August 16: Bayeux to Paris
The Churchill Hotel where we are staying is very nice. A small boutique in front sells lovely regional gifts such as decorative tins filled with cookies or caramels. Inside the hotel it's like a museum with numerous photos in black and white from the allied invasion. Many show local children greeting the soldiers. Our room on the top floor has a wonderful view of the top of the cathedral which is beautifully illuminated at night.
Today we went to see the highlight of any visit to Bayeux, the Bayeaux Tapestry. The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of the victory won by William, Duke of Normandy, over the English at Hastings on October 14, 1066. Historians are still unclear of its origin. Some feel that it was made in the south of England while others feel it was made in France. The tapestry is nearly 70 meters long in length and not only documents the story, it shows the way of life, architectural styles, and clothing during that time. Created with wool thread, the tapestry is a narrative art intended for the illiterate. Its frames show movement and concise detail. It was hung in the cathedral at Bayeux for nearly 7 centuries. Over time it suffered hardships, but still survived. The cathedral where it was housed burned down twice, it was used to cover a card of weapons during the French Revolution, and shortly thereafter, was almost dismantled to decorate a float. The final panel is missing.
Today you can see this magnificent tapestry in all its glory hung beautifully in a light and climate controlled area. Examining the tapestry up close, you can hear the story of each panel on audio headphones.
After lunch we visited the Pegasus Memorial. Hours before D Day, the British landed in gliders to seize control of a bridge that was an important link from Caen to the beaches. This was a key mission and very successful. We saw fascinating memorabilia in the museum such as mess kits, uniforms, letter home, jeeps, and tools. We were also able to walk on an actual bridge the soldiers built. The Bailey bridges, named after the designer, could be assembled in a matter of hours.
After dropping off our rental car in Caen, we took a modern train to Paris. We loved our rental car with the GPS and will miss the gentle British voice who did a splendid job guiding us all around roundabouts.
The Grand Hotel Leveque is in a charming area of Paris on Rue Cler. Our room is small, but clean, comfortable, and modern. Dinner tonight was just down the street at Cafe Tribecca. We had white fish with fresh sauteed mushrooms and zucchini smothered with fresh herbs.
A short stroll down the street and round the corner leads to an incredible view: the Eiffel Tower. As dark approaches, it is lit with blue floodlights and decorated with a circle of stars of the EU flag on the second level. At 9:00 a shout went up from the crowd and the tower lit up with thousands of twinkling lights. We rode the elevator to the second level for a breathtaking view of Paris at night. What an amazing view.