The ferry ride ended up being quite alright. Since there weren’t many people traveling, I was able to stretch across several seats and get a half decent sleep. I woke up no more times than in a hostel, so I can’t complain at all. They woke us up at 6, I think, but it wasn’t a big deal: it gave me time to shower and then go out on deck to watch the sun come up.
I found a pamphlet for the Canadian Juno beach museum at the ferry port and decided it might be worth checking out. The information desk said bus #3, so when we got into town, I grabbed a quick breakfast and hopped on the 3. It would be a long ride but I have my book. Strangely, the bus stopped much sooner than expected. The driver said it was the end stop but we were in the middle of nowhere!!
So it turns out there are two bus companies in Caen and the numbers overlap. Because that’s good planning. One company handles the inner city and the other drives out to the surrounding areas. They ought to label them differently but whatever. If you look at it in the context of French people being brain damaged, it actually makes a lot of sense.
Happily, the bus driver was an extremely nice and un-brain-damaged man, who explained everything, let me ride back, and even dropped me off at the ideal location, between two stops. The only really unfortunate part was that I now needed to take another long bus ride and was now too late for the first of only two daily guided tours (there is a reduced schedule in October). The nice driver even pointed out that the particular area we were in was liberated by Canadians, not Americans. Go us! (better not show him my German ID)
Eventually, I made it there. My troubles getting to Juno ultimately proved to be pathetic in the face of those faced by the soldiers who fought to take the beach. It’s a well done museum. It doesn’t have an impact on the level of Vimy but there’s a lot of information, more than many Canadians remember and certainly far more than any non-Canadian knows about our efforts in WWII. There’s a short movie at the end that was especially well done and quite striking. The world wars were such stupid wastes of lives.
Of course, everyone in the building was super-friendly, owing to their Canadian origin. The woman at the desk was from London, Ontario but I thought at first she might be from Newfoundland; she reminded me of Aunt Cathy somehow.
At the end of the exhibit, I met another fellow Onterriblian, an artist who was working on a huge painting of the Canadians who’ve lost their lives in Afghanistan. He was a pretty interesting man. Apparently, he will be at the 100 year anniversary in 2017 at Vimy. I told him maybe I’ll see him again some day.
A funny thing about the last exhibit room is that it focused on opinions about multiculturalism, gathered from the old census; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and Canada’s role in the United Nations. The centre was built in 2003, so I’m not sure how Stephen Harper hasn’t managed to dismantle it yet. Perhaps, he will re-theme it as an educational centre for Europeans to learn about the War of 1812.
Anyway, between there being a lot to read and my slow reading, as well as my late getting there, I had burned up all my time. I never got to see the guided tour of the beach but I did have a quick look for myself. It’s not the cliffs from Saving Private Ryan; it’s quite flat. But I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to be running up that muddy beach under fire of machine guns and artillery. Every time we consider undertaking a new war, we mustn’t forget those who’ve already made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s exactly why Parliament shouldn’t be prorogued when our allies are considering military action abroad.
It seems like this post is going on forever. Anyway, back on the hour bus to Caen and then a two hour train to Pontorson, where I booked a bed and breakfast.
Pontorson is a basic little town. It’s funny the kind of amazing churches in small towns I passed on the train. There’s a small but nice looking one here. I don’t think there’s a lot going on here, though. I decided to splurge on a steak (16€) at a restaurant recommended by the B&B owner. He didn’t speak any English, which was cool. Je veux practiquer mon français, auf jeden Fall. The restaurant was good – er magnifique!
Tomorrow is finally laundry day, which is somewhat poorly timed but whatever. Then off to Mont St. Michel! At the end of the day, I will end up in Rennes, paying too much for a room but them’s the breaks.
In conclusion, baguettes.