We end our ill-fated campground stay with a bang, explore the Utah Beach Museum, and stuff ourselves with oysters and cookies in Normandy, France.
Our final night at La Fanal was busier than normal as families were arriving for the long weekend. Cars were pulling in all evening and returning to their already set up trailers. It is an interesting ‘cottage’ lifestyle. The kids quickly rediscovered each other and adults reconnected. There was quite some commotion until about 11 pm when it seemed everyone went to bed. Alison had her ear plugs in so she slept through the worst of it. Once it quieted down the site was pretty calm.
We woke up around 7:30 am to get the day started. We got cleaned up and took our computers (and caffeine) over to the TV room at the front office. We set up to work but we couldn’t get to the internet. Again.
Just like the day before, we could access to the WiFi network, but the connection to the internet failed. I went and spoke with the young lady at the front desk. She tried restarting the router, but it didn’t help. She advised us to check out the access from the restaurant because it was supposed to work. We were just about to head over there when the WiFi started working. So we stayed put.
Although we could now connect, we still had issues staying connected and getting our work done. We were using our Huawei MiFi, connected to La Fanal’s WiFi, so we could both access the internet at the same time. This internet sharing capability is a great feature of the Huawei E5577. Locally, the Huawei runs its own WiFi access point so multiple computers may connect to it. On the internet side, it can connect to another WiFi access point OR a 3G/4G data connection. Because La Fanal’s WiFi service was configured to only let once device per account online at a time, we needed to use the Huawei to share the connection.
But La Fanal’s WiFi continued to be ridiculously slow, timing out, and dropping connections. To rule out our MIFI as the source of the problems, we reverted to connecting Alison’s computer directly to La Fanal’s WiFi. It worked enough for her to get her work done, but it was still painful. The WiFi was simply not adequate enough for our needs. After Alison left to pack up the motorhome, I tried to work for another hour but eventually, I too gave up.
I was so frustrated I did a very un-Canadian thing: I asked for my money back. Shock! Horror! I know. But I’d had it. Paying 20€ for 2 days of internet access is hard enough to swallow, but when it sucks this badly, there is no way I could stay quiet. I packed up my gear, approached the front desk, and asked for our money back. She said she would talk to her boss. Well ok then.
I returned to our campsite and helped Alison finish prepare Amelia to leave. Around noon, we pulled out and I stopped at reception. La Fanal’s boss apparently sympathized with our WiFi issues and agreed to give me 10€ back on the 20€ we spent. Not exactly what I wanted, but better than nothing. Let this be a lesson: avoid spending money on WiFi until there is some proof it works!
Unfortunately, this was not the end of our adventures at La Fanal. After leaving reception we pulled into the service area to dump our tanks and take on fresh water. While trying to fill the water tank, the pressure of the water blew the nozzle of our hose straight into our water tank’s filling pipe and disappeared. Son of a ….!
Once the swearing and yelling at each other stopped, I opened the top of the water tank, located under the sofa seat, and stuck my arm inside to find where the pipe ended. After probing around with my fingers, I found the pipe at the back of the tank, just barely within reach. But the hose nozzle was not there. It was lodged further up the pipe. Fan-friggin-tastic.
I thought about it for a minute and then realized I had recently bought a drain snake for clearing the pipes in the motorhome. If it could work going down, it should be possible to use it to push the hose nozzle back up the pipe. It was worth a shot.
I unraveled the snake and worked it into the pipe (it took a bit of futzing because my fingers could barely reach the pipe opening inside the tank). I pushed the snake back up the pipe and eventually Alison could see the nozzle. Huzzah! But it was still not close enough to grab and I wasn’t able to push it any further.
I grabbed some screwdrivers and a pair of needle nosed pliers from my toolbox. Using a screwdriver, I worked the nozzle a bit further up the pipe and grabbed it with the pliers. Unfortunately, it was still caught up on the drain snake, so while Alison held the pliers, I slowly removed the snake. Success! And relief.
Challenge overcome, we finished filling up the water tank (more carefully this time) and dumped our other two tanks. Finally, we left La Fanal behind us and hit the road for our next France Passion site, an oyster farm near Lestre.
On the way to Lestre, I had intended to visit one or more museums in St. Mere Eglise, the objective of the American 82nd Airborne during the D-Day landings in 1944. Owing to our delays leaving La Fanal, I figured there wouldn’t be time to visit any museums. After we passed St. Mere Eglise I realized Lestre was a lot closer than I thought. Which was convenient as we were just pulling up to a museum which turned out to be well worth the price of admission: the Utah Beach Memorial and Museum.
