Bayeux was our home for five nights. It reminded me a lot of York, thought that English city is larger. I would also suggest that Bayeux is less touristy and more authentic than York. Perhaps its small size permits that.
|Monument at roundabout entering the town from the west memorializes invasion as well as De Gaulle's proclamation of the restored Republic.|
Interesting trivia fact: Bayeux is where Charles De Gaulle proclaimed the re-establishment of a provisional French government in June 1944. He did so in a square not too far from the cathedral.
We ate out for five nights in Bayeux. The best food came at Le Pommelier on the first night. Lauren knew of it from her previous visit and led me there. I enjoyed the meal and hearing her perspectives on the trip so far there. That meal was also the most expensive one, but I can’t complain. The institute provided us with an allowance, so to speak, with which we would feed ourselves. It was fun to watch the students navigate the dinner possibilities. The cuisine and customs were quite different from the U.S. Sometimes they missed. Sometimes their aim was true. Watching them make sense of European restaurants was a pleasure. Eating with colleagues was another great pleasure. Most nights I ate with Thalia from Rhode Island and Judy from Southern California and I enjoyed their company greatly. On others I ate with Shane from Maine and Sam from Missouri. I missed a chance to eat with Paul, though, which I regret.
|The enormous facade challenged me to get the whole thing in the frame.|
|A sign marking the cathedral in its asymmetrical glory.|
|The apse had several posters chronicling the history of Christianity. This cathedral is so old its founding would be on this poster.|
|Tribute to two wars' dead from Britain inside front wall.|
|The cathedral from the apse.|
|The cathedral from some distance away.|
The center of town is dominated by an imposing cathedral. From a distance, it’s beautiful. Closer up, it’s beauty is enhanced by its imperfections. While waiting for some of our party to come back to us, I preoccupied a few students with a challenge of finding the ways in which the façade wasn’t symmetrical. We spend 30 minutes hyper-analyzing window style and placement, positioning of towers, color of stone, and style of statuary. I take pride in nudging those students toward this too-critical study of a piece of architecture. The inside of the cathedral was splendid but not necessarily ornate. It looked lived-in, which was a good thing.
Our resident lecturer, Dr. Chadborne, treated the whole student and teacher team to admission to the Bayeux Tapestry. This might have been the point of the trip that made me the most homesick. The tapestry is a 900-year-old account of the Norman Conquest. It consists of dozens of panels that depict the stories in pictures and the occasional caption. I say it made me homesick for I could see it being the very thing to excite Sherry’s and Sam’s imagination. Caroline probably would’ve been more excited by the creperie my group found and dined at after visiting it.
On the final day I visited the city’s museum dedicated to the Battle of Normandy. I’m trying to figure out if it was one museum too far or, as a teacher Jason from Georgia put it, a pretty fitting synthesis of what we had learned. Some artifacts there. More panels telling the story of the invasion. As for the artifacts , I did have some fun on the way in identifying armor with Zac (Mississippi) and Dr. Chadborne. Zac and I were pretty thrilled that we recognized the M-10 Tank Destroyer out front. I called it a Tank Destroyer. He called it a Wolverine. Turns out that, according to Wikipedia, we were both right. The film they show tells the whole story of the battle for Normandy, not just the landings, which was good for me. I’ve honestly had a hard time focusing on details that take place after June 6 because, well, Bill died on June 6, and any account will be telling the tale of his division after the tragedy of his death.
The hotel was bit cramped and the wi-fi horrible. However, I slept very well each night, got a good shower each morning, had a very pleasant roommate, and a decent breakfast each morning. Therefore, it was fine. The over-burdened wi-fi might have also been a blessing in disguise, motivating all of us, kids and grown-ups alike to spend more time with one another.
The best thing Bayeux did for us, though, was cultivate the culture of this group of students. It’s a relatively small city, so small that one really cannot get lost in it. No real night life. We could trust kids there. And we had to trust them with making decisions about dinners, souvenirs, site-seeing, and getting back before our 10pm curfew. And given the small nature of the hotel, we had a good chance to set and monitor appropriate boundaries. At times navigating the right way to supervise (too close vs. giving them space) was tricky to figure out. But the kids’ behavior allowed us to trust them while they experimented with Europe. We often observed how good they were, faithful really, to not leaving anyone out. They avoided cliquish arrangements and there was some fluidity about who would be found with whom. I enjoyed seeing them hanging in the lobby as they waited for peers to come downstairs and decide where to go.