Notes From A Cross Channel Ferry

The Mont St. Michel to be specific, and a very quiet one at that. But a nice one and so far there are no English men in the bar knocking back pints of lager. Then again it is only 10.30am. There’s time yet… I’m off the bike for a couple of weeks on my travels. This week’s trip is entirely business although as my business is the one that involves teaching children, this feels like a holiday anyway. It’s a school exchange to the small Normandy town of Falaise which also happens to be the twin town of Henley-on-Thames. I say ‘happens’ but clearly there’s no coincidence as that is where most of my charges live. I only know about half of them as this is a joint educational adventure with a neighbouring school but so far so good… Or did I speak too soon? Here in the bar the entertainment manager has just appeared on the PA announcing a morning quiz. I didn’t get the feeling that it was by popular demand. Or any demand. He’s coming around with answer sheets in a few moments and I shall politely decline. The ladies to my left are however enthused by the prospect of having their morning interrupted with searching questions on a no-doubt nautical theme. It’s not my specialised subject anyway…
So, back to the trip. Just like the children, I will be staying in a French home myself. A young married couple with a young child. He is a maths teacher, she is a geography & history teacher. With my subject knowledge of French we would make a half decent team on University Challenge but let’s not get back to that subject. The town of Falaise is famed for being the birthplace of William the Conqueror himself. The word ‘falaise’ means ‘cliff’ and from the pictures that I have seen, there is one upon which the aforementioned Norman warrior built his castle. But this is no cliff next to the sea as Falaise is about 50 km due south of Caen, the destination of this ferry. We arrive on French soil at about 3 o’clock this afternoon.
Our stay in France is for a week and amongst other things we will be spending a day in a French school, having a guided tour of the Falaise, heading off to explore the real Mont St. Michel (as opposed to the boat I am currently travelling on), visiting Bayeux and its tapestry and paying our respects at an American cemetery on the coast. Expect lots of updates on here and also via Twitter @CyclingEurope. Stay tuned!

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2 replies »

  1. You are in a centre of modern and ancient history with Falaise being (in)famous (?) for the allied destruction from the air being metered out on the fleeing German troops and armour as they tried to escape through the Falaise Gap to regroup in an attempt to stem the allied tide rushing from the Normandy beaches.

    Let us hope that the generations you are dealing with, and their children never have to see such carnage between neighbours but it is important that they understand what and why these horrors occurred and that they respect the people, many not that much older than themselves, who gave their lives for the freedom of Europe.

What do you think?