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?