So many times I will accept an invitation to something in France and then have no idea what I am getting into. It always ends up being just fine-- I'm usually just extremely under-dressed-- but then I comfort myself with the reminder that because I'm American the French have verrrry low expectations for how I look.
Yesterday the French-American Alliance of Caen took me, Daniel, Megan, Rachel, and Ashley to a Memorial Day service at the American Military Cemetery. We didn't know we were going to a ceremony, first of all, and second of all, I had completely forgotten that it was Memorial Day Weekend, but it was a pleasant surprise. The service was very beautiful. A few senators, representatives, and troops from the United States were there (one of our soldiers fainted-- it was pretty hot outside!), as were various leaders from around France.
One veteran who actually fought in D-Day told his story. That was my favorite part, because somehow he managed to be lighthearted in spite of all of the tragedy he was recounting, and it was just an incredible story. I felt awful because it was not translated into French and so the French speakers in the audience must have been bored out of their minds. The old French couple sitting next to Daniel revealed what they had really been paying attention to while he spoke; at the end of the story as we were clapping, they turned to Daniel and said, "Ecoutez les grenouilles!" (Listen to the frogs!) and pointed out the frogs in the lily pond next to them that they had been watching.
After that there was a cocktail reception attended by many of the US and French officers and perhaps even a senator or two, though I'm not sure, and then the French-American Alliance took us out to dinner at this fantastic and very expensive buffet of the best French food... YUM. After a promenade on the beach we went home, collapsed, and nursed our sunburns.
The American Military Cemetery is an incredibly powerful sight to see. Omaha Beach, which is in view as you walk around is so peaceful and beautiful that it's hard to believe that just 65 years ago thousands of soldiers were fighting and dying right where people are now swimming and windsurfing.