Home Alone – Jeannie
This weekend featured an air show outside of Rennes. Chris had been looking forward to it and we planned to attend on Sunday as it was to begin in the morning and we thought it would be less crowded. On Saturday we walked around the town hall looking an exhibit of photos from the time of the liberation of Rennes 70 years ago. Happy yet difficult times.
As we strolled through the town, we first heard the roar and then saw several jets swoop across the sky, leaving blue, white, and red trails. We caught a short portion of several aerial displays but it ended at 5:30. After some discussion, we decided that Chris would go alone on Sunday, leaving before 10. I knew that he would want to wander freely looking for photo opportunities, and I would likely want to leave before he was ready. So I decided to have a day at home alone.
Chris packed his gear and left by 9:30 to catch the first bus. I decided to do a few chores: wash dishes, iron a few things, sweep floors, practice French (sigh, will I ever really learn?!). In Florida on a day like today I would likely have phoned a friend and gone to the mall for a day of shopping and lunch out. But this is France, and just about everything is closed on Sunday.
So, I decided to wander a bit. Given my poor sense of direction (even after a month of walking this area, it would not be difficult to get lost, or at least confused.) But it was cool, and very overcast, and lonely walking by myself. So after walking a big square pattern to make sure I could find my way home, I stopped at the boulangerie for a sandwich to take home to eat.
I decided that my daily goal of walking at least 5 miles would take a rest day. So I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the couch, reading (an American novel), and playing digital Scrabble or “Words with Friends”. Then I thought I should write a little since my contributions have been lacking (my excuse is that typing is hard on my healing wrist and one handed takes too long).
Well, it’s almost 5, wine needs to be opened, and Chris just texted he is on his way home. Hope we can find a restaurant open on Sunday evening!
How can it almost be evening already?!!
Home Away – Chris
I had been looking forward to the Rennes Airshow for some time. Jeannie was quietly reluctant about going but didn’t express any enthusiasm. After some discussions, I told her it was ok if she didn’t go, and she agreed that considering the conditions that might be found she would be happier with a day at home.
The previous day we had seen the military jets flying in formation over the city of Rennes and releasing their multicolored smoke trails over the airshow site before flaring skyward in various directions before regrouping and returning in some other dramatic formation. Visually it was impressive, but the sound of jet engines reverberating through the medieval streets was quite curious. I was eager to be going.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the D-day invasion and the liberation of France, and there are commemorations and remembrances of all types throughout France, but especially in Brittany and Normandy.
As I approached the “Expo Parc” there were various French military planes and helicopters lining the way in. In the distance at the edge of the large field where the crowds were allowed was a WWII reinactment area where 20+ French men in their late teens to late fifties were all dressed in various styles of period US and French military garb in settings that recreated life behind the front lines in late summer 1944. Olive drab tents with cots, ammo boxes, and field radios were among the many articles of war that set the stage surrounded the actors who played their parts working the radio, discussing old maps and having conversations with their comrades and officers. All the while they were aware of people with their children or those with cameras. Answering questions about their character’s role in the war, posing for photos or holding children, they were patient and enthusiastic. There were US flags all around the site, especially on the many restored US army vehicles in full combat dress. Curiously, as the soldiers in US uniforms would tell stories or explain things, it was of course all in French, and even though I understood little, there was frequent reference to the role that the US had in the liberation and it was told with obvious respect.
The airshow was hampered by low hanging clouds and high winds. But that didn’t prevent the brave pilots who started the show in their slow, light WWI or earlier planes from taking to the skies. The most impressive was the Fokker tri-wing that was a faithfully restored machine similar to the one flown by the “Baron Rouge” or Red Baron. The tight maneuvers, rolls and turns were remarkable, and on more than one low-level pass the pilot fired his twin machine-guns.
Many other flying machines took to the air performing their skills and making many passes in front of the appreciative crowd. As the WWII planes took to the air, the announcer frequently made reference to the US roles.
My favorite, and one of the planes that I had been waiting to see fly was the Spitfire Mk XIX. The British-built French-marked plane was a favorite of mine during my childhood. It held a place in my imagination as strong as Davy Crocket, or Zorro. A decidedly powerful plane, it took to the sky with a roar. It was only a small leap to imagine a sky full of such fighters grouping to escort bombers or in dogfights against the German Luftwaffe.
The images in my mind became reality as the Spitfire would pass low over the runway then pull up almost vertically before rolling over and performing successive turns. Though I reminded myself that it was a war machine, it was still a thing of beauty.
It was shortly after the Spitfire landed that a rainstorm that had been approaching from the distance began to close in and since it had been a long day I decided to begin heading home. I was going to miss the other plane that I had been hoping to see fly, the P-51 Mustang. But that might have to be another day and another place.