIKINGS MADE THIS TOWN,
ROUEN, THEIR CAPITAL.WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR CALLED IT
HOME BEFORE MOVING TO ENGLAND.DURING THE MIDDLE AGES, ROUEN,
WITH 40,000 RESIDENTS,WAS FRANCE’S
SECOND LARGEST CITY.ONLY PARIS WAS BIGGER.IN THE 12th CENTURY, HALF OF TODAY’S FRANCE
WAS RULED BY ENGLAND. CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE, ROUEN
WALKED A POLITICAL TIGHTROPE BETWEEN FRANCE AND ENGLAND
FOR CENTURIES. AND BECAUSE ROUEN WAS
AN IMPORTANT ENGLISH BASE DURING THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR, THIS IS WHERE JOAN OF ARC
WAS BURNED.TODAY ROUEN MIXES
DAZZLING GOTHIC ARCHITECTUREAND CONTEMPORARY BUSTLE
BEAUTIFULLY.IT’S A BUSY PORT WITH
A PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY OLD TOWNAND A GRAND CATHEDRAL
STANDING AS A REMINDEROF THE TOWN’S
HISTORIC IMPORTANCE.THE SPIRE WAS MADE OF CAST IRON
IN THE LATE 1800s,ABOUT THE SAME TIME EIFFEL WAS
BUILDING HIS TOWER IN PARIS.AT NEARLY 500 FEET,
IT’S THE TALLEST IN FRANCE.ROUEN’S ORNATE PUBLIC CLOCK HAS
DECORATED THE FORMER CITY HALLFOR 500 YEARS.BACK THEN, JUST HAVING AN HOUR
HAND OFFERED AMPLE PRECISION.THE LAMB AT THE END
OF THE HOUR HAND IS A REMINDERTHAT WOOL WAS THE SOURCE
OF ROUEN’S WEALTH.AND THE ARTISTIC HIGHLIGHT —
LEAN WAY BACK —FILLS THE UNDERSIDE OF THE ARCH
WITH THE GOOD SHEPHERDAND LOTS OF SHEEP.THAT THRIVING WOOL TRADE STOKED
ROUEN’S MEDIEVAL BUILDING BOOM. BECAUSE THE CHALKY LIMESTONE
QUARRIED FROM THE CLIFFS OF THE SEINE RIVER NEARBY
WAS SO EXPENSIVE, AND IT WASN’T GREAT
FOR BUILDING QUALITY — I COULD ACTUALLY MESS IT UP WITH MY THUMBNAIL HERE
IF I WANTED TO — AND BECAUSE THE OAK AROUND HERE
WAS SO PLENTIFUL, HALF-TIMBERED BUILDINGS
BECAME A ROUEN FORTE.THE OAK BEAMS PROVIDED
THE STRUCTURAL SKELETONOF THE BUILDING.THE GAPS WERE THEN
FILLED IN WITH A MIXOF CLAY, STRAW AND PEBBLES,
AND PLASTERED OVER.WANDER THE BACK LANES
AND PEEK INTO SHOPS.THIS FLOWERY
AND PASTEL HAT SHOPIS THE LAST OF ITS KIND
IN ROUEN.THE HATMAKER IS CONSIDERED
A TREASUREBY HER DEVOTED CLIENTELE.JUST AROUND THE CORNER,
MONSIEUR AUGY WELCOMES SHOPPERSTO BROWSE THROUGH HIS STUDIO
AND SEE ROUEN’S CHINA,KNOWN AS FAIENCE, BEING MADE
THE TRADITIONAL WAY.FIRST, THE CLAY IS MOLDED
AND CAREFULLY TRIMMED BY HAND.AFTER BEING FIRED,
DIPPED IN ENAMEL AND DRIED,IT’S LOVINGLY HAND-PAINTED.A SECOND FIRING GIVES IT
ITS CHARACTERISTIC GLAZE.IN THE 1700s,
