I did not know this when I made arrangements to be here last year, but we are right smack dab in the middle of all of the D-Day Beaches, tours, and history. In fact I use The Normandy Tank Museum the landmark for giving directions to get here, just 5 minutes away. At The Haras Du Ry, near Carentan, Australian show jumper Amy Graham and her family own a beautiful facility, complete with large and lovely “Gites” rented to visitors including the cast and crew of “The Band of Brothers” rented as well as a complete equestrian training facility in the heart of Normandy. We began our self guided tour, with a sunrise photo session of Amy and her stable manager, fellow Australian Jacqui Ridley, as they took their horses for an early walk on Utah Beach just a 15 minute drive from Haras Du Ry. The perfect salt-water whirlpool therapy for her big time jumper Bella, who will be competing next week for her country at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
We also went to the magnificent Le Mount St Michelle, the number one tourist attraction for this region. About a 1.5-hour drive, we followed the long line of cars into the car park, and followed people who looked like they knew what they were doing. We saw the incredible abbey far in the distance, and everyone we were behind was walking. “Well I need the exercise to work off all the wine and baquets, so off we went. We saw trolleys and horse drawn wagons headed to the huge structure and realized they knew something we did not know, but that’s OK, it was a great walk. The tide (50’ tide) was out, and we hiked up the narrow winding staircases packed with tourists, but it was worth every step. We saw horses galloping in a large group up to all the structures. After even more climbing, all worth it for the views, we caught the horse trolley, sitting up front next to the driver, who has a pair of young 5 year old black percherons, beautifully groomed, well appointed with harness, and well driven, his driver always talking and working them together. What little French/English was understood between us, the universal language of people with a passion for horses was shared. The young girl was exited to share that on her only day off she was going to watch Cross Country for Eventing, a sport she does at the lower levels. We drove the coastline through charming seaside French villages. By the way, this thing you may always hear about the French not being nice or friendly toward Americans, I have yet to experience it, even when in Paris. Just sayin’.