California, Meet Merville

I was in Merville-Franceville, Normandy for six weeks last summer. I was working for an organization for American college students studying abroad. It's basically a big house where the students live for six weeks and take classes. There were two other girls working with me. Our job was general housework, cleaning, helping in the kitchen, laundry, etc, so nothing glamorous (I have an iron burn to prove it), and it was hard in a lot of ways, but talk about growth outside my comfort zone...and believe me, we will.

Relatively low tide, looking up the beach

The house was about 200 yards from the sand, so I was out there at least once a day. I got to go on some of the field trips with the students (so many pictures, so many posts...), but I think one of my favorite parts about my trip was our proximity to the ocean. I've always found the ocean calming, so my time out there every day really saved me in a lot of ways.

Our house is right behind that first row of houses on the left
The top of the beach was usually covered in shells, which made running interesting, so I tried to time my runs during low-tide because I refuse to run in shoes on sand. The difference between low and high tide was amazing...

I ran sprints that day...can you tell?

Because people still ride chariots pulled by horses

This isn't even the most shells I saw

Merville-Franceville is on the coast of Normandy, not far from the D-Day landing beaches. I love history, so naturally this just blew my mind. Actually the first few minutes of the D-Day invasion happened about a mile from the town--not the beach landings, but the very beginning of the whole operation (Am I the only one who finds that fascinating?).

Down the coast

The town itself is pretty stinking cute. and super small. I could walk around the main part of the town in probably 10 minutes, then houses surround that. It was pretty typical as far as French beach towns go (although I haven't been to many...I'm just assuming here)...restaurants on the boardwalk, bakery, tabac (newsstand meets liquor store), grocery store (a really small one), post office, random little businesses here and there, little park in the middle with a gazebo. There was a farmer's market on Thursday mornings--I bought a pair of shoes there...when in France...

Boulangerie aka bakery aka PAIN AU CHOCOLAT

That's my house on the left, then the gazebo and tiny park/town square

That's basically it. The town borders an estuary/reserve, so there were paths through it where I ran sometimes. There was a playground, swimming pool, and mini golf course along the boardwalk, but they weren't open while I was there. The last couple weeks of my trip, there was a little mini carnival open in the beach parking lot. And one day, a whole caravan of gypsies (They prefer "gens de voyage" literally translated as "traveling people") camped in the parking lot. I had a total Chocolat moment and wanted to talk to them (you never know where you'll meet Johnny Depp) but I got nervous and chickened out. But, like the movie, townspeople really don't like when gypsies come to stay. They only stayed one night and left the next day, but apparently the Merville-ians weren't as excited as I was that they came at all.

Another thing about Normandy? The sun sets around 9 or 10 p.m.

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