ROUEN HAD 18 FACTORIESCHURNING OUT THE POPULAR
PRODUCT.TODAY, THE AUGY FAMILY CARRIES
ON THE FAIENCE TRADITION.ON THE MARKET SQUARE,
A CROSS MARKS THE SPOTWHERE JOAN OF ARC
WAS BURNED AT THE STAKEIN THE 15th CENTURY.AS THE DEMORALIZED FRENCH
WERE REELINGUNDER ENGLISH OCCUPATION,
THIS TEENAGER OF SUPREME FAITH,AFTER HEARING DIVINE VOICES,WON THE CONFIDENCE
OF THE FRENCH PEOPLE.DRESSED AS A MAN,
SHE WAS GIVEN AN ARMYAND RALLIED HER COUNTRYMEN
AGAINST THEIR ENGLISH INVADERS. IN 1431, 19-YEAR-OLD JOAN OF
ARC WAS TAKEN BY THE ENGLISH, CONVICTED OF HERESY
AND BURNED RIGHT HERE. AS THE FLAMES ENGULFED HER,
AN ENGLISH SOLDIER SAID, “OH, MY GOD,
WE’VE KILLED A SAINT.” NEARLY 500 YEARS LATER, JOAN OF ARC WAS MADE A SAINT
AND HE WAS PROVEN CORRECT.MIDWAY BETWEEN ROUEN AND PARIS,
ABOUT AN HOUR’S DRIVE AWAY,IS GIVERNY.CLAUDE MONET, THE FATHER
OF THE IMPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT,SPENT HIS LAST 40 YEARS HERE,FINDING INSPIRATION
IN THESE GARDENS.THE COLORS
OF HIS COTTAGE GARDENARE LIKE HIS BRUSH STROKES.THEY SEEM UNTAMED AND SLAPDASH,BUT ARE PART OF A CAREFULLY
COMPOSED MOSAIC.HE DIVERTED A STREAM,
MADE A POND,FILLED IT WITH WATER LILIES
AND BUILT A FOOTBRIDGE,WHICH EVENTUALLY BECAME
OVERGROWN WITH WISTERIA.MUSEUMS IN PARIS BLOOM
WITH MONET’S GARDEN PAINTINGS.IMPRESSIONISM WAS
A REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTIN EUROPEAN ART,
THE RAGE IN THE 1870s.MANY ARTISTS ABANDONED REALISMIN FAVOR OF THIS
INNOVATIVE STYLE,WHICH CAPTURED LIGHT, GLIMMERS
AND REFLECTIONS.IMPRESSIONIST ART EVOKES
THE SUBTLETIES OF NATURE.THE ARTIST, USING SHORT BRUSH
STROKES OF DIFFERENT COLORSPLACED SIDE BY SIDE,
SUGGESTS SHIMMERING LIGHT.THE TRUE SUBJECT
IS NOT REALLY THE LILIES,BUT THE CHANGING REFLECTIONS
ON THE SURFACE OF THE POND.AS HE GREW OLDER, MONET CROPPED
THE SCENE EVER CLOSERUNTIL THERE WAS NO SHORELINE,
NO HORIZON,NO SENSE OF WHAT’S UP OR DOWN.FOR DINNER, I’M JOINING MY
FRIEND AND FELLOW TOUR GUIDESABINE LETEINTURIER
BACK IN ROUEN.FOR WHAT YOU’D EXPECT TO SPENDIN A MODEST
AMERICAN RESTAURANT,WE’RE ENJOYING THE FULL,
FUN-LOVING RITUALOF FINE DINING IN FRANCE.[ speaking French ] OOO, VERY NICE. THIS IS CLASSIC
NORMANDY CUISINE AND TONIGHT WE’RE GOING
TO EXPERIENCE THE FOUR Cs. AHA, FOUR Cs. WE’RE GOING TO
HAVE THE CREAM. CREAM. CAMEMBERT. OKAY. CIDER AND CALVADOS. OKAY. AND THE CREAM, YOU CAN FIND
