A Travellerspoint blog

On This Memorial Day Weekend

It seems fitting that we have returned on Memorial Day weekend. After rewatching Finding Private Ryan on the plane home and now watching Band of Brothers on History Channel, I can't help but think how brave all those men and women were. They enlisted with a purpose, followed orders without question, and fought with valor, many times to their death.

As a mom, and I think also as a woman, the terrible loss of hundreds of thousands of lives in so many wars seems pointless. And, maybe, some conflicts, aka wars, were. But WWII had a mission, and after spending two weeks in Europe visiting so many sites that were integral in the war, I realize that. Hitler and his war machine put little to no value on people's lives. He needed to be stopped, and thank God, our military did just that.

Yet, the loss of even one life is tragic. So many families forever changed because of the horrors of this war for freedom from tyranny. Let's remember each of those lives this weekend and urge our leaders to think twice about our role in conflicts with other nations. Let's keep our young men and women safe and use our higher intelligence to find peaceful ways to settle those conflicts.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope it encourages you to get out there and travel and learn and cross some items off your bucket list!

Pat

Posted by pklein9747 17:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The End

Going Home

semi-overcast
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Up early at 6:00 and on the tour bus at 6:45. Not everyone on the tour is heading home today. Some have decided to extend their vacation in Paris or to head to London. Us? We’re happy to be going home. This was definitely a whirlwind tour, and we’re tired.

Flight out of Paris was delayed 35 minutes already this morning, and we had more than enough time, even in Parisian traffic, to get to the airport. The airport was a mob scene, and we are grateful that our tour guides, Rene’ and Bicca were there to direct us to the check-in areas. You know it must have been bad at the airport when even I feel overwhelmed about where to go and what to do. We were happy to get to our gate and relax with some breakfast snacks while waiting for our flight.

The flight over to the US was just shy of 9 hours and that 35 minute initial delay plus a short delay in taking off put us in Detroit (Yeah, I know…Detroit…yuck) at 2:10. Our flight to Orlando was leaving at 3:50, so we had less than 2 hours to get our luggage, go through customs and immigration, recheck our luggage, find our gate and get on the plane. Customs was a piece of cake…we have Global Entry so the process so much easier. But, it took forever to get our luggage and then we had to recheck it. Why? Something to do with agricultural check. I forgot to claim the cheese I bought. Hope it doesn’t hold our luggage back. Then into the terminal, through security again, almost went to the wrong gate, but finally found where we needed to be. We had 10 minutes to catch our breath before we had to board our flight. Whew!!! And who said traveling was fun??

Can’t wait to sleep in our own bed tonight and get up tomorrow and just sit around without having to rush out onto a bus.

We loved the trip but it was nonstop. We actually enjoyed the long trips on the bus as it gave us a break. But we saw some amazing sites and learned much more than we ever dreamed. Even Bill learned new things about WWII.

Will post some thoughts on our trip tomorrow.

Posted by pklein9747 21:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Coming to an End

Paris

sunny 70 °F
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Six years ago when we were in Paris, we had booked a fabulous walking tour with a company called Sightseekers Delight. Our guide took us all through the central area of Paris to see the sights. So, two years ago, when we booked this trip and knew we would have time to ourselves in Paris, we decided to contact them and arrange another tour. Since we had almost all day, we chose two tours: the Pere’ Lachaise Cemetery and the French Resistance tours. Of course these were walking tours, and two years ago Bill’s health was much better, but the tour guide was willing to work with us and rest when we could, so we figured, “Let’s do it!”

Karen, the amicable owner of Sightseekers Delight, was our tour guide for “Pere’ Lachaise Cemetery. We Ubered over and met her at the side entrance to the cemetery. We could tell she easily knew her way around. This was a cemetery like we’ve never seen before, with gravesites old and new, gothic and modern, crumbling and shiny, the bizarre and everyday. Karen explained that you have to have lived in France in order to be eligible to be buried here. Many of the gravesites are “rented” for 40-50 years. After that, the casket is dug up, the remains are cremated, and the families are given the ashes of their loved one. However, if you are famous, have a lot of money or influence, you can remain in the cemetery in perpetuity…forever.

