Category Archives: Rouen

March 18, 2017 – Thoughts on our trip – 3- France

Have to start by saying today was a wonderful day.  Temps in the 50’s and we took a hike in Rock Creek Park in DC and it was delightful.  Being in the woods, walking along a river, climbing hills and walking down them again.  The girls were wonderful and good sports.  We will all sleep well tonight.  The parents are out having a date night which we always try to provide for them when we come down.

So, now thoughts about France. We both enjoyed our visit to France. Going to Normandy was a good thing to do and I think we could have used one more day to see all that I wanted to see or maybe even two.  The hotel we stayed at in Bayeux was lovely and they were very helpful to us.  The one in Rouen on the other hand was not so nice and I would not send anyone else there who speaks English.  Or I would take a refresher course in French before returning there but would not stay at that hotel.  They were rude and the idea that a hotel in a tourist area only has staff that speak French is weird. No where else that we visited on this trip or others have we run into a problem where hotel staff could not assist us and just gave us the “No English” statement.  Not even the staff in the little restaurant for breakfast were helpful.

Seeing just one of the cemeteries from WWII was moving.  The men were so young and there were unmarked graves, they know the soldier was a Brit but they did not find their ID.  I imagine today they should be able to use DNA to figure out who they were.  We did not get to the Juno Beach as I wanted but that was because I was sick to my stomach that morning..  I think more time is needed to deal with and confront feelings as one visits the various sites.  By the time my Aunt Pat arrived in Mid July 1944 the troops had moved on as they were pushing back the German’s pretty quickly at that point.  Things were slower in Belgium and that is where Pat really experienced bombing and large numbers of soldiers coming in quickly from the front either to be fixed up to be sent home or to have their hands held as they died. And some went back to fight another day.

War is not something I have ever had to confront myself and even during the Viet Nam War I did not have close friends that I knew were there.. I might have found out about old classmates much later but not during the actual War.  And I do know if my brother had been drafted I would have taken him to Canada and left him there. No way would I have wanted him over there. It was a useless war and not one that brought about feelings of patriotism.  They were no direct threat to us so why were we fighting them.

But in WWII it was obvious that we needed to be there.  I had two aunts, and one uncle actually over there near or in the battle areas.  Also another Uncle worked with the US on developing treatments for those coming back with what we now call PTSD.  I found some articles he had written about this.  And on my Dad’s side he had cousins who lived in England fighting from the very beginning of the Brits being involved. And some lost their lives.  I never knew any of this but research has opened up those pages of the family history in both World Wars.

France was nice but either we needed longer or a different approach to our visit.  Maybe going their first and then up to Belgium might have helped give a clearer feeling about Pat’s travels. I will never know one way or the other now will I?

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February 16,2017- The Rude Never Changes

Here we are in Rouen,France.  It is a lovely old city and they have some truly very old and lovely buildings.  We toured around today by foot and nothing was very far away.

We started down at the Cathedral. It was bombed in Dec 0f 1944 and they are very lucky to still have it.  There is the tomb of Richard the Lion Hearted which I have a picture of.   Denis found a strained Glass window of St.Nicholas with the three little people in the pickling bucket..  It is just a huge building with many very old paintings and statues and very impressive.

From there we had coffee and then went up to the tower where Joan of Arc was held. There were men working there so we could not go in.  You can see where some of the rest of the castle was located but they have not progressed with restoration. Then we went to the education museum which was very interesting.  Surprised to find out they taught about the issues around using too much alcohol two hundred years ago.  And they have the history of the various approaches to education in France over the centuries.   On the third floor they have a classroom set up with very old desks.  I really liked that considering we have a very old school house – not by european standards but for Canada and the US pretty darn old to be still functional.

Before that we had spend a couple of hours at the Museum of Beaux Arts.  It was interesting but would have been more so if they had anything at all written up in English.  The map even would have been helpful with some English. But that is the French for you.  The School Museum gave us an IPAD to use with English. Otherwise it would have all been Greek to us.  We learned so much there and there were other English speakers there who benefited as well.  Too bad the Art Museum was not on board.

