04-Sep-2010 -- A Busy Day at the Beach…
Soon after deciding to make a trip to my uncle and namesake’s grave overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, my thoughts turned to Calais’s sometimes submerged beach confluence point.
Our plans called for a midday Saturday ferry across the Channel from Dover; and, the best we could determine, low tide at 51N 2E would be late that afternoon. Conditions with the cool water and warm air were a little hazy, but almost calm (good enough for a long swim, we later discovered), producing a delightful passage. After picking up a rental car just before the local Hertz staff closed for their two hour lunch break, we headed east towards Gravelines and Dunkerque. In hindsight, we should have avoided the congestion of the centre of town, at least until we got some experience with French traffic circles (roundabouts) and street/highway markings; but after a few false starts we were paralleling the coastline on our way towards Oye-Plage.
We found the parking at the break in the dune line extremely crowded, as many folks were taking advantage of a gloriously sunny day on the French coast. In fact, we were amazed at the diversity of activity occurring close to the confluence point, ranging from photographing a wedding party, to parafoil buggy riding, to the lighting of the World Harmony Run torch by Vasanti Niemz, a woman who had just swum the English Channel (for the second time after a 25 year sabatical!) as the starting part of an ultra triathlon, going Dover – Calais – Brussels – Aachen, through five countries, with a 21+ mile English Channel solo swim (no wetsuit), 300 km on a bike, and ending with running two marathons. Why, it made my little 4,000 mile confluence journey to reach 51N 2E seem piddling by comparison! [“Today’s impossible dreams tomorrow give birth to not only possible but also inevitable realities.” -Sri Chinmoy]
However, bypassing all of these people, the only question remaining for us was if a sufficient amount of low tide flats was exposed for us to reach all zeroes. Thankfully the surf line was still a good ways away when we successfully reached our goal. Completing our first European confluence point could not have been any more enjoyable! To paraphrase the poet James Russell Lowell, writing about another type of quest, “What is so rare as a day in September, then if ever come days to remember…”
Continued at 54N-01W.