IT RIGHT IN THE SAUCE. THEY DO MIX IT IN. YOU HAVE RED WINE,
FOIE GRAS AND CREAM. OKAY, SO CREAM IS — WHICH MAKES IT
REALLY SMOOTH. CREAM IS A PART
OF THE — IT KIND OF SMOOTHES
OUT THE SAUCE. AND THE SAUCE IS SOMETHING
THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT IN THE NORMANDY
CUISINE.IN A FINE FRENCH MEAL,THE MAIN PLATE IS FOLLOWED
BY A CHEESE COURSE.IN THIS CASE, CREAM GIVES WAY
TO CAMEMBERT,WHICH IS ONLY ONE OF MANY
TASTY NORMANDY CHEESES. Server:
CAMEMBERT, PONT L’EVEQUE, LIVAROT, AND NEUFCHâTEL. SO ALL OF THIS CHEESE,
REALLY, IS FROM THIS REGION, FROM A FEW MILES
FROM HERE, REALLY. IT’S FROM NORMANDY,
JUST ABOUT, PROBABLY AT THE MOST,
30 KILOMETERS FROM HERE. I LOVE THIS CONCEPT
OF EATING LOCALLY. YOU EAT LOCALLY,
IT’S DISTRIBUTED LOCALLY AND YOU JUST
ENJOY IT LOCALLY.THE REGION IS ALSO FAMOUS
FOR ITS APPLES,WHICH ARE SAVORED AS CIDER,
OR AS THE LIQUEUR, CALVADOS. WHAT IS THIS? SOUFFLé POMME
CALVADOS, SIR. APPLE SOUFFLé
WITH CALVADOS. AH. MMM. IS IT GOOD? VERY GOOD. THE FOUR Cs OF NORMANDY: CRèME, CAMEMBERT,
CIDER AND CALVADOS. YOU GOT IT.OUR NEXT STOP
IS JUST DOWN THE ROAD.HONFLEUR ESCAPED THE BOMBS
OF WORLD WAR IIAND FEELS AS PICTURESQUE
AS IT LOOKS.GAZING AT ITS SNUG HARBOR,
IT’S EASY TO OVERLOOKTHE HISTORIC IMPORTANCE
OF THIS PORT. THIS IS WHERE THE SEINE RIVER
MEETS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL. FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS, SAILORS HAVE ENJOYED
HONFLEUR’S IDEAL LOCATION. WHILE BUSY CONQUERING ENGLAND, WILLIAM RECEIVED SUPPLIES
SHIPPED FROM HONFLEUR. AND CANADIANS KNOW HONFLEUR
AS THE PLACE SAMUEL de CHAMPLAIN SAILED
FROM IN 1608, DISCOVERING THE ST. LAURENCE WATERWAY
AND ESTABLISHING QUEBEC CITY.THE HARBOR, ONCE FORTIFIED
WITH A WALL AND TWO GATES,IS NOW AN EASYGOING MARINA.TODAY’S HONFLEUR, LONG ECLIPSEDBY THE GARGANTUAN PORT OF LE
HAVRE JUST ACROSS THE SEINE,HAPPILY USES ITS PAST
AS A BAR STOOL AND SITS ON IT.HONFLEUR’S CHURCH OF
ST. CATHERINE IS WORTH A VISIT.IT WAS BUILT BY A COMMUNITY
WITH PLENTY OF BOATBUILDERSAND NO CATHEDRAL ARCHITECTS.IF YOU FLIPPED IT,
IT WOULD FLOAT.WHEN THE FIRST NAVE
WAS FINISHED IN THE MID-1400s,IT WAS IMMEDIATELY APPARENT
THEY NEEDED MORE SPACE,SO THEY BUILT ANOTHER.MANY CONSIDER HONFLEUR THE
BIRTHPLACE OF IMPRESSIONISM.JUST AS MONET ONCE DID,
ARTISTS STILL COME HERETO CATCH THE LIGHT
PLAYING ON THE HARBOR FRONTAND REFLECTING ON THE WATER.IT WAS IN PLACES LIKE THISTHAT THE BATTLE CRY
OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS,“OUT OF THE STUDIO
AND INTO THE LIGHT,”WAS BORN.JUST DOWN THE STREET, VISITORS
DON HEADSETS TO EXPLORETHE BOYHOOD HOME
OF COMPOSER ERIK SATIE,WHICH PRESENTS HIS MUSIC
IN A WHIMSICAL WAY. [ lilting piano music ]WANDERING FROM ROOM TO ROOM,
YOU ENJOY FRAGMENTSOF SATIE’S MUSIC
ALONG WITH HIS LIFE STORY. Man as Satie:
“AFTER A FAIRLY SHORT
ADOLESCENCE, “I TURNED INTO A MORE OR LESS
DIGESTIBLE YOUNG MAN, “NOTHING MORE. IT WAS THEN I BEGAN TO THINK
AND WRITE MUSICALLY.”SURREAL IMAGES COMPLEMENT
HIS MUSIC, REFLECTINGHOW RADICAL THE PARISIAN ART
SCENE WAS IN THE 1920s.AND FOR A MUSICAL FINALE,
YOU GET SOME EXERCISE.FOR LUNCH, WE’RE HARBOR FRONT
AT A CREPERIE.A FUN SPECIALTY,
BOTH HERE IN NORMANDYAND IN NEIGHBORING BRITTANY,
IS CREPES.SAVORY CREPES ARE MADE WITH
BUCKWHEAT AND CALLED galettes.WHILE PLAIN LOOKING, THEY COME
FILLED WITH WHAT YOU’D EXPECTIN A PIZZA OR IN AN OMELET.TRADITIONALLY, CREPES
ARE WASHED DOWNWITH HARD AND TASTY CIDER.YOU CAN GET IT SWEET OR DRY.OUR ROOMS ARE
IN A chambre d’hote,A FRENCH BED AND BREAKFAST.SETTLING INTO A FRENCH HOME
RATHER THAN A HOTELSAVES YOU MONEY WHILE GETTING
YOU CLOSER TO THE CULTURE.WE’RE IN THE HOME
OF GREGARIOUS MADAME GIAGLIS’.IT’S JUST THE KIND OF PLACE
I SEEK OUT AND RECOMMENDIN MY GUIDEBOOKS.SHE AND HER HUSBAND ANTOINE
OFFER A WELCOMING LOUNGEAND SIX ROOMS, EACH AS INVITING
AS THE OWNERS.DISTANCES IN NORMANDY ARE SHORTAND, AS LONG AS YOU STICK
TO THE AUTO ROUTE —WELL WORTH THE TOLLS —
YOU’LL MAKE VERY GOOD TIME.OUR NEXT STOP IS BAYEUX.IT’S SATURDAY MORNING AND THIS
NORMALLY SLEEPY SQUAREHAS ERUPTED INTO A BUSY
FARMERS’ MARKET.THE LONG TRADITION
OF THOSE WHO GROW ITSELLING DIRECTLY
TO THOSE WHO EAT IT,THRIVES THROUGHOUT FRANCE.AND THE FOOD
COULDN’T BE FRESHER. BAYEUX’S CLAIM TO FAME
IS THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY, WHICH HUNG IN THIS CATHEDRAL. IT’S A 900-YEAR-OLD EMBROIDERY
WHICH TELLS THE STORY OF ARGUABLY THE MOST MEMORABLE
EVENT OF THE MIDDLE AGES, THE PIVOTAL BATTLE OF HASTINGS
IN 1066.THE TAPESTRY NOW HANGS PROUDLY
IN A MUSEUMJUST DOWN THE STREET.HEADSETS NARRATE
THE 230-FOOT-LONG CARTOONTELLING THE STORY
OF WILLIAM THE CONQUERORAND THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS.DON’T WORRY;
IF YOU LOSE YOUR PLACE,YOU’LL FIND SUPER TITLES
