Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bayeux, France

Camping Le Fanal, Isigny-sur-Mer, Normandy, €15

September 21, 2009, Overcast then partly cloudy with sun
By Chuck

It was with very mixed feelings that we left Les Peupliers Camping. The hosts were incredibly friendly, which set a tone that I loved. In hindsight, the negatives of that site were the “hidden” nature of the facilities. I could not make them understand that I wanted to know the location to dispose of gray water; so, we simply waited until we arrived at our next site to dispose of this. The sewage disposal at LPC was easier – Claire had discovered the area in with the women’s WCs. We also decided to fill our water tank at the next site.

As we drove, we realized that we had not really determined our itinerary for the day, despite extensive reading by both of us. We found ourselves in Bayeux because we had inadvertently set Suzette to the center of town rather than the campground. But, we went with the flow – more or less – and ended up in a large parking lot just a few blocks from the cathedral. For a while, I was not confident we would make it; I lose most of my newly acquired camper-driving confidence when negotiating streets only wide enough for ONE tiny car and see oncoming traffic from the vantage point of 2.25 meter wide vehicle; several times I am sure my rear view mirror extended over the iron balustrades set in the sidewalk.

We put in the max coinage to have 2 hours to see the cathedral and the world-class Bayeux tapestry commemorating the 1066 victory of Guillarme aux Conquerier at the Battle of Hastings. We followed Rick Steves’ advice and did the three-level approach: Tapestry with audio guide, exposition of artifacts upstairs, and then a 16 minute film covering the events surrounding the battle. We were impressed with all three presentations. And, we got a very large discount from our teacher/professor passes, received from our campus STA travel agent in Davis. This and the ASCI camping discounts will certainly help us stay within budget! Not only that, as it was low season, we walked right in.

There are different interpretations of the “politicizing” of the story through the tapestry. One view is that the Normans were the good guys and are clean-shaven even to the backs of their heads – for a better helmet fit. The English were the “goddamns” because that is what the Normans heard them say a lot; they have long hair and mustaches – the original longhairs as seen from the outside. Some historians speculate that this Norman victory brought England into the broader European scene permanently and, ultimately, explains why we in the New World speak English rather than French. I am most appreciative of this – I would never have been able to learn French pronunciation. By the way, Claire pointed out to me that the ducks and geese on our travels all speak the same language and seem to get along famously – despite differences of national origin – maybe everyone should “give peace a chance.” This universal language was most recently confirmed by our stay by the lake in Le Fanal Campground in the town of Isigny-sur-mer; we can hear them chattering constantly, but comfortingly.

Photo of a photo of how the tapestry is displayed

Tapestry Detail

Note the beheaded soldier at the bottom

We had only 30 minutes left to view Bayeux Cathedral and find our way back to the camper. We spotted the cathedral as we drove into town; I suppose it is redundant to say it was impressive. A few of the windows have original glass. My favorite part of the inside was the crypt underneath the main altar; unfortunately, it was dark and we could not decipher any inscriptions. There was an intriguing smaller crawl space that bent out of sight; but, it was covered with clear Plexiglas; we can only imagine the treasures or evils that lay beyond.

We finally arrived at what was originally to be tomorrow’s campground and checked into pitch #9, a beautiful site right on the lake. The drive was amazing with virtually no traffic on another wonderfully smooth French road.

We had lunch and discussed our itinerary, deciding that the day would almost be over by the time we reached our destinations for the day and decided to walk through the village and do our remaining sightseeing tomorrow, backtracking over some of today’s route.

The campground is 4 star; I am not sure what this means; but, there are no electrical outlets in the washrooms – which means no hairdryer for Claire, and the urinals are partially exposed to the general public – I guess the French don’t want to make a big thing out of bodily functions. Thank goodness I have overcome my childhood inhibitions in these areas. In addition, WiFi is 4 Euros per 30 minutes – which we regard as exorbitant. No posts from us today!

Camping, €15
2 Croissants and baguette, €3
Bayeux tapestry entry fee x 2, €5.60*
Postcard, €.40
Stamp, €.90
Groceries, €6.49

Total: €31.39

* Discounted price, approx. 68% reduction, due to International Teacher/Professor Identity Card (ITIC). Regular fee was €8.50 each!

Boy, those French, they have a different word for everything! ~ Steve Martin


Tai said...

Boy, those baguettes, croissants and especially the eclairs look yummy, but I'm worrying that y'all aren't getting enough whole grains. Well, not really. I am curious about what you are encountering in terms of seed breads and things of that nature. Is that even an option? Loved the duck/goose commentary.

Chuck and Claire said...

We got some wonderful seed bread in The Netherlands and Belgium. In fact it's called multi-cereal bread. However, from what we can see, France only does baguettes. And why not, it's their speciality. We'll be in Italy soon enough...and switch to pizza and pasta, multi-grain of course. About the fowl, we don't understand a word of it ourselves.