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St. Nazaire, France, in April

August 23, 2016


Monday, August 22 @ 1909

I think it was April, 2011, when P. and Josiah and I went to Paris, France, to catch a train to St. Nazaire.  Did I already tell you that on the appointed day we showed up at the Gare d L’Est about 30 minutes early to find our train to the coast.  We found the train, slipped into the car, found comfortable seats, and settled in for a wait.  The time for our train’s departure came and went.  I looked out the window.  Nobody there.  It dawned on me.  Whoa.  Wrong train.

Thanks to our grandson, Josiah, who figured out that we needed to find a ticket window with a British flag (signifying English was spoken).  The woman told us that we had one chance to trade our ticket for another.  If we paid a huge sum.  We paid the sum, lined up for the correct train, and squeezed in.

The train took us out of Paris, out into the countryside.  Oh, I remember seeing many a stonewall with sort of good-natured graffiti sprayed all around.  Then more stone walls.  More graffiti.  Eventually we came to countrysides with farms

I remember a farm with a tractor.  Most of the farms looked small, but I don’t remember seeing much livestock.  Just telephone poles, occasionally big barns, large white buildings, I gave Josiah my camera and asked him to take a few pictures.  He didn’t look enthusiastic, so I assured him that he could take as many photographs as he wanted.  Result?  Hundreds of pictures from the train, mostly blurred green from the April countryside.  Exactly what I’d hoped for.

Eventually we reached a station where we would be required to detrain, find another train, and entrain.  This proved to be too much.  I believe Josiah asked a trainman who hustled us away from where we had been heading and toward another place where we caught a train.

I almost forgot that we found a WC for men, and another WC for women.  Also we found a place to purchase some bread and probably some cheese and perhaps some fruit.  These things gave us the strength to continue our journey.

Throughout all of these adventures Josiah kept steering his grandparents toward St. Nazaire.  Toward the goal of the trip.

Why St. Nazaire?

Did I remember to tell you that St. Nazaire was one of two submarine bases held by the Nazis during World War II?  My uncle Carl’s 66th division got orders to contain the Nazis within the bases at St. Nazaire and Lorient.  Unfortunately, my uncle Carl Bonde was not with the rest of the division.  He vanished when his troopship was torpedoed on Christmas Eve, 1944.

When I had been to the final reunion of Carl’s army company in 2006, the old men there told me about their duty during WWII was to contain the Germans who were holed up in the impregnable fortresses at St. Nazaire and Lorient.  I chose St. Nazaire to visit because of one of the old veterans, Wally Merza, who told me about the museum there where he donated his Army uniform.  I had a photo of Wally in my pocket.

I ended up seeing Wally’s uniform at a museum called, “The Grand Blockhouse,” or “Le Grand Blockhaus,” at La Baule.  Turns out La Baule is a famous beach in France, something like Miami Beach in the U.S.A.   Josiah, P. and I took a taxi to the Grand Blockhouse and saw La Baule.  We saw riders on horseback galloping on the beach.  Jacques Tati staged his great films about Monsieur Hulot there.

You know, we never did visit the submarine pens at St. Nazaire, but I got photographs from the Internet.

We did enjoy visiting the museum and we enjoyed allowing Josiah to steer us back to Paris. April in Paris.  And many more of his photographs.

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