We had trouble finding some place to eat a late lunch so we stopped at a French fast food place for panini’, and fries.  It was filling and good. The young fellow was very nice.

We have finally figured out the schedule.  Everything but restaurants close between 12-2 and after two good luck finding a place to eat before 7 pm.  We had picked out where we were going to have dinner so went back at 7.  Even then we were the first in the door but she let us sit and wait until they were officially opened.

Oh and the last place we walked to this afternoon was the City Hall which is in the old Benedictine Seminary or living quarters next to St. Ouen’s Church which is another very big one.   They have a park behind and we walked through and saw the statues and gardens which they have been sprucing up for spring.

All and all a good day.  The one thing I have found has not changed a bit each time I have visited France is the lack of warmth towards English speakers or maybe just Americans?  Hard to know which.  I know a bit of French so try and use it when I can but we let then know that speaking it is difficult for us.  At this hotel they make no effort to help us.  Today I asked about restaurants near by and got the same no answer I got from the man who was at the desk last night.  Not a grain of friendliness or effort. I think it is sad.  People were so different in Belgium and Greece.  And the French were the same back in 1967.

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February 15, 2017 – Travel Day

Up early and packed and ready to go.  Went down and had a nice final breakfast at the NH Sint Pieter HOtel.  The bread is to die for…

We walked down to the station and got our train to Brussels.  It was a nice easy ride.  Then we found our train to Paris and while we waited had a coffee and a treat.   Again the ride to Paris was easy.   In Paris it took a couple of asks but we figured out how to get the metro to St. Lazare Station and got ourselves there with plenty of time before our train to Rouen.

So we got sandwiches and water and ate again.  I was really tired.  The ride to Rouen was nice as well. The trains are clean and the seats comfortable.   The ride was smooth.  And having assigned seats made it easy for us.   We arrived around 5 and walked from the station down to the hotel.

The fellow at the desk spoke no English to us.  Luckily we understood what we needed to from him.  Not saying he does not speak English but just had a feeling he did not feel like speaking it to us.

After settling in we were going to ask the guy at the desk where some restaurants were but he was on the phone and not interested in us at all.  So we set out and figured we would find a place to eat.  We did and had a great meal. First time I have had any cooked meat for dinner in a while.  I had chicken with apple cider sauce, salad and fries.  It was very good and I was so hungry.  And the bread as usual to die for.   I even wanted dessert as soon as I saw the creme brulee on the menu.   It was yummy.. So I am content and am going to sleep earlier than usual.  Did not see a lot tonight as we walked so figure tomorrow there should be lots to tell.

The one thing we did see today that I was not use to was soldiers with nasty looking guns.  In the station, on the train, in the streets, and even walking home this evening there were three vehicles of them standing in front of a church.  Just makes you realize how serious the French take the threats.   We also saw them in Belgium during our stay there.  Glad I don’t see much of that at home.

I did take a picture of the front of the Cathedral this evening and the view out our hotel room window.  Tomorrow if it is not raining will be picture taking day.  We are only here for the one full day tomorrow so we will take full advantage of the day.

March 31, 2015 –

Well, what to do with this tired body now? probably should go for a long walk.  I can just feel sleep coming on and I have not even had lunch yet.  D went and ran 5 miles this morning before I had finished reading the newspaper.  Have to wonder what the problem is here.  My check up is coming in a month and I plan to have a long chat with my doc about this and maybe head for the alternative doctor and spend $800 on a delayed allergy reaction blood test.  Or maybe I need Carters Little Liver Pills. Remember those ads. I don’t think anything can give me more energy but you never know.

I shut down my computer and started it up again and now have to find the thumb drive with Pats letters on them again.  I am transferring everything from two computers onto thumb drives so I have all my files before I shut down those two computers.  Drives me crazy.  It was so much easier when we did everything on paper. We had tons of paper but at least it was saved for the future. I figure all the pictures will just be deleted one day. I haven’t even had the time to order any pictures from our four months in Ireland. Of course when I do order them and they arrive I will probably get all depressed again.  I really miss something about being over there still.  Maybe in the winter I would have felt just like this over there but then again I wonder.   What was so special? What made being there made me happy?  And the big question is Why am I so unhappy being here in my own home? Or is it even that?  So much to contemplate.

