As we drove from Pointe du Hoc back toward Omaha, we passed another interesting site that I had spotted as we passed, an apple orchard. We had to stop …
The Lebrec family business is set up around an ancient U shaped building. You drive through the archway (above), pulling into a huge courtyard. The proprietor, Bernard Lebrec, greeted us as we got out of the car, followed by an enormous Labrador who’s only goal was to drop at your feet and get his belly rubbed. Looking around, you come to see just how big the place is. I asked him how many people live here? He responded that his mother lives in the main house, he rents out an apartment on one end and .. on Mondays he lives there (pointing), on Tuesdays there (pointing), on Wednesdays here, at which point he burst out laughing.
A picture of the wall, with the manor house in the background.
An outside view of one of the walls. Imagine being a kid here, exploring all the rooms …
Of course I had to ask if the place was occupied during the war. Sure enough, his family moved to Paris while the German army occupied the home. Hard to imagine, giving up your home and all the possessions that you own to the occupier. As Stephen Ambrose says in Band of Brothers (page 143):
As had been true of the villages of France on both sides of the line on the Western Front 1914-1918, the civilian residents of the Island were evacuated (and Holland is the most densely populated country on earth). This gave the men almost unlimited opportunities for looting., opportunities that were quickly seized. Webster wrote, “civilians dwell under the misapprehension that only Germans and Russians go through their drawers, closets and chicken coops, whereas every G.I. of my acquaintance made a habit of doing so.” Watches, clocks, jewellery, small (and large) pieces of furniture, and of course liquor quickly disappeared – that is, what was left, as the British had already stripped the area.
We picked up a bottle of strong cider, Calvados, which I detest. Not unlike Scotch:
Calvados, from Normandy, is a spirit is made of cider through a process called double distillation. In the first pass, the result is a liquid containing 28%–30% alcohol. In a second pass, the amount of alcohol is augmented to about 40%.
We also picked up a bottle of sparkling cider, or what the French call bouche (Bouché simply means that the cider is in a pressure bottle with a champagne style pressure cork). Only 5% alcohol and a very distinct taste. Hard to describe, other than earthy and fantastic. I would have loved to have grabbed a case at €5 a bottle, had I known I would like it so much. A quick look on the LCBO website shows a Quebec variant (At 3X the cost). They describe it as:
Clear straw colour and sparkling; aromas and flavours of fresh apple; off dry on the palate, with refreshing acidity on the finish.
What a great place. Back in the car, we headed to Omaha (again).
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