“Why don’t we take advantage of our time in France and go to visit Liz and Yves Dat?”, I asked Ray.
“That is a great idea,” said Ray. “We could rent a car on Monday, after Erica and Andrew return from Valencia on Sunday, stay overnight in Lion-sur-Mer, and drive back to Paris on Tuesday morning.”
I had known Liz Bull and her sister Geraldine since we were 11 years old. Liz and I had both attended Bishop’s University in the 1960s. Liz had taken Library Science at McGill University after graduating from Bishop’s and gone to France where she met and married Yves Dat. I had visited them in Normandy several times and Liz and Yves had joined our trips to Ireland and Brittany with our other Bishop’s friends and their spouses. After her diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, Liz had been unable to join our rather large group trips. Instead, Ray and I like to visit Liz and Yves for short visits in their home village of Lion-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast.
We rented a Renault Captur, complete with GPS and drove off as planned Monday morning. It was an easy drive with little traffic and we were soon at our usual exit from the fast A13 toll road, driving through narrow country roads to Lion. Much to our surprise, we encountered traffic approaching the small village of Bénouville where we planned to cross the Caen Canal towards Oistreham on the Pegasus Bridge. We had seen antique aircraft flying overhead and then there were old military jeeps driven my men in period uniforms and more men in old naval outfits. We had forgotten that the 70th anniversary of the June 6 1944 invasion of Normandy by Allied forces was coming up. We discovered this was an early celebration of the capture of the Pegasus Bridge was in progress. A squadron of 6 British Horsa gliders carrying 181 men had flown from England to Normandy the night of June 5. The object of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridges and attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach. Five of the gliders landed safely 16 minutes after midnight, managed to surprise the German forces and gain control of two bridges, Pegasus and another close-by over the Orne River in 10 minutes, thus increasing the success of the Normandy invasion later that day. We had just missed the ceremonies on the bridge but enjoyed the view of all the WWII buffs in their period uniforms.
It is a good thing we had planned our visit just before the main ceremonies as hordes of people were expected in all the towns along the coast and we may not have been invited to visit with such short notice. Lion-sur-Mer was to be part of the ceremonies as well. Liz, Ray and I went for a nice walk along the boardwalk along the ocean. Many of the houses were festooned with flags from Britain, the US, Canada, France and even Germany. Young French troops had been brought into the area for the ceremonies and they were keeping fit by jogging in large groups along the boardwalk and the beach. It promised to be an important and festive occasion.
Meanwhile we had plenty of time to chat and enjoy the company of Liz and
Yves. They were both well and in good spirits. We were glad we had come
and will make sure we repeat our visits whenever we can during our
visits to France.
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