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We saw many of those famous graves: Mollier-the French author, Sarah Bernhardt-the famous actress, Chopin-the composer, Marcelle Marceau - the mime, Oscar Wilde-the playwright, and of course, Jim Morrison of the Doors. It is rumored that Cher has already purchased a plot for herself, as she lived in France for about 6 months.

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They also have several haunting memorials to the Holocaust and those French Jewish citizens who were rounded up and executed. It seems that our tour has come full circle.

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We ate a pleasant lunch with our tour guide in another pretty French cafe (Is there any other type?) and then headed off to continue our touring about the French Resistance Movement.

We thought this tour would be so relevant to our WWII trip, and we were right. The French Resistance arose as the Germans began to invade France and the French government easily gave up to them. Charles De Gualle, at the time, was the head of the military and did not agree that the French should surrender to Germany and led the Free French. Through the BBC, he urged French men and women to fight for their freedom. This led to the Resistance movement which thwarted the Germans whenever they could through underground newspapers, espionage, and even bombing places that Germans were known to hang out. The Resistance was critical in providing information about German plans and locations to the Allies.

Because Bill was quite tired, we didn’t do a lot of walking for this tour. We mostly sat in a lovely, little park near some landmarks where the Resistance operated. We did, however, get a chance to see Notre Dame. Karen said they are working diligently on restoring it and the government plans to have it completed by the 2024 summer Olympics.

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The group had a set meeting place near the Louvre, so we hustled over there to meet up with everyone and travel to have our required COVID test performed so we could return to the U.S. Everyone was very concerned about some testing positive, as the tour leader had told us about that other Image Tour where nine people tested positive. Well, everyone in our group must have really studied, as everyone passed! It was such a relief to test negative. We certainly didn’t want to quarantine in a room in Paris for seven days.

Our last stop for our tour was the Montmartre area of Paris, which in days gone by, was the home and hangout for many of the great artists and thinkers of the early 20th Century: Monet, Picasso, and others. The Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Church, sits high on a hill in Montmartre, and looks over the city of Paris. It provides an amazing view! If you don’t want to walk the hundreds of steps to the top, you can take a funicular. That was so much easier.

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For our last night, we walked with a couple we met to an Italian Restaurant which looked like it was near the church. It was a 9 minute walk but the hills and twisty streets in Montmartre made it feel like we were walking for an hour. But we found the restaurant, and it was so worth it. The food was delicious and the wine was superb. We had to meet our group back up at the church for our transportation home. Thank goodness for that funicular to get us back up there.

All in all, an informative and enjoyable, though tiring day, for the very last day of our tour. Tomorrow we head home. Neither of us are looking forward to that long flight but are anxious to be back in our own beds and to relax in our recliners.

Posted by pklein9747 20:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

It Was Truly a World War

Caen & Paris France

semi-overcast 65 °F
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A very late start today as the museum in Caen did not open until 9:00 and we were only 15 minutes away. The Caen Memorial Museum is dedicated to the wars and conflicts of the 20th Century and particularly on WWII in Normandy. The entrance is significant as it represents the break in the German’s “Atlantic Wall” that allowed the Allies to penetrate into France.

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While the museum has the normal artifacts, ie guns and uniforms, it also focuses on civilian life before and during the war. I found it sad to see the poster urging mothers to send their children away to the countryside to keep them safe and the little valises that contains the children’s belongings.

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I’ve never really thought about what world war meant. It has always just been part of description for the wars in the early/mid 20th Century. But the map on the wall in the museum was like a light bulb going off. Almost the entire world was involved in World War II. It was eye opening and thought-provoking.

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The museum was built over a genuine German bunker which was headquarters to the infantry division in charge of defending part of the coast of France. Crucial decisions were made in the bunker about holding off an offensive by the Allies.

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To lighten the mood, there were quite a few sheep, including a lamb out behind the entrance to the bunker.

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The museum also focused on other wars and conflicts particularly the Cold War and Vietnam. It was interesting to see a tableau of a Russian living room and a living room in the U.S.

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Then we went to the Pegasus Museum which celebrates the English glider pilots during the Battle of Normandy.

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Lunch today was in an exceptionally small French Cafe who is owned by a woman who epitomizes the French…curt, quick-tempered and fast moving. When I asked if I could take pictures of the memorabilia in the cafe, she quickly said, “NO pictures inside!” Okay. Well, could I just take a picture of her? “NO. Only outside and if it is not raining.” Since it was raining a bit, II never got a picture of her. We had a delicious homemade tomato soup and scrumptious baguette.