I have been going back and forth about this A-Z challenge.  Doing ancesters is a pretty neat idea. I know something about all of them and they say don’t make the blog entries too long.  So I will start with something about a relative every day and then go back to WWII letters. I have all of Aunt Sheila’s letters as well and some fun ones from family members.  That should keep me out of trouble for a bit don’t you think?

Now I have to go and find the thumb drive with Pats letters on them and have some lunch. Will finish this after that.

15 Sept 1944

Dear Mother and Dad,

I received one of my boxes yesterday. The one with the peanut butter and honey in it and I was so thrilled. There has been no mail for five days so it was nice to get a parcel and the food was perfect.   Lib and I made toast at nite and had the peanut butter and believe me it tasted like something out of this world.

I didn’t get this finished.  Yesterday 16 Sept 44’ pm. Lib and I went into R…. and had more fun seeing the town.   I am sending you some sweet cards (painted ones) that you can save for me.   I have walked under the clock tower in one of them.  The city is old and quaint.   No sidewalks and market places and side walk cafes.   We had some iced sherbet with fresh wild strawberries at one.  “Tres bon.”  We are stared at wherever we go.   People stand in groups and just stare at us and a lot are very friendly.

I was coming out of a shop when I heard someone shouting “Patsy” and it was Ross Pinder ( a friend from Aldershot days.)   He is in Belgium now.  I was riding through when he saw me.   So he drove us home and stayed for dinner.

I bought a few perfumes to bring you home.  I am trying to collect a few things. I got some “Worth” “Tahoe” “Lucien Lalong” “Paquin” all those wonderful names you read about in Vogue and Harpers.   Wish I could afford a boat load.

We are hoping for Belgium at our next move which shouldn’t be too long away.   I shall try to get some lace. Nice eh.

Fr Sweeney had to leave – moved on.   His last nite he and I and Lib and Fr O’Leary went to dinner in a small pub.   Had the most marvelous time.   We started with “aperitifs” then had dinner with dry white wine, then canned pears which Fr S had brought along and had the juice mixed with cognac and it tasted just like cheery brandy.   Perfect mixture!   Then rum liqueurs with coffee.   Fr. S is the best host.   I am dying for you all to meet him .   You will as soon as we get back.  He is coming down for a week-end.

Life is perfect these days. Tomorrow I am going for 48 hrs to our “officers rest club” that will be fun.  I am wearing my “blues” for the first time in France.  What a thrill! will write all about it. Love P
ANd here is a site about the Clock Tower.

http://wikimapia.org/2104015/The-Great-Clock-French-Le-Gros-Horloge#/photo/43029

city clock architecture france Clock tower historic Normandy rouen

March 28, 2015 – They are finally moving on – north of Rouen

Boy I loved reading this letter today… don’t you get the feeling of what this woman was like?  I love her passion and enthusiasm.. Maybe I am just wishing I was really like that.  No wonder my mom loved her so much.  She had such a zest for life.  I wish she had lived long enough for me to remember her other than the vague memories I have of her when I was 4 or 5.

It is snowing today and we are going to a movie. I will finish this when we get back.

We went and saw the Second Marigold Hotel movie. I enjoyed it. There were some very good messages in there for us “older” folks.  Messages just when I needed them.   Then we went to Otis and Olivers for ribs which were so good.  Had a great conversation about the book and other things.  Cannot wait to get started back at it.

Enjoy this letter. I really did and found it opened up some doors for me.

Lieut (n/s) P O’Connor
No 8 Cdn Gen Hosp
BLA
6 Sept 44’

Hello dears:
I have a great deal to tell you so I shall start a few days back.  Last Friday to be exact.  That was the day I wrote last.  I saw Norm and we managed to get in touch with Dick to tell him where Norm was.  Saturday was lovely.    Norm walked over and had supper at our mess and we sat around until it was dark waiting for Dick. We knew he would come no matter how far it was but about 9:30 Norm left before it became very dark and I went to bed and to sleep but at mid-nite my batman woke me to say Dick had come, so I got up, the moon was full and it was as bright as day.