IN LATIN.ENGLAND’S KING EDWARD WAS
ABOUT TO DIE WITHOUT AN HEIR.THE BIG QUESTION,
WHO WOULD SUCCEED HIM:HAROLD,
HIS ENGLISH BROTHER-IN-LAW,OR WILLIAM,
HIS FRENCH COUSIN?KING EDWARD CHOSE
THE FRENCHMAN, WILLIAM.BUT WHEN THE KING DIED,
HAROLD GRABBED THE THRONE.WILLIAM, THEN KNOWN
AS WILLIAM THE BASTARD,THOUGHT THE THRONE
WAS RIGHTFULLY HIS.SO HE PREPARED HIS ARMY,GATHERING WEAPONS AND COATS OF
MAIL AND SAILED FROM NORMANDYACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
TO THE SOUTH COAST OF ENGLAND.HE MET HAROLD
AT THE TOWN OF HASTINGS,WHERE THEY FOUGHT
A FIERCE 14-HOUR BATTLE.WHILE THE ENGLISH
FOUGHT VALIANTLY,THE NORMANS HAD AN ADVANTAGE:
HORSES WITH STIRRUPS.HISTORIANS ATTRIBUTE THEIR
VICTORY TO THESE STIRRUPS.EXTRA DETAILS OF THE BATTLE
SHOW UP BELOW.HERE, DEAD SOLDIERS
ARE BEING STRIPPEDOF THEIR VALUABLE ARMOR.HAROLD WAS KILLED,
ARROW IN THE EYE.OUCH!AND HIS SAXON FORCES
WERE ROUTED. THE END OF THE TAPESTRY
IS LOST, BUT THE END OF THE STORY
IS WELL-KNOWN. WILLIAM, NOW
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, MARCHED INTO LONDON
AND CLAIMED HIS THRONE. NOW HE WAS BOTH DUKE OF
NORMANDY AND KING OF ENGLAND.BAYEUX, WITH A PLEASANT
TOWN CENTERAND ONLY SIX MILES
FROM THE D-DAY BEACHES,MAKES A GREAT HOME BASE
FOR VISITING THE AREA’S SIGHTS.ALONG THE 75 MILES
OF ATLANTIC COAST NEARBY,YOU’LL FIND COUNTLESS MEMORIESOF THE LARGEST MILITARY
OPERATION IN HISTORY.IT WAS ON THESE BEAUTIFUL
BEACHES,AT THE CRACK OF DAWN,
JUNE 6th, 1944,THAT THE ALLIES FINALLY
GAINED A FOOTHOLD IN FRANCEAND NAZI EUROPE
BEGAN TO CRUMBLE.DURING THE D-DAY INVASION,AMERICAN TROOPS AND THEIR
ALLIED PARTNERSCOURAGEOUSLY ASSAULTED
THE GERMAN-OCCUPIED CLIFFSUSING GRAPPLING HOOKS
AND LADDERS.WHILE ULTIMATELY VICTORIOUS,THEY SUFFERED
HORRENDOUS LOSSES.SMASHED GERMAN BUNKERS AND BOMB
CRATERS REMAIN, ONLY HINTINGAT THE UNIMAGINABLE CARNAGE AND
CHAOS OF THAT MOMENTOUS DAY.THE SMALL TOWN OF ARROMANCHES
WAS GROUND ZEROFOR THE D-DAY INVASION.ALMOST OVERNIGHT THE ALLIES
ERECTED AN IMMENSE PREFAB PORT,ENABLING THEM TO BEGIN THEIR
VICTORIOUS PUSH TO BERLIN. IMAGINE THE BUILDING
OF THIS INCREDIBLE HARBOR. SEVENTEEN OLD SHIPS STEAMED
ACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL AND WERE SUNK, BOW TO STERN, CREATING A FOUR-LE-LONG
PROTECTIVE BREAKWATER. THEN, WITH MASSIVE
CONCRETE PLATFORMS AND ROADS FLOATING ON PONTOONS
