The ship docked in Normandy on April 28 under heavy grey skies and ice cold showers. Hordes of our shipmates spent a bundle for long bus rides to Paris but we decided to pass on that deal. We chose instead to wander around Le Havre. Not an overly welcoming place, Le Havre.

We faced the prickles of Normandy’s unwelcoming day to see the city’s most touted landmark: Eglise St. Joseph, a cathedral built during the 1950s which serves as a memorial to the thousands of citizens killed in WWII. Our reaction was: Wow. Simply, wow. We were awestruck but probably not in the way the architects intended. This church is something out of Mad Max and Thunderdome.

As we sat in a pew we were overcome by an unholy feeling and imagined ourselves in a dystopian hell. While I will give points for creative use of concrete, our overwhelming impression is that this is a monument to the architects. The feeling of emptiness in St. Joseph was so lingering that we felt compelled to stay out in the rain to wash ourselves clean in a real cathedral and thereby eradicate the heebie jeebies. (So sorry but none of our photos adequately captured the monstrous ugliness of the church interior.)

Braving the cold, we wandered through the old sections of town that weren’t bombed to smithereens by the Germans. After some wet and windy interludes, we beheld the vision of St.-Denis. Ahhh. She is a beauty; a soaring traditional cathedral whose doors are left open to wet, cold travelers on a nasty spring afternoon. “Thank you, beautiful St. Denis. You left us warm, dry, and hopeful on a stone cold day.”