One of the most famous buildings in France? Definitely amongst a certain generation of men, (not many of whom remain), and their progeny.
This small building, insignificant before September 1944, was amongst the first buildings to be liberated by allied troops during the invasion. The bridge, not 100 metres from this café was the object of probably the most brilliant piece of flying of the entire Second World War.
To see this little piece of history, is to step back in time. On entering, Arlete Gondrée, formidable patron of the establishment, looked up and gave me a smile, when she saw I was wearing a top indicating I was one of those that followed in the footsteps of those hero’s who landed here all those years ago. No photo’s are allowed inside, it would have been easy to take one but I respected the rules. You don’t come here for excellent food, (even the coffee isn’t great if i’m honest), you come here to pay respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom today. You come here because this little building, with its musty dark interior, its little museum of trinkets and artefacts from the time and its countless souvenirs left by paratroopers on visits since 1945, is a living piece of history, and Arlete Gondrée is part of the link.
Once you’ve visited the café, spoken to the living legend that is Mme Gondrée and eaten or drunk your order, I beg you to walk across the river by the bridge, turn right walk no more than 100 metres and pay your respects to those courageous glider pilots and soldiers who captured the bridge back in those dark desperate days.
It is difficult to imagine the sensations they must have felt, being the first Allied soldiers on occupied soil, but thanks to their courage and tenacity, today Europe is free from the shackles imposed by the Third Reich, and for that we should be forever grateful. That is why you should come to Café Gondrée.