Virginia, Paris

Virginia is a junior majoring in art history in Meadows School of the Arts, with a minor in French in Dedman College. During spring 2012, she is studying in Paris with SMU Abroad and the IES Business and International Affairs Program. She looks forward to living like a “local” and seeing all the incredible art Paris has to offer.

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Visiting Normandy

Salut tout le monde!

On March 16 and 17, I went to Normandy with my program, IES. We visited Caen and Arromanches to view the D-Day museums, the beaches and the American Cemetery in Colleville. Normandy is in the western part of France on the Atlantic coast.

IES  took all of us students to our first stop at the Peace Memorial in Caen to view the Holocaust and WWII museum. It is incredible to see how much France is still very affected by this war. This museum took us through the beginnings of the war and the takeover of France, and ended with the beginning of the Cold War.

I really liked learning about WWII from Europe’s point of view because it gives another perspective that I feel we don’t often learn in America. It was very nice, though, to have a sense of national pride because still to this day French people are beyond grateful for all the help from Americans in Normandy and with France’s liberation.

The museum is filled with video clips, artifacts, maps that show the changing boundaries in Europe, old photographs, and lots of information. I was very humbled by the experience because as bad as our world gets, we have been fortunate to not have experienced something as utterly horrific as this war and genocide. I am very grateful for our soldiers who fought to liberate France and end the war in Europe.

We then left for Pegasus Bridge, which is a big to-do for the British to have captured because that was the only bridge the Germans used to cross the river. The bridge today is no longer in its original place and has been replaced by a more modern one, but we got a photo with the original.

Then we departed for our hostel, Les Tourelles, in the village of Asnelles-sur-Mer. This hostel, or shall I say castle, is right on the beach and has the most incredible view of the coastline. The beaches in Normandy are just beautiful. The blue water melts into the sky, and one cannot decipher where the ocean stops and the sky begins – just breathtaking. Mussel shells are all over the beach and are so fun to crack and stomp on. I felt like I was back at SMU on the Boulevard, stepping on acorns.

The next day we left for Arromanches to view Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery in Colleville. We had a guided tour of the D-Day Museum, which explained how an artificial harbor was made in the ocean and how all the equipment was transported (tugboats), which was just fascinating. To this day the concrete harbors are still in the ocean, untouched since the 1940s. These structures really do add to the coastline view.

Omaha Beach was just beautiful. I couldn’t imagine that so many soldiers had fought there, and that 9,000 of them died on that beach. The American Cemetery very much reminded me of the one in Arlington. There were thousands upon thousands of graves marked with white marble crosses and stars of David. The French, as a gift of gratitude, gave this territory to the U.S., so technically we were on American soil. The grave markers were incredible to view; they named the fallen soldiers’  states, and I found a lot from Texas.

Normandy was a wonderful, informative trip, and I highly recommend visiting there.

A plus tard!

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