Normandy is lush and green and rainy. Its colours are the colours of the earth: greens and browns and greys and, sporadically, the brilliant yellow of rapeseed. On the horizon, the sea changes its hue, depending on its mood as it spills itself on golden beaches studded with sea-shells. In Normandy, the fields stretch upwards, kissing the sky and the landscape is dotted with villages so tiny, that if you blink just once, you might miss them. We stayed away from the large towns and lost ourselves on winding, country roads, with cows and horses as our only companions and bird-song filling our ears with music sweeter than Mozart's.
And, because this is France, from time to time we would catch glimpses of a chateau, complete with turrets and narrow slit windows, like the pictures of castles in the books of fairy-tales from my childhood. Spring has not quite yet made it to Normandy. Tree limbs are bare and splayed like fingers against the backdrop of the sky but there is a wild beauty in the terrain and in the mostly-muted colours that are still predominant at this time of year.
We rarely meet a soul as we drive on roads that look like they haven't changed for centuries, all the while splashing mud from freshly-ploughed fields on the polished rental car that we drove all the way from Paris. But this is what we came for - the isolation and the mystery. Why Normandy? you may ask, because in reality we could have escaped to a dozen other places which are off the beaten track and where we could have enjoyed our moment of solitude. Well, because Normandy is not just any other destination.
Our trip there was, in part, a pilgrimage; an act of remembrance, because we have long wished to visit the famous beaches that were the site of the D-day landings and to pay our respects to the brave men who fought and died there; men who split their blood to give us a way of life that we so take for granted. Here, on beaches that are still known by their code names of Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno and Gold, the long fight for freedom began on that far-off June day in 1944.
At the end of March, Normandy is still awakening from its long winter sleep - the beaches are practically deserted and the trees have barely started to bud. The peace and sense of isolation are palpable. The down-side is that many restaurants and shops are still closed for business or just open on a reduced schedule - but this is only true in the small villages around the coast. In bigger towns, like Bayeax and Caen, this would not be an issue.
This was our first trip to Normandy and we stayed for not quite three days, mostly concentrating on the areas and events that were thrown into the spotlight during WW2. So I did not get to learn much about the other fascinating aspects of this place, nor did I have the time to visit one of the many brocantes that take place in spring and summer all over France. But I envisage further trips to this region, because Normandy has laid a spell that tugs at the heart-strings and its call is going to be close to impossible to ignore. So we'll just say au revoir for now. Adieus are never a good idea anyway.
Photographed in various locations in Normandy, France (March 2016)