I had imagined what Arromanche and my little hotel would be like, but reality has finally exceeded expectation. Especially after the drive from Paris and the five toll stations along the route, but as I came within the environs of Caen the ghosts of all my reading
came alive. One immediately sensed the enormous tragedy that Caen represented
in the annals of Operation Overlord. A town obliterated by Allied bombing and
artillery fire, after Montgomery’s initial failure to secure the town in the
opening phases. I did not stop at the Memorial, that can be done later, but pressed on.
The highway swung west towards Bayeau of Tapestry fame
and finally I was able to swing onto a rustic, quiet little road that led to the
sea and Arromanches and entered a new world. Lazy cows in the fields, sleepy
farmers on tractors, birds in full throated ease and all that. The dreadful highway was left behind. My little hotel on the immediate outskirts of the town is only such in name. It is
really a house that mostly survived the opening bombardment , with five rooms, a narrow
creaking staircase and a communal fridge in what serves as the breakfast room.
It is perched 100 meters on the western edge of Gold where the British landed,
with the Mulberry remnants arranged in a semi circle out at sea.
I could not resist the temptation to visit the battery of heavy guns at Longues that caused so much trouble at Gold and Omaha, after walking the cliffs to get a decent view of Gold,
but exhaustion overcame enthusiasm and I capitulated, knowing that I have another 18 days in the area. The final lovely touch of the day was stopping at a small
supermarket. It reflected completely the French mastery of food. It did not
have much, but what it did have would put to shame the majority of gourmet
stores in Oslo.
A perfect summer day, God in his heaven, the sun setting and all to be heard through my windows are low conversations in the garden below, birds preparing for bed, and the occasional car in the distance. Impossible as yet to conceive of the momentous events that shattered the peace of this idyllic spot 67 years ago, but I’m working on it.
Arromanches, 30th June 2011