Here in Normandy, France, I find myself riding through some of the most renown battle fields of World War II.
On June 6th, 1944, the Allies launched their invasion of occupied France on the beach and fields I have today been riding through. On that day, D-Day, the sea outside me would have been filled with ships, the sky with paratroopers, and the land with shells, shouts, and screams.
The other night I set up my tent in the field of French farmer. He and I spoke late into the night about the stories seeped into the land around us.
His small village had seen some of the fiercest fighting. Allied paratroopers slid down roofs, hung off the Church steeples and fought gun battles with the Germans in the Church itself.
I didn't realize but the the sea invasion by the allies took over a week of intense fighting. In the farmer's town, paratroopers had to retake the town three times from a crack regiment of German paratroopers.
When his father and grandfather returned to the town, all the livestock were dead, and the buildings shot up. The entire top of the Church had to be replaced. Not only this but the occupation had split the community-- there were those who resisted the German occupiers and those who collaborated.
The landscape of this land is now irrevocably seaped in the memory of those days and the thousands who died there. Monuments and museums are everywhere.
What a conversation. All my years of learning French in Canada, were made worthwhile by being able to hear and speak to this farmer.