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Then it was off to Paris. Not the prettiest entry into the city as traffic was bumper to bumper and there was graffiti all over the highway. But everyone was excited to be in the City of Lights…Paris… a bucket list location for many on our trip. I had mixed emotions about coming again. It’s not one of my favorite cities but maybe this trip will change our mind. Our hotel is nice, though far from everything. However, we have a nice view of the Canal de la Villette from our hotel.

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Because of the traffic we had a few minutes to get settled in our rooms and then it was off to our “Farewell” dinner, even though we have another full day of touring. And what a dinner it was! We arrived at this small Parisian restaurant called Janette’s Wedding. Bottles of wine where on the tables, a delicious menu including escargot, quiche, duck a la orange, chicken in mushrooms and French pastry for dessert. Even Bill ate everything! Well…not escargot…that would be a miracle…LOL! We were entertained by a happy accordion player who had people up dancing and singing along. It was so much fun and everyone enjoyed our last dinner together.

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After dinner, we had a surprise evening tour of Paris and it was enchanting. The sunset made for some perfect lighting as we made a picture stop at the Louvre. And then we were off to see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory as it welcomed the night with a glittering display.

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I think I might be changing my mind about Paris.

Posted by pklein9747 20:42 Archived in France Comments (1)

Thanks to the Brave, We Are Free

Normandy

rain 60 °F
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A very busy, full day of seeing sites related to D-Day. We were on the bus by 7:45 and took a short 45 minute drive to our first stop, Pointe du Hoc, about 4 miles west of Omaha Beach. The US Army rangers scaled the 110 ft cliff to capture a group of German bunkers, machine guns and ammunition. You can still see the craters from where the mortars hit. Of all days, it is pouring today. But we’re prepared.

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Next stop was Utah Beach. One of the two landing spots for our troops in Normandy. It always amazes me that while there are monuments throughout, the beaches are for public use. Today we saw two trotter horses training near the surf.

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Afterwards we traveled to the little French town of Sainte Mere Eglise, which was the first French town to be liberated by the Allies. There we had an opportunity to tour the Airborne Museum. It was excellent with lots of artifacts and interactive displays. I also found the first marker on the Road to Victory.

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We ate lunch in a little cafe nearby, then visited the church in the square. It was here that a member of the 505th Parachute Infantry, John Steele’s, parachute caught on the spire of the town church. He could only observe the fighting going on below him and pretended he was dead for two hours until he was captured by the Germans. He did escape later and returned to his division.
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After lunch, we visited several spots on Omaha Beach. There was a monument at one stop which gave tribute to the 1st Infantry. Bill’s dad was in the 1st but was not involved in D-Day as he had a medical discharge the year before. The metal sculpture on the beach is entitled, “The Brave”.
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There is also a German pillbox that was turned into a monument and was featured in a famous picture during the Allied invasion. You can see the back of the pillbox in the left of the picture.
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Having never been exposed to any type of military service, it still amazes me that those young boys and men obediently stepped into the surf up to their waists and began that long trek from the sea to the beaches in Normandy, all while the Germans focused their guns and ammunition at them. God bless them for their bravery.

We then had a chance to experience the new museum at the American Cemetery. A short tour of the cemetery and it’s beautiful grounds and location were a must. It makes me grateful that those servicemen and women who gave their lives for our freedom are truly resting in peace in an area filled with such respect and beauty.
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We continued our busy day at the German Artillery Batteries at Longues-Sur-Mer. It formed part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. It is the only remaining site that still retains all of its original guns.
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Our last stop of the day was in the town of Arromonches where the Allies built artificial harbors or “mulberry harbors”. Mulberry was a code name with no specific meaning behind it. The mulberries were used by the Allies to offload tons of supplies and equipment. The bases would go across the water and the metal part, aka the “whale” would sit on top and tie together to form a road across the floating harbor.
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We had dinner at a nice little French cafe…and had lasagna! It was good! Then took a short walk through the town.
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A very busy and interesting day filled with stories of courage and ingenuity that helped us win the war.

Can’t believe our trip is almost over. Tomorrow we’re off to Paris in the afternoon. The last hotel of our trip for two more nights.

Posted by pklein9747 19:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

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