We recently traveled to Mondeville for a French League game. We arrived a few days early so after our noon practice we had a couple hours to go exploring. I love to explore new cities and when they have an interesting history behind them, it makes you appreciate what you're witnessing/ experiencing even more. While there I had the opportunity to explore a small part of Caen, the capital of France 's lower normandy region, which is rich in French, Canadian and American history.
First, I explored the Caen castle (which was not at all what I was expecting). This castle was built on the ruins of William the Conquerors fortress. Just a little back history on him that I learned from our team physio (she's a history junky). He was born in the early 1000 in Normandy France. He was the illegitimate child of the Duke of Normandy at the time. His father died when he was a young boy, making him the new Duke of Normandy. When he was just a teen, he was knighted and then began earning the name "Conqueror" as he began taking over new lands, beginning with the neighboring Brittany and Main. As he grew older, the childless king of England Edward the Confessor promised William the English throne. However, when Edward died in 1066, his brother-in-law a powerful English lord, Harold Godwin, claimed the throne of England for himself. William, upset at the betrayal, decided to invade England and conqueror it for himself. In 1066, the two fought in the what was known as the Battle of Hastings. King Harold and his two brothers were killed in the battle, leaving William as the new King of England. He would go on to conqueror many other lands, before his death, hence the name William the Conqueror. This is the super condescend version of his pretty interesting life story which I would recommend looking into if you're interested.
So back to the Castle, it wasn't at all what I was expecting. When I think of a castle, I think of those massive majestic buildings where royalty live in, you know like in the movies? Well this castle was not that, instead it was more of a large wall, instead of a building. The interior (which is still outside) consisted of a few remains of buildings that were bombed during World War Two, the Saint George Church and hall (used for exhibitions), and a fine arts museum. Even though this was not what I was expecting, it was pretty remarkable to look at this massive "wall", the height, the small opening at the top where soldiers would fire at hostile enemies who were trying to gain access from the outside. How round parts of the wall were, and just trying to imagine how people built this place, and the number of lives lost in the process.
World War Two
I learned that during World War Two most of this city was destroyed by bombs and many lives were lost. In June 1944 the allied forces of the Canadian Army were helping the French and battled against the German forces, known as the battle of Normandy. The Germans were trying to take over Normandy on D-Day, and Caen city if the Germans could conquer it would make it easier to for them to gain total control. It took months of battles, and the help of Americans and the British but they were eventually able to defeat the Germans. The cost was high though with many Canadian, French, British and American lives lost, as well as the complete destruction of Caen. The city was eventually rebuilt, however very little of the pre war city remains today.
There is the Juno Beach memorial, War museum, The American Cemetery, the Canadian War Cemetery and Cultural Center all located in the Normandy area about an hour away from where we were staying. I would have loved to have visited but we didn't have time, oh well! It just gives me another reason to make the trip back here in the future.
Third British Infantry Memorial
This memorial is located right outside the Caen castle, it reads:
"To the memory of the men of the British 3rd Infantry Division. one of the assault divisions landed on D Day, 6 June 1944 and liberated Caen 9 July 1944."
If you are interested in the history aspect, I would really encourage you do to your research on WW2, William the Conqueror, D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, because it is rich in Canadian and American history. It's also a very real reminder of how connected our countries are despite the distances and languages barriers. At the end of the day, we all need and rely on eachther.
Thanks for stopping by and God bless,