I’ve decided that I would like to spend the rest of my life in Saint Malo. Last weekend, our program took a trip to Normandy and Brittany, stopping at the historic landmarks, and staying in Saint Malo on Saturday night. Saint Malo is a small, fortified city on the sea and it was a very nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Paris. It made me think of some New England towns, if New England towns were located in Middle Earth. Or France.
The whole trip was fantastic. Our first stop was at a D-Day museum on the coast of Normandy. We watched presentations about the detailed military strategies that went on in Normandy in 1944. We went to Omaha Beach, where the American troops landed, and we went to the American Cemetery and Memorial. The cemetery was sad and moving, and I think it put a lot of things in perspective for everyone in our group. We couldn’t help thinking about the fact that a lot of the soldiers buried were probably about our age, some even younger. A girl in our group had a great uncle buried in the cemetery. She was taken by golf cart to the location of his grave, and got to take home the American flags that were placed there.
From there we went to Pointe du Hoc, the location of a lot of German bunkers. There were bullet holes in the bunkers and huge craters in the ground as a result of the grenades. It was surreal, and felt like the set of a movie.
When we got to Saint Malo, a few of us went to a nice restaurant and got a very extreme French dining experience. We ate three courses from a fixed menu and the whole meal took at least three hours. I had a classic language mix-up that led to me getting something completely different than I what I thought I had ordered. I got “anneux d’encornets,” and confused the word “anneaux” for “agneau” which means lamb. Instead I got squid rings, or calamari. But I was okay with it, because it was delicious. Saint Malo is known for its seafood anyway.
The next morning our program director, Céline, made sure we were up nice and early to walk around Saint Malo in the daylight/sunrise. It was this experience that sealed the deal; I didn’t want to leave. It would have been even harder if our next destination wasn’t Mont Saint Michel, which is essentially a French commune in a castle on top of a mountain. It was incredibly beautiful, and for lunch I finally got the lamb I had been craving. And a crèpe.
An amazing part of the weekend was the traveling itself. We ha our own tour bus, and could see scenic rural France the whole ride. It was the first time I’ve gotten out of Paris since I’ve been here, which eventually led to coming back to Paris. It was an incredible feeling when I realized that Paris is my return destination. To see the Eiffel Tower through the bus window as such a familiar sight made me extremely happy. Paris is starting to feel like home.