Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne...

Martragny Travel Blog

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Up with the crack of dawn, I hustled and I bustled and I got the heck out of Paris as quick as I could. I motored to the train station and hopped aboard for the ride to Caen. It was a fairly short trip (only about 100 miles) but it made all the easier by having a 6 person cabin shared between just 2.

This was it... this was ultimately the centerpiece destination for the entire trip. my obsession with WWII was about to come to a head, as I visited some of it's holiest of holies... the D-Day beaches.Nothing excited me more, and nothing scared me more. Owing to the fact that I don't drive, and the fact that I was headed into farm country transportation was a real concern.

I arrived in the city of Caen.

This large region capital was once home to Guillaume le Conquérant (William the Conqueror) and was an objective on D-Day. The ground on which it had stood was not captured until over a month later on July 9th. By that point, most of the city was reduced to ruin. The city has since been rebuilt and stands as among one of the most modern in design in France, as a result of its recent rebirth. In the center of the city stands the ruins of a lone church, left as it was following the Battle of Normandy. It's quite haunting.

I found a cab and took the painfully expensive ride out to the château I would be staying at. That sure sounds fancy, doesn't it? In actual fact, I would be 'camping', in the European sense of the word, which is not much different from a trailer park in the States.

Except, it's on the grounds of a real French château.  I stayed at le Château de Martragny. As much as I could mock it as a farcical example of camping, the location was really quite beautiful, the staff were wonderful, the restaurant was legendary and the other guests were quite pleasant.

I was assigned my lot, where I set up my tent as quick as I could and threw my things inside. I'd foolishly left Paris without any money, and needed to get to a cash machine. I rented a bike from the château,and made the 10 Km trek to Bayeux.where I found a 'pointe d'argent' and finally got my hands on some cash.  While I was there, I took the opportunity to stop at the Commonwealth Cemetery to pay my respects. It was an extremely emotional experience. I read dozens of the tombstones, and most of them we were far younger than I. It was sobering and the first hint at the enormity of what had happened here.

I was too late for lunch and far too early for dinner, so I returned to the château, where I purchase ham, cheese, bread and wine. I also got some detergent, so I ran a load of laundry while sitting out the afternoon reading tour guide of the Juno Beach sectors on D-Day preparing for the next mornings journey. It was a lazy evening, and I drifted off to sleep thinking of the hundreds of thousands of men who had done the same nearly 60 years earlier.

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Martragny Hostels review
Beneath the Normandy stars
Located midway along the Caen-Bayeux road, this particular campground attracted my interest both for it's price and it's location close to Juno Beach.… read entire review
photo by: silirat