NEARLY A MILE LONG, THE HARBOR WAS COMPLETED. WITHIN SIX DAYS, 300,000 ALLIED
TROOPS AND ALL THEIR EQUIPMENT HAD ESTABLISHED A BEACHHEAD
HERE IN FRANCE. AND LESS THAN A YEAR LATER,
THE WAR WAS OVER.TODAY, 60 YEARS LATER,
THE TOWN,WITH ITS BEACHCOMBERS, HOLIDAY
TRINKETS AND FAMILIES AT PLAY,STILL SEEMS TO CELEBRATE
THAT ALLIED VICTORY.PEACE CAME AT A HUGE PRICE.THE INVASION COST
OVER 4,000 ALLIED LIVES.THE AMERICAN CEMETERY
AT ST. LAURENTCROWNS A BLUFF
JUST ABOVE OMAHA BEACHAND THE EYE OF THE D-DAY STORM.THOUSANDS OF TOMBSTONES GLOW
IN MEMORY OF AMERICANSWHO GAVE THEIR LIVES HERE
TO HELP FREE EUROPE.THE BLUFF OVERLOOKS THE STRETCH
OF NORMANDY BEACHCALLED “THE PORTAL OF FREEDOM.”WHILE TRANQUIL NOW, FOR THOSE
OF US WHO WEREN’T THERE,THE HORROR OF THAT DAY
IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE.FROM THE MEMORIAL,
WITH A BRONZE STATUESYMBOLIZING THE SPIRIT
OF AMERICA’S YOUTH,A PEACEFUL SEA OF CROSSES
INVITES THOSE VISITINGTO WANDER AND PONDER
THE SACRIFICESO MANY BRAVE MEN MADE
IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE WAR, ALL THE BODIES WERE BURIED
IN TEMPORARY GRAVES. IN THE 1950s, WHEN THIS
CEMETERY WAS ESTABLISHED, THE FAMILIES DECIDED
IF THE BODIES SHOULD REMAIN WITH THEIR
COMRADES OR BE BROUGHT HOME. OFFICERS ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY
REPRESENTED. THEIR FAMILIES FIGURED
THEY’D PREFER TO BE BURIED WITH THE MEN THEY COMMANDED AND
WITH WHOM THEY FOUGHT AND DIED.NEARBY, ANOTHER MILITARY
CEMETERY IS THE RESTING PLACEOF 21,000 GERMAN SOLDIERS.THIS CENTERPIECE SYMBOLIZESGERMAN MOTHERS AND FATHERS
WHO LOST THEIR CHILDREN.THE SITE, GLUM WITH TWO GRAVES
PER SIMPLE MARKERAND DARK CROSSES THAT HUDDLE
TOGETHER IN GROUPS OF FIVE,IS A SOMBER REMINDER
THAT MANY YOUNG GERMANSWERE VICTIMS OF HITLER AS WELL.THE BEST WORLD WAR II MUSEUM
IN FRANCE IS IN CAEN,THE FIRST BIG CITY
FREED BY THE ALLIES.OFFICIALLY NAMED
THE MEMORIAL FOR PEACE,IT PUTS THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY
IN A BROADER CONTEXT.YOU START WITH A DOWNWARD
SPIRAL STROLL, TRACING,ALMOST PSYCHOANALYZING,
THE PATH EUROPE FOLLOWEDFROM THE END OF WORLD WAR I
TO THE RISE OF FASCISMAND INTO WORLD WAR II.YOU’LL GET A THOROUGH LOOK AT
HOW WORLD WAR II WAS FOUGHT…FROM INDIVIDUAL WEAPONS…TO FLOATING AIRPORTS…TO THE TWO-TON V-1 —THE UNMANNED PREDECESSOR
OF TODAY’S SMART BOMBS —TO THE D-DAY LANDINGS.THE COLD WAR WING GIVES AN
