Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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When asked what I liked to do by a travel agent at the very start of my trip, I said that I'm more of a wanderer, and generally don't like to "see the sights". As an example, I said "I'd be fine going to Paris and not seeing the Eifel tower." It would appear that I was right -- the only Paris I saw was between one train station and another, and no tower in sight. Incidentally, the Paris subway is gorgeous.

My closest five random travelers and I zipped off to Paris with speed and comfort.
I generally like to travel with virtually no plan and no idea where I am or am going, and my trip to France was true to form. I waltz into the Amsterdam train station, wait in the long line, and ask the attendent "I'd like a ticket to Normandy, France, please." "Where in Normandy?" "Uhh... I dunno, I guess the center." "Err.. which *city* in Normandy." "Oh, I thought Normandy *was* a city. Um... I have no idea. What do you recommend?" "Well... I don't know. How about Dieppe? I think that sounds familiar. Is that good?" "Sounds good, sign me up."

I step off the train in Dieppe in a mild drizzle and find it to be the perfect antidote to all the big-city traveling I've been doing. It's a small and rather unremarkable fishing town, the major point of historical effort being the disastrous (and unsuccessful) landing attempt by the Canadians during World War II.
Now, I'm not entirely sure what I expected of the infamous Omaha Beach, but it sure wasn't a bunch of suntanning French. I mean, I guess it makes sense that Normandy would return to being the wonderful vacation spot that it was before the war, but somehow it just didn't click until I was there.

Also, while there I learned a bit about the invasion overall. Everyone knows that the casulties taken at Omaha Beach, as commerated in Saving Private Ryan, were horrific. However, I didn't realize that at the other landing sites (there were many), casulties and resistance were actually rather light. That, and I didn't realize that the Normandy beach overall was lightly fortified: precisely why the Allies decided to land there.

One interesting story I heard -- World War II is absolutely full of them -- is how we deceptively built a fake staging area to give the impression we'd land much farther north, where the French and English shores are closest. This tricked the Germans to ... [more]
Bayeux is just a really nice city. Very pretty, very picturesque. It's perhaps the largest city located near the D-Day landing beaches, and in my hostel (the Family Home), Saving Private Ryan played every night I was there. Multiple times. (The second other movie played was Castaway. Some sort of Tom Hanks bias, apparently.) Incidentally, the Family Home hostel is an incredibly confusing castle of a place: I walk in and ask for a bed, and am shown to a room without problem. Cool, I'm set. Or, so I think. When I return late that night, I simply cannot find my room. I retrace what I thought were my steps, but they just lead to the laundry room. I take every stairwell I can find (I recall my room being at the top of a stairwell), but none of them lead where I want to go. In the process I probably wake half the estate up as the floors, doors, and stairs (there are many) all squeak as if the Germans were the last to have oiled them. Recalling my days playing Hide and Go Seek, I slip off my s... [more]

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