I parked in the area for camping cars and Alison decided she would stay to read her book. I left her with the cats and walked to the museum. I had no idea what to expect as I had not researched this museum. From the signs, it called itself the Utah Beach Landing Museum which made me think it would be like the D-Day Landing Museum in Arromanches.
I entered and paid the 8€ entrance fee. The first few metres of the museum made me think it was, in fact, a lot like Arromanches. It had displays of German equipment and the state of the German defences along the beaches. It also had a movie, just like Arromanches. However, the movie was much more polished than the movies at Arromanches. It explained the American landing at Utah but didn’t over dramatise it (although it was certainly more dramatic than the Arromanches movies). It is a good overview of the event and provides visitors with a foundation for understanding the rest of the museum.
After the movie, I explored the rest of the museum and discovered it is much more extensive than the Arromanches museum. The Utah Beach Landing Museum covers the American landings, the situation in the area, and the overall Allied D-Day planning effort. In addition to the displays, they also have a B26 Marauder, an LCT, an Alligator, and a DUKW, not to mention many other artifacts both inside and outside the museum.
In all, I spent about 1.5hrs touring the museum and could have spent another hour. My one minor, negative point was the temporary exhibit. It was an excellent exhibit describing the role of the resistance in the D-Day landings. Unfortunately, the text was only offered in French, although the rest of the museum was in both languages. It wasn’t a problem for me, but as an American tourist destination, I would have expected that to be translated into English. But like I said, this was a minor point. Read my article on CheeseWeb for more information about my visit to the Utah Beach Museum and other World War II museums in Normandy.
I walked back to Amelia and we hit the road for the oyster farm! We took some tiny roads and squeezed through some narrow gaps between buildings to arrive at the oyster farm, Domaine Ostreicole LeJeune, behind the dunes on the beach. There wasn’t a lot of activity as we pulled into the parking lot and set up amongst a couple other motorhomes which had arrived before us.
We locked up and wandered into the shop which was a bit busier. The shop had numerous bubbling tanks with oysters in various sizes, lobsters, and other shellfish. We waited our turn and eventually spoke with one of the staff members. We had hoped to do a tour of the farm, but it turned out they only offer those tours starting in June. Oh well!
After confirming we were ok to park overnight and we arranged to pick up 18 oysters for our dinner. Yum! We were excited to test them out, although I wonder why we didn’t have one or two as a snack? The lady we were talking with told us about a small town with a bakery (actually an artisanal cookie factory, a biscuiterie) down the beach about 30 minutes away. Did someone say cookies?
We enjoyed a slow walk together following the road behind the beach. The sea breeze felt wonderful on our faces and we both reminisced about beaches back in Canada. The sun was out, the beach was deserted and we had survived another day of adventures.
It took us an hour to reach the small town of Quinville. Quinville’s claim to fame is a small tidal harbour nestled into the mouth of a river. Fishing and pleasure boats were lined up on both sides of the bank, bows towards the bank, their hulls sitting in the mud at the bottom of the river. When the tide is out, there isn’t enough water in the river to keep the boats floating. But as the tide rolls in, the salt water heads inland into the marsh and transforms the harbour. It reminded us a lot of the Bay of Fundy, but in miniature. People wanting to make a trip out on the water have to time their excursions with the tide!
We walked around the harbour and into town to find the biscuiterie. I had a feeling we might have walked too far as it took us much longer than 30 minutes to reach the town. However, fortune smiled on us and we found the biscuiterie quite easily.
The Biscuiterie de Quinville smelled delicious as we walked in. It houses a small tea room as well as being a shop for their baked goods. I could have taken one of everything but we settled on some cookies with caramel de buerre sale, a bottle of apple juice, and some cheese biscuits. Treasures in hand, we walked back to the oyster farm via the beach.
It was a glorious evening to walk along the beach, the sun starting to set while the tide rolled in. There were millions of shells on the beach: oysters, clams, a cockle-like thing, mussels, and scallops. There were also lots of little birds darting along the edge of the waves, similar to plovers or other sea birds. I couldn’t imagine a better way to end the day.
Except if the end of the day had oysters. Back at the farm, we picked up our 18 oysters (total cost: 9€) and ate them at our table in Amelia. Divine! What a treat. A free place to stay and a wonderful, fresh dinner to boot. Hard to believe we are camping!
What a contrast to the frustrations of the last couple of days!
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