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Paint-Fox Port-en-Bessin (Read 3475 times)
May 16th, 2004 at 7:26pm

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“Bonjour Mme. Doumergues,” Blair greeted the owner of the hotel we where we used to stay. “You really need to say hello to M. Doumergues,” she told him, as the two walked together to the Hotel Perryve, not far from our apartment.  The Perryve was our home away from home as we planned our move and our business in Paris.  In 1996, they let us keep 175 pounds of carpet samples in their basement for three months – when Madame says Blair must say hello to Monsieur, Blair does.

Along the way, Blair and she talked about our paintings.  “What you need to do,” she insisted, “is paint pictures of the beach at Normandy and sell them during the big Debarquement events in June.”   M. Doumergues barked a gruff “bon jour” and Blair hurried home with the idea.

You don’t have to ask me twice to go the beach.  We called Quentin and set our plan to leave the next morning.  We got a reservation for a view room at a reasonable price – we were among only three guests at the hotel.

Two long jetties encircle the port at Port-en-Bessin.  The smallest boats sit in the mud during low tide, and a series of locks protect the larger boats.  Port-en-Bessin was the fuel port during the Debarkment of June, 1944.   It is 12 kilometers south of Arromanche, where the [still existing] bridge of pontoons was constructed, to bring men ashore.

We ate lunch at Arromanche.  The owner of the Creperie shook Quentin’s hand and praised him for his part in the liberation of France.

We all painted pictures around Port-en-Bessin:  Quentin watercolors, Blair oils, and my acrylic images.  None of us painted very serious scenes – it is just too much fun at the beach to recall the past.   We searched for galleries, and ended up with a possible show at the local town hall in the coming year.  They are not sure they want beach scenes, anyway.

I was approached by three men (painting outdoors invites interruption), who, in a mess of English and French, asked me where they were.  With a piece of charcoal I wrote “Port-en-Bessin”, and suggested they go the tourist office nearby.  At first I thought they were gypsies, and tried to keep an eye on my paints and brushes, but I later discovered they were [former East] Germans.

A large German cemetery lies just South of Port-en-Bessin.  There is a peace garden commemorating the more than 20,000 young men (some only 15 or 16) who died here on “the other side”.  1,200 maple trees represent the twelve hundred or so Germans buried here in France.

Blair met an old woman, who remembered Port-en-Bessin before it was such a port.  “My children played and swam on the sandy beach”, she told him.   Later, the harbor was dredged to receive larger boats.

On Saturday morning, we started back for Paris.  We visited the cathedral in Bayeux, consecrated in 1077.   We passed the war memorial in Caen, honoring William the Conqueror.     There, we decided to turn off for lunch – I saw a lighthouse on the map, just a few kilometers up on the coast.

In heavy fog, we arrived.  Over mussels and white wine the fog lifted to reveal not only the lighthouse, but a nauti-fete (nautical festival).  We viewed the miniature boat pool, the (life size) large wooden boats from the forties, and a show of Newfoundland dogs.

We bought a mini-painting from a retired Merchant Marine.  We pressed him to tell us about his favorite ports.  “The Far East” he replied, “Indonesia!”  A cricket landed on the table as we passed him our seven Euros, and I knew that he brought us good luck.


Laurie (painting and text) and Blair PESSEMIER
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