Normandy, and more!

Hello again friends and family!  We’ve had yet another jam-packed week on this side of the pond.  The main attraction today is certainly our trip to Normandy, but that wasn’t all we did!  To start, I have some really fun pictures from playing soccer on Wednesday.  The students all seemed to have a lot of fun and were such great sports.

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Getting pumped up in teams.
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Renata going over the rules.

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Jeremy’s battle cry.

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Goal!!!
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Taking a water break.

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Lucy had a grand time picking flowers.

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And dancing with Rai…
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But also playing! Go Lucy!

We left bright and early Thursday morning for our Normandy trip.  Our wonderful driver Thierry met us at Saint-Louis at 7:20am, and we had four hours in the morning before our first visit.  There was a lot of napping on the bus that day!

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We have a lot of knitters in this group!
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One way to pass the time: braiding your hair together!

We stopped in the walled city of Saint-Malo for our picnic lunch, and then the students had a little over an hour to explore this picturesque medieval town.  The families always send very copious amounts of food for their sack lunches, and the students all found the seagulls very entertaining.  It was a fun stop.

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The view from on top of the wall.

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We led the students to a patisserie to try some Kouing Amann, an extremely buttery and flakey regional pastry.  It was a big hit!

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Olivia tried hers with nutella! Delicious.

Next up was Mont-Saint-Michel, a very famous French site with an Abbey perched on top of a hill which is an island at high tide but connected to the mainland at low tide.  You have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top, but the views are absolutely worth it.

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Waiting patiently at the bottom.
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Stairs…
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And more stairs… (and a lot more stairs I didn’t take pictures of!)
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Taking pictures and catching our breath.

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The boys being silly.

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Inside the chapel.

 

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The cloister.

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At the end of this long day we made our way to the hostel in Lion-sur-Mer, where we had a lovely dinner of chicken and pasta and got the students settled into their rooms.  We were the only people there that night!  Once everyone was settled in we headed over to the beach, which was only about a block away.  A surprising amount of students braved the chilly waters!

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But it didn’t last very long!  Hopefully when we go to the beach this week we’ll have some warmer weather, but the students seemed to have a great time anyways.  They were just excited to get to swim in the ocean in France.

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Photobombing the teachers!

After the beach we had some time to relax back at the hostel.  It started raining right after we left, but that didn’t stop some students (and Renata) from playing volleyball!

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Friday was a much more solemn day, as we were visiting several WWII sites.  They had spent most of last week discussing WWII in their culture class with Renata, so it was all very fresh in their minds.  We were very impressed with the level of maturity the class showed. They were very respectful of these sites, and many of them were visibly moved (there were even some tears, and not just from me!).  We first went to the pointe du Hoc.  This cliff top location in between Omaha beach and Utah beach was heavily fortified by the Germans with bunkers and turrets, and taking it out on D-Day was absolutely imperative.

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You can still see craters from D-Day.
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There’s also barbed wire at the top of the cliff.

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It was very moving for everyone.
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The monument.

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The German bunkers are still there.  It’s very surreal.

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The second stop on our WWII day, and in my opinion the most moving, was the American cemetery.  Seeing the seemingly endless rows of graves really makes the tragedy of D-Day sink it, and many of the students just walked among the tombstones in silent contemplation.  We had a bit of light rain at that point, which seemed fitting.  Unfortunately, the beaches were closed for security reasons, but the students still seemed to appreciate the visit and it went very well.

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The memorial.

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People will rub sand in the engravings and leave flowers.

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Alexis noticed that someone had put a piece of nature (a rock, flower, or pine-cone) on every star of David.
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Serious faces contemplating the beaches.

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The view of the beach from the cemetery.

Our final destination for the trip was the memorial of Caen.  This city was the site of very heavy fighting during the Battle of Normandy and was mostly destroyed.  It is now home to a wonderful memorial and museum.  We had a wonderful surprise when we got there!  Michael walked in to pick up our lunches and thought he saw our student Carlee, but then realized it was her twin sister!  The group from Saint-Brieuc was also at the memorial!  Two of their instructors came over to our tent, and we decided our group would surprise theirs after we finished eating.  A lot of our students have friends at Saint-Brieuc, so they were ecstatic to get to see them!

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The twins reunited!

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We then proceeded to have a lovely visit of the memorial.

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The city of Caen after the battle of Normandy.

Today we had our family picnic, which was simply wonderful.  The students sang the Marseillaise for the families, and then the Star Spangled Banner!  I didn’t tell them ahead of time that they were going to sing it, since it is in English, so their reactions were pretty hilarious. When I sang the first line to give them the key they all gasped.

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After eating there was soccer…

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Soccer in the sand…

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And volleyball!

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Alex made some wonderful peanut butter cookies for everyone!

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The families waiting to hear our beautiful voices!

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There was also a spirited game of ninja.
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Lucy going in for the winning blow!

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That’s it for this week’s post!  We will be having our dance party tomorrow night, the Tour de France on Tuesday, a visit to the Mayor’s office on Wednesday, and a full day at the beach on Friday, so I’ll be back with lots of pictures next week!  In the meantime, thanks again for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this week’s post.

 

 

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