We drove over in Dicks jeep to get Norm.   He had his driver with him and they had driven since supper – time and had to be back by morning – such is friendship – so Dick got Norm up and out of his tent.   All very quietly and we sat and talked and fooled, we were so happy to see each other all together and Norm was leaving for England the next day.   About two a.m. Dick drove me back and left.   He was over 100 miles away. I don’t know how he knows which roads to take, nothing is marked and you can’t have lights on vehicles, but he said if he had had to walk, he would have come anyway.

Sun. I got up for 9:30 Mass then back to pack.  The tents were coming down at 2 p.m. so we got packed, then Lib and I had our last bath for a few days.   We took it in our green canvas bucket, when we were through we moved down to a ward (of the hospital which is where we were) then came back to our ghost orchard and sat on blankets.   Norm came over and we brought our supper out.   Mary, Kathie, Lib and he and I.   After we walked back with him because he was leaving.   Walking across the grounds of the hospital I met Tip Roberts.  We recognized each other so we stopped and talked.  He had a slightly crushed hand but he looked well and asked about Dad and Ferg.   I was so surprised.  I love seeing people from home.

Norm told me such fascinating things about fighting.  Things like when they entered ghost towns where the only living thing was a dog, if there was that and they were never sure whether ‘Jerry’ had cleared out or whether the houses were full of them or whether the town was a network of booby-traps.   This was around spots like Falaise, now everything is going so fast.   The Jerry’s haven’t time to do much but flee but just before this they did have.   I hope he never gets back to France (Norm, I mean).  His brigade, the Seventh is the most famous one of the whole war, the old Third Div.   What wonderful fighters.

Mon a.m. we got up at five, walked quite a way to breakfast and I had a new experience, eating breakfast in moonlight because it was really just three o’clock.   We sat on the grass if you can picture it and ate breakfast.   By seven we were loaded in the trucks and about ten to a truck with bedrolls, boxes to sit on and the convoy started out and that is a thrill, believe me, about ninety trucks, when we go down a hill, then up one you can look down on the long string of vehicles, really something.   You travel very slowly though and meet other convoys, of jeeps, tanks, paratroopers etc.

It took us all day to make our trip.   We stopped to eat by the road only.   We carried sandwiches and had water in our water bottles, I loved every minute of it.   I sat at the back of the truck so I could see everything.   The towns we went through I can’t describe.   I couldn’t get over it.   I couldn’t believe what I saw, just rubble, stone piles, you could see rooms with closet doors half open two and three stories up and nothing else left.

We crossed La Siene, and I have seen everything now.   The bridge was in between our bridge and the Thousand Is one in size and had been bombed by typhoons.   The Engineers had made it usable.   One truck could cross at a time (they are 3,000 wt)   The first part was all planks, then the rest sloped down into the water.   Then more planks with water on both sides.   Jerry vehicles that had been knocked out were still on it and two dead horses etc.

We passed through Rouen.   Hard to believe that less than seven days before it had been one of the hottest spots in France.   I might say that we were the first Can girls up so far, we moved before NO 7.

The people cheered and waved.   We drove so slowly and stopped so frequently that children, boys and girls and men came up to shake hands with us.   They said “Vive La Anglais” so we say, “Non, Les Canadians” or they said “Welcome” and threw kisses.   The children all ask “Cigarettes pour papa?” so we give them a few and then they say “pour mama?” so we gave them more .  It’s a racket, but I feel so sorry for them regardless, they must be a little tired of strange people and they look very shabby, they all drive in dog-carts and usually have all their possessions with them.

Of –course a lot of the country is untouched and very beautiful.

We arrived at our destination and pitched our tents in another orchard, the apple trees are so heavily loaded, they fall all around and it’s hard to walk but they are rather good to eat.

