Key scene at Omaha Beach

A Cabriolet – Tour to the Normandy

I wanted to report about this road – tour for a long time. The blog parade „Roadtrip – Breakdowns“ by Julia & Felix on the german blog is the right occasion to finally write down the story.

You can see that this story is already a little bit in the past by the pictures (copied slides). But not only the sepia-glorified past makes it a special experience, the tour was always in my memory. Especially this summer, when I explored large parts of the route by bicycle once again.

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First pubished in german under Reisegeschichten (travel stories)

The summer was over and my job was done. Almost seven years of streetwork are a exhausting for the nerves and for me it was time to take care of myself again. Konrad was also fed up with 9to5+x and thought that he had much more freedom to make his own decisions – for example, going on tour with me.

So in early September we packed a few things into his small Peugeot cabriolet and drove west. First stop was Luxembourg, from there it should go piece by piece through northern France and if possible by ferry later to Ireland.

on the road - Grenze zu Luxemburg
border to Luxemburg

For me it was the first trip with a cabriolet and the weather was suitable – so, roof open most of the time. Our taste in music is quite different. Konrad likes HipHop and stuff like that and as loud as possible. Half of the tiny trunk already takes up a „bass roll“, which should be heard to some extent from time to time. I prefer rich rock and blues or even roots, folk and world music. But we were willing to compromise and everyone could take turns in determining the style of music. Later in France we often just played the radio. To this day the staccato – „o – o..“ of Beyonce – „crazy in love“ sounds in my ears and is inseparably connected with this tour, because the song was up to date.

We spent a few hours in Luxembourg City, wandered through the streets, marvelled at the Grund quarter of the Alzette valley and watched the changing of the guard at the Grand Ducal Palace. Of course we took the opportunity to refuel before we continued our journey. And as a driver with many years of experience, I checked the tire pressure right away. Konrad was completely astonished when I also checked the spare wheel – most people forget that. And his was also necessary, with only 1 bar….

Then we drove over country roads with a short loop through Belgium to France. A little bit uneasy we passed the cemeteries near Verdun. Finally Reims was the first bigger city. There I liked it quite well, with an old, well preserved city center, the opera, the canal with its houseboats and the cathedral Notre Dame, of which we could take some night shots.

Cathedrale Reims
Reims, Cathedrale Notre Dame
Oper Reims
Reims, Opera movie theatre

Via Beauvais and Rouen we approached the Normandy coast. Near Oistrehamn we watched the arrival of the ferry from Portsmouth and met the beach. We spent the evening on the boulevard of the city and later again on the beach, where blue skies that quickly darkened and the lights of the promenade and the ferry port projected an interesting interplay over the sand. We didn’t really feel like leaving this scenery and sat for a long time with a view of the channel, which was getting darker and darker in front of us. A peaceful landscape on a late summer evening, and only monuments and the name Omaha – Beach indicated that this was one of the bloody fought landing stages of the invasion on June 6, 1944.

It became later and later. We still watched the ferry, which was fully illuminated and started its journey across the channel again. Then we decided to sleep right on the beach despite the stiff breeze. In order to soften the wind a little, we stretched my big tarp over a steel frame, which stood there. To get the cloth to hold in the sand was not so easy – the wind pressed with force on the canvas and inflated it like a sail. Only through a few kilograms of sand, which we pushed into a palatinate at the lower edge, did the canvas hold at all.

Tarp am Strand bei Oistrehamn
With the tarpolin on the beach

The next morning we packed sleeping bags and tarp back into the car. I stripped down to my swimming trunks and romped around on the beach in the sun. It was low tide, the beach was huge. Konrad had a different idea because of the wind. He had bought a stunt kite before the trip, and we wanted to try it out now. After a few minutes of practice we got the hang of it and it went great! Konrad took off his jacket and put the kite cover and the bunch of keys on a bump of sand. We took turns and tried all sorts of flying maneuvers – somersaults, nosedives, even trying to chase the other one over the beach etc…

Omaha Beach, Oistrehamn, Normandie
At the beach near Oistrehamn

So little by little the flood came. Our giant playground on the beach became smaller and smaller. It was my turn and I flew some stunts with the kite. Konrad’s jacket was now almost lying on a sand island, so he grabbed the bundle and carried it a few meters closer to the beach path. But most of all he watched my flying.

A while later we had enough and wanted to continue. But then a problem revealed itself – the keys were gone. The bunch of keys was with the jacket and the kite cover, but Konrad hadn’t paid much attention to it when moving it around and the keys had probably been left behind. Where an hour earlier there was this sand hump, the water was now at least two meters high – and the tidal current causes enormous movements on the bottom.

Omaha Beach, Oistrehamn an der Normandieküste
Where is the key?

What now? The cabriolet – top was still closed from the night. But then Konrad knew about it. He had bought the car used with a broken roof and got a new top from an internet dealer. He had built it up himself and knew the tricks – besides the rear window foil there was a small slit with velcro only. Over it you can reach the crank of the rear side windows with a long arm. Well, and from the open side windows you can easily reach the door lock. Schwubdiewup – car open…

But without a key no car will drive.

O.k. however Konrad was so clever that he gave me the second key before leaving – just in case! And it was in my trouser pocket, the trousers were on the passenger seat. So our trip can continue immediately. For me, the „key experience“ had thus become an episode about which we can always tell amused stories later. For him it wasn’t quite so easy, because in addition to car keys and a really expensive Swiss army knife, house and company keys were hanging on the bunch. And that at least brought some more unpleasant discussions.

The tour finally led us to Cherbourg, from where a ferry goes to Ireland. From Cherbourg we made some side trips to the lighthouse Pont de Barfleur and to the Cape de la Hague (dark aftertaste – passing the fortress-like nuclear reprocessing plant La Hague).

Leuchtturm Pointe de Barfleur, Normandie
Light house Barfleur
Laterne im Leuchtturm Barfleur, Normandie
The lantern of the light house
Strand am Cap de la Hague, Normandie
Beacht at the Cape de la Hague

On the last evening in France we visited a pub which was already very busy. But we got two seats at the bar. It was relatively late, and somehow one waiter suddenly threw a glass on the floor. This happened so fast that we had to assure each other first – „Did you see that now?“ „Was that on purpose?“… Apart from the great atmosphere in the pub, we didn’t understand anything that was said.

Soon after, the next glass flew down – this could no longer be a coincidence. Then the other barman, another glass. And the mood was boiling higher and higher! There were more and more glasses, the sequence of glass throws became denser and denser. Soon the bartenders and waiters were standing on a dense carpet of shards. Songs became loud, the guests moved closer and closer together in front of the counter, and we were right in the middle of it. The waiters hugged each other and heated up the atmosphere further. Even more glasses flew to the floor. Finally we got one of the barmen a little closer and he enlightened us: One of the waiters is here for the last evening and is leaving Cherbourg, and so they celebrate their farewell here.

We happened to be there by chance and were also a little strange, especially since we didn’t know anybody and didn’t understand the language. But nevertheless we were somehow fully involved and gladly invited to join in the celebration. When the pub was closed, the waiters stood in a row at the exit and all guests walked past them, all shaking hands – including us. I haven’t felt this comfortable on a pub night in a long time and it is one of the few I will never forget.

The next day we boarded the „Normandy“, the ferry to Ireland.

Fähre in Cherbourg, Normandie
Ferry in Cherbourg to Rosslare / Ireland

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