The journey from Sophia Bulgaria to Normandy France was a many-splendored thing. But after a shuttle, a flight, a bus, a taxi, a train, and another taxi, we arrived!
For this portion of the trip (3 nights) Laney and I were meeting up with the family of Laney’s friend Aidan. Laney and Aidan have been friends since pre-school. Aidan’s parents – Kiersten and Drew, were kind enough to invite Laney and I to join them on a private tour of the Normandy/D-Day beaches. Drew’s brother, Chris, had done a similar tour a couple years ago, and had arranged for Drew, Kiersten, and Aidan to join the same tour, along with Chris’s wife, Val, their 2 daughters Jen and Laura, and Jen’s husband Randy.
This is a pic of the group of us (minus one, who is taking the picture) at Pegasus Bridge. (Thanks Val!)
Laney and I arrived first at the beautiful hotel, which was a former farmhouse. After a rest, I wandered down to the onsite bar, which was crazy beautiful. Check out these pics! One of the coffee tables was a very very large billows, like for a fire. At least, that’s what it looked like to me!
Laney and Aidan played giant chess. I think they each won one game.
I met a few nice people (Americans, also) hanging out there. We shared travel plans. They were passing through, just stopped for dinner, on their way after visiting the Normandy Beaches.
The rest of the Fasy group joined later in the day, and we met them for dinner. What a great group of people. Everyone was so fun, friendly and excited for the tour to get started the next day.
The menu was great, the wine good too.
The next day we were off to an early start with Colonel Mike! We saw so many amazing sights and heard so many amazing stories from Mike. He is insanely knowledgeable and such a character, too!
From Mike, I learned that, in addition to Americans, English, and Canadians, the Polish contributed to the success of the Allies in France. Shortly following the D-Day landings, 40,000-50,000 Polish soldiers were deployed, in coordination with the British Army in the battle of the Falaise pocket. And there are Polish soldiers in the Bayeux Commonwealth Cemetery. Along with soldiers from many other (for me, unexpected) countries, like Australia and New Zealand.
This is a Polish gravestone in Bayeux. It looks different from the others. The Polish gravestones are pointed on top. Unlike others, which are mostly square with rounded corners.
Some at this cemetery, are buried together. When the remains of ‘comrades in arms’ could not be differentiated (in a plane crash, or tank explosion, for example), soldiers were buried together, as one.
Of the places we visited, Laney’s favourite was definitely the Pont du Hoc Battlefield at Cricquiville-en where there are still bunkers to be explored.
For me, it was the Bayeux Cemetery, the Normandy American Cemetery and the Pegasus Bridge. I literally couldn’t hang with the group at Normandy because I could not stop tearing up at the sight of all those stones. This happened to me years ago when I was here too. And now, it was even worse because I had learned so much more about the D Day landings.
The above are the Normandy American Cemetery pics. That last one is a reflection pool, modelled after the one in DC (again, if memory serves. I’m not fact-checking everything ha!)
Below are bunker pics
These (above) few pics are at the bunkers. That’s Laney’s friend Aidan, and his dad, Drew, in the picture with Laney.
Below, is a series of pics from Pegasus Bridge. This was my favourite for a few reasons. One, we met the owner of the cafe (also, she used to own a museum in the same spot, ask me that story some time) – who was here, in this house, on D-Day. This house was the first house in France to be freed by the Allies following D-Day. She was 4 years old (if memory serves). Very cool. The other reason it is my favourite, is it’s a rather unusual (for me) drawbridge. The one you see here (which we saw go up and down) isn’t the original, the original is in a museum nearby. But it functions the same as the original one did.
At this church (pics below), Laney and Aidan re-created the scene displayed on the sign out front. And noted the bullet holes INSIDE the church. Also, here, is where two paratroopers’ landing was interrupted by the church spires. One of them still hangs there today.
Above, John Steele still hangs from the church
Above, I thought this interesting (as did Chris). The stained glass depicts a combination of religious (Mary/Jesus) and military (soldiers).