OVERVIEW OF THE BIPOLAR WORLDTHAT FOLLOWED WORLD WAR II.IT GIVES INSIGHTS
INTO THE BATTLE WAGEDBY THE USSR AND THE USA
FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDSOF THEIR PEOPLE, UNTIL THE
COLLAPSE OF COMMUNISM IN 1989.THE MEMORIAL THEN TAKES YOU
BEYOND WAR.THE GALLERY OF NOBEL
PEACE PRIZESCELEBRATES THE IRREPRESSIBLE
HUMAN SPIRIT.IT HONORS THE COURAGEOUS AND
TOO OFTEN INCONSPICUOUS WORKOF PEOPLE LIKE
ALBERT SCHWEITZER,MOTHER TERESA,MARTIN LUTHER KINGAND MANY LESSER-KNOWN
CHAMPIONS OF JUSTICEWHO UNDERSTAND THAT TRUE PEACEIS MORE THAN JUST
AN ABSENCE OF WAR.THE CONTEMPLATIVE FINALE
IS A WALKTHROUGH THE U.S. ARMED FORCES
MEMORIAL GARDEN.PLAQUES HONOR THE SACRIFICE
YOUNG AMERICAN SOLDIERS MADEFOR EUROPE.THE SIGHT OF CHILDREN ENJOYING
THIS MEMORIAL AS A PLAYGROUNDCAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF THE
QUOTE ETCHED IN THE PAVEMENT:“FROM THE HEART OF OUR LAND
FLOWS THE BLOOD OF OUR YOUTH,GIVEN TO YOU IN THE NAME
OF FREEDOM.”OUR NEXT STOP, AN HOUR’S DRIVE
AWAY, IS MONT-ST. MICHEL.FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS, THE
SILHOUETTE OF THIS ISLAND ABBEYHAS SENT PILGRIMS’
WEARY SPIRITS SOARING.TODAY, IT DOES THE SAME
FOR TOURISTS.MONT-ST. MICHEL,
WHICH THROUGH THE AGESHAS BEEN AMONG
THE TOP PILGRIMAGE SITESIN ALL CHRISTENDOM, FLOATS
LIKE A MIRAGE ON THE HORIZON.THE VAST BAY
OF MONT-ST. MICHEL,WHICH TURNS INTO A MUDFLAT
AT LOW TIDE,HAS LONG PLAYED
A KEY ROLE HERE.SINCE THE SIXTH CENTURY,HERMIT MONKS HAVE LIVED HERE
IN SEARCH OF SOLITUDE. THE WORD “HERMIT” COMES FROM AN
ANCIENT GREEK WORD FOR DESERT. THE CLOSEST THING TO A DESERT
IN THIS PART OF EUROPE WAS THE SEA. IMAGINE THE DESERT
THIS BAY PROVIDED AS THAT FIRST MONK
CLIMBED THAT ROCK TRYING TO GET CLOSER TO GOD.THE ROCK, CAPPED BY AN ABBEY,WAS EVEN MORE ISOLATED
BY ITS MYTHIC TIDES.PILGRIMS CROSSED THE MUDFLAT
QUICKLY AND CAREFULLY,KNOWING THAT THE SEA SWEPT INAT THE SPEED
OF A GALLOPING HORSE.IN THE LATE 1800s,
A ROAD WAS BUILT,CONNECTING THE ISLAND
TO THE MAINLANDAND LETTING PILGRIMS COME
AND GO WITHOUT HIP BOOTS.THE TOWN OF MONT-ST. MICHEL,
WITH ONLY 30 RESIDENTS,ENTERTAINS OVER TWO MILLION
VISITORS A YEAR.ITS MAIN STREET,LINED WITH SHOPS AND HOTELS
LEADING UP TO THE ABBEY,IS GROTESQUELY COMMERCIAL.IT’S SOME CONSOLATION
TO REMEMBER THAT,EVEN BACK IN THE MIDDLE AGES,
THIS WAS A RETAIL GAUNTLET,WITH STALLS SELLING SOUVENIR
