Cherbourg, France; Gateway to Normandy.
Twelve-foot wide multi-story buildings, with roofs perched precariously atop, line up like soldiers in a row, Wander through the market’s winding streets. Full of stereotypical French shops, boucherie, butcher shop, pasticcerie, bakery, fromagerie, cheese shop, poissonnerie, fish shop, foreign names, and exotic foods. Ogle at the windows stuffed with morsels almost too beautiful to eat. Stop and sample the mouthwatering delicacies. American takeout pales in comparison to beautiful take-away dinners, that taste and look as if they belong in a five star restaurant. The French love affair with food is evident here.
Wander further down the ancient streets and experience the dichotomy. Meat spins on roasters, and men lean out windows hawking food to the passerby. Centuries old picture-perfect French buildings with signs reading le Chinese food, le Thailandese, le Balinese, and kebab advertise dinner choices. Even in France, variety abounds.
Visit St. John's Cathedral, for a few minutes of contemplation. Nearby, hidden within the maze of city streets is a green oasis. Gardens overflow with rhododendron, primrose, old garden roses, azaleas, iris and fountains tinkle in the background. The natural history museum’s artifacts from around the world, and a large collection of vertebrates and invertebrates invite a visit.
Cherbourg was the first stop on the Titanic’s fatal voyage; so visit The Museum of the Sea. Experience what it was like for emigrants leaving for America, and see how the Titanic was constructed in the “Titanic, Return to Cherbourg.” exhibit. Explore a nuclear submarine, or marvel at marine life in giant aquariums
Explore the beaches of Normandy made famous during World War Two. The monument at Pointe du Hoc honors the rangers who scaled the cliff and captured the German command bunker. A visit to Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno & Sword Beaches followed by the USA Cemetery provides a moving reminder of our countrymen’s great sacrifice. No one can fail to be moved by the sacrifices of these young men.
See Mont Saint Michelle, as described in The New York Times in August 1944, “seems to float on the sea as gracefully as a ship under full sail, catching all the changing colors of the clouds.” Stunning at sunrise and sunset, floodlit at night, explore this small tidal island. Completely surrounded by a bay, stay long enough and witness the tidal flow, rising 20” and traveling a distance of 15 miles at the speed of a galloping horse. Once only accessible at low tide, today a highway connects the island to the mainland, but plans underway to install a bridge will return the Mont to its island past. Inhabited for centuries, as a church, a prison, and most recently an Abby, there is much to discover.
The famous Bayeux Tapestries depicts the 1066 Norman conquest of England. An embroidered linen measuring 230’ long, the tapestry is housed in the old Bayeux Seminary. The 13th century Cathedral of Notre Dame in Bayeux, resembles its namesake in Paris, its 11th century Gothic crypts the only remnants of a medieval priory once located here.
Ideal as a base for Normandy, take the time to explore charming Cherbourg, France.