Oscar Wilde once claimed that “when good Americans die, they go to Paris” and as the French Track, we totally agree; we’re just lucky enough to be experiencing it alive. Every once a while, however, it is nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the City of Lights, and so the Lauder French Program (nine of us) headed to Normandy for a weekend of cultural and historical visits.
Having left Paris after an interesting visit with a Lauder alumnus currently working in the city (read: living the dream), we arrived in the city of Caen just in time to catch a World Cup match between Algeria and Russia, and although I will leave detailed descriptions of this great sporting event up to our Portuguese Track friends, no account of our weekend in Normandy would be complete without at least a mention of the celebrations we witnessed. This particular tie meant the team got to advance to the next round for the first time in history. Within minutes, it seemed like every Algeria fan in the city descended on the streets and started a party that lasted well into the night, stopping all traffic completely. Of course, there was no way for us to NOT join in, and, to be fair, it is these kinds of spontaneous experiences that highlight what summer immersion is all about.
Our next day started off with a visit to a cidrerie in the gorgeous Normandie country side, where we learned about the cider production process and industry, and, bien sûr, sampled some fantastic ciders and apple liqueurs. We also happened to pick up some local Camembert, and, in the process, learnt a valuable lesson: Camembert in enclosed spaces (such as a mini bus or a hotel room) results in a…. shall we say …“aromatic” experience (totally worth it though!).
After our gourmet morning, we headed to Mont Saint Michel, an ancient fortified monastery town on the coast of Normandy/Brittany. Not only is it an incredibly beautiful location, but it is also home to the omelette, which can be sampled at the original restaurants for the minimal price of 39 euros. Although this was a tempting option, we decided that a dinner of galettes, crêpes and cider was a much better deal.
Our last day in Normandy was spent exploring the Caen Memorial museum, the American Cemetery and the beaches of D-Day. After spending the month of May studying European History in Philly, it was an incredible experience to actually walk on the beaches we read about. Looking at the beautiful ocean landscapes, it is hard to imagine the terrible events of 70 years ago. Our Area History class in May greatly enriched our experience and understanding. That’s one of the great things about Lauder – combining academic study with real world experiences, in business terms and broad historical and cultural terms.
Altogether, we had a wonderful weekend in Normandy. Although we were sad to leave, we luckily had a few bottles of cider and some smelly Camembert to comfort us on the way home!
By: Tania Steyn (Lauder Class of 2016, French Program)
The French Office du tourisme for Mont Saint Michel: http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/fr/histoire.htm
The 70th anniversary of the Normandie beaches commemoration: http://le70e-normandie.fr/?lang=en