MEDALLIONS, CANDLESAND FAST FOOD, LIKE OMELETS.[ swishing ]AN ISLAND SPECIALTY
IS QUICK, TASTYAND EXTREMELY FLUFFY OMELETS.THEY WERE POPULAR
FOR EAT-AND-RUN PILGRIMSWHO NEEDED TO BEAT THE TIDE,AND THEY REMAIN A HIT
WITH VISITORS TODAY.ENJOY THE SHOW
AS COOKS MAKE SURETHE TRADITIONAL BEAT
GOES ON. [ rhythmic swishing ]YOU CAN SKIRT THOSE
MAIN STREET CROWDS AND ENJOYMONT-ST. MICHEL’S FINE
15th-CENTURY FORTIFICATIONSBY FOLLOWING THE RAMPARTS
UP TO THE ABBEY.THESE WALLS WERE BUILT
TO DEFEND AGAINST A NEW WEAPON:THE CANNON.RATHER THAN TALL, THEY WERE
LOW, TO MAKE A SMALLER TARGET. WHILE THE ENGLISH TOOK
ALL THE REST OF NORMANDY, THEY NEVER CONQUERED
THIS WELL-FORTIFIED ISLAND. BECAUSE OF ITS STUBBORN DEFENSE
AGAINST THE ENGLISH THROUGH ALL THOSE YEARS, MONT-ST. MICHEL BECAME A SYMBOL
OF FRENCH NATIONAL IDENTITY.AS YOU CLIMB THE STAIRS
TO THE ABBEY,IMAGINE THE PILGRIMS AND MONKS
WHO FOR CENTURIESHAVE CLIMBED THESE SAME
STONE STEPS. MONT-ST. MICHEL HAS BEEN A HOLY
PLACE SINCE THE YEAR 708, WHEN, ACCORDING TO LEGEND, THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL APPEARED
TO A LOCAL BISHOP IN A VISION AND CONVINCED HIM
TO BUILD HERE.THIS WAS AN IMMENSE
BUILDING PROJECTEVOLVING OVER MANY CENTURIES.IT WAS A MARVEL, A MEDIEVAL
SKYSCRAPER BUILT UPON A ROCK,CROWNED BY A GILDED STATUTE
OF ST. MICHAEL.THE BAY STRETCHES FROM NORMANDY
TO BRITTANY.THE RIVER MARKS THE HISTORIC
BORDER BETWEEN THE TWO LANDS. NORMANDY AND BRITTANY HAVE LONG
VIED FOR MONT-ST. MICHEL. IN FACT, THE RIVER USED
TO PASS ON THE OTHER SIDE, MAKING THE ABBEY
PART OF BRITTANY. TODAY, MONT-ST. MICHEL IS JUST
BARELY, BUT THOROUGHLY, PART OF NORMANDY.THE CENTERPIECE OF THIS
EXTRAORDINARY ABBEYIS ITS CHURCH.WHILE IT’S MOSTLY
11th-CENTURY ROMANESQUE,WITH ROUND ARCHES
AND SMALL WINDOWS,THE APSE BEHIND THE ALTAR
WAS BUILT LATER.ITS GOTHIC POINTED ARCHES
AND BIGGER WINDOWSFILL THE SANCTUARY WITH LIGHT.SITTING ATOP ALL THIS
HEAVY CONSTRUCTION,LIKE A DELICATE FLOWER,
IS THE ABBEY’S CLOISTER.IN THIS PEACEFUL ZONE,
WHICH CONNECTED VARIOUS
ROOMS,MONKS WOULD GROW VEGETABLES
AND MEDICINAL HERBS.THEY’D MEDITATE
AND READ THE BIBLE.AND, FOR THOUGHTFUL TRAVELERS
TODAY,THIS ABBEY STILL INSPIRES.SO MUCH OF FRANCE’S
RICH HERITAGE SURVIVES, AND HERE IN NORMANDY, PERHAPS MORE THAN ANYPLACE
IN THE COUNTRY, IT INSPIRES US ALL. THANKS FOR JOINING US. ANDvive la France!I’M RICK STEVES. UNTIL NEXT TIME,
KEEP ON TRAVELIN’.Au revoir.