To-nite I went back on nite-duty because we admitted today.   I have a week to put in.   The set up is just the same as before only we haven’t electric lights yet so I am writing this with two lanterns.

The news is terrific eh!   While we were coming up yesterday, a mail vehicle came along – threw us a paper – it told about the allies being in Germany.  I was so excited.

We shall not be here long I expect.   Since I started on my Christmas leave last Dec it seems to me I have been on the go steadily.  There was that three months at Aldershot, but I had my leave and weekends and nites in London but of course I love it all.

Had Mothers letter on Sun.   Thank goodness I got it before I left because the mail may be slow in catching up.  I will give you the Edlins address. Mrs. Edlin (Lois) wants to come to Canada with Tony after the war so she is stopping to see us.
Mr and Mrs T. Edlin
17 St. Catherines Terrace
Hove, Sussex, England

Hove was next to Brighton, one street was Brighton and the next Hove, very peculiar eh!   She would be thrilled if you wrote.  She is really dashing.

I loved hearing about Norah’s family and so glad Jean called the baby Maureen, what a sweet name.

It’s very cold to-nite.  Once the sun goes down, it’s immediately gets very cold.  I guess it lacks the water.

We are living on “camp rations” again and they are foul, but every move is the same for awhile.   We should be moving soon but economically we shouldn’t move sooner than a month but one never knows.   All the talk makes me frightfully restless but then I always was eh!

Excuse the paper but I haven’t any and I just pick up what I can find.   I have stopped using blue air-mail but if you do not get these fast, tell me and I will change back, I may anyway because I won’t have much to say for while now.

Incidentally I hope I haven’t broken censorship but you read it all in the papers anyway.

I forgot to tell you I need a sweater.   I wish I had told you when they were sending the raincoat?  I hate to bother you.   But I would love a khaki one or a brown one, a pullover, a camels hair Jaeger one would be marvelous, if you could get one.   I would wear it under my battle blouse and it would be warm as well as lovely.   Sometimes I think, what is the use in case the war is over, but then when I’m cold I change my mind rapidly for this in only Sept.   It wouldn’t take long to come, I hope.

If you can’t get one like Jaeger, any nice pullover would do in brown or khaki, but a round neck, not v-shape and long sleeves.  I also need brown wool socks, (men’s will do and if they are big it’s alright because they shrink.)   If I don’t need them I’ll save them for the boys.   Use my money.

One day soon I am sending money home to cover what I have spent, what I sent for and to make up that extra $25.00 I didn’t save Jan and Feb.   I want to have saved that much in a year and not touch it so next month I may do that (if I don’t hit Paris or someplace where I can spend a lot)

I would like to get you all something in Paris if we are lucky enough to get there, but right now I might as well be in North Overshoe as far as shopping is concerned.

Marye’s bracelet sounds beautiful!   She must write me all about it.   I’m glad Misty didn’t go to Halifax, it is too far way.

I must write Sheila and tell her Norm is going to see her but he is probably calling her this minute, he will be wonderful to her.   He is getting me a lot of things in England and hopes to get back to take me and anyone I want to dinner in Paris.    That will be Lib and Mary and Kathie. He’s so lucky to be alive because it was a machine – gun fire that he walked into.   It’s all so dramatic and even a little romantic to talk about, or think about and yet it’s so grim and real the whole business, but it still has those qualities that is one of the reasons war is so bad but then you know all this and I write on and on.   Don’t you get tired!   I go on for pages but I love to tell you every thing because it’s all so different and to me exciting and even though I would love to be near you all, I wouldn’t have missed a minutes of it all.

I am going to get one of my orderlies to get me some hot water in a NWB and I shall go over to my tent before it is light and stick it in my bed roll – lovely thought that.

Well, I guess I had better stop. Is my writing any better Mother?

I hope I get some mail soon, life is dull without it and I hope this goes airmail.

Do stay well and have fun and be good and lots of love,
Patt
See if you can watch this movie on youtube.  goes hand in hand with what Pat says in the letter.