This is a picture of a remaining floating dock. Following the D-Day landings, the Allies created a harbour at Arromanches Beach. It was made of concrete Floating Docks, and was named Mulberry Harbor. The docks didn’t last long, however. They were soon mis-aligned and wiped out by storms that followed D-Day. Interesting to me, though, that they float?
Bye Normandy! Thanks for the memories 🙂
After 2 full days of D-day, we had to say good-bye to the Fasy crew and head to the area of Mont St. Michel. We went by train, as usual. And arrived easily. Our Airbnb host offered to meet us at the train station and drive us to her home! How nice!
Turns out that was a good thing because her place was a bit, shall we say, remote? Like just a little town and neighbourhood. Very quaint. Annick was the sweetest host! She had restored the house, which was 128 years old (if memory serves) and created 2 spare bedrooms and a full bath upstairs. We shared the living room and kitchen with her, and she lived on the other side of the house. Her grandson and Son-in-Law were there a lot. I’m not clear if they live there or not. Her daughter was on holiday.
We settled in, and chilled a couple hours, then headed out to dinner. Annick drove us to a nice little campground nearby that has a restaurant. And said she would be back to get us in 2 hours. Laney and I had a nice dinner outside. Salad, mussels, wine. Then we went inside, played some pool and air hockey and had some crazy good crepes. Well, at least I thought they were great at the time.
The next morning, Annick made us a wonderful spread for breakfast. Warm croissants, home made crepes, with 3 kinds of home made jams – with fruit grown in her garden! This woman is my hero! Ha! Of course, coffee and tea too. It was a little rainy so we chilled for a few hours, pulled a workout, and then headed out. Annick let us borrow a couple bikes to get to Mont St Michel. This is where it gets funny (if you’re me) and really annoying (if you’re Laney). The directions she gave us was literally ‘go left, then right, then left, then right, then left…). OK!
We headed out. Apparently we missed a right. Ended up at a T intersection. Choice of going back (2 miles or so) or taking the direct path to Mont St Michel via the unpaved road.
YUP we took the unpaved road. A few corrections later, we finally made it. Laney was cursing me the whole way. HA!
Mont St Michel was beautiful. As usual, I was as interested in the ‘non-sightseeing’ stuff as the THING. This is a bus that shuttles people the (rather long) distance over the bridge to Mont St Michel. What’s cool about that? Well, it drives from either end. SO, no turning around. The driver simply gets off, walks to the other end of the bus, and drives forward again, but going the other way now. Kinda like a train or subway train, I guess. Pretty cool
Before we headed back, we decided to have dinner. By the time we were done, it had started to rain. Just a little. Laney begged me to call a cab, but I couldn’t. We had the bikes! SO, off we went. It didn’t rain TOO much. But we were a little wet when we got home. Thank goodness we had packed our windbreakers. The ride home wasn’t nearly as long as there (because we didn’t make wrong turns, or fewer of them), but it was still pretty long, and against a pretty good (10-15 mph) wind. HA.
Well we got our exercise.
The next morning, we had that same great spread for breakfast, only Annick had made fresh, homemade rhubarb jam because I was so excited to see the rhubarb in her kitchen the day before. AND she gave me a jar to take with me! WHOO HOOO!!!
After breakfast, Annick took us back to the train station. We were headed to Paris!
Another fairly uneventful train ride, followed by a taxi ride and we arrived at our apartment in PARIS!. Adorable. With a loft bed which Laney begged for. Again, we chilled a bit. I went for a walk around to find our Metro station(s), orient myself, buy food, buy wine 🙂 all the required stuff.
This was a cool door to the bathroom. I see Pac Man. “From Paris with Love”. A Rose. The Eiffel tower. A 7. What else do you see?
While I was out walking, I hear the song from Flashdance. You know ‘What a FEELING!’. Well I walk a bit further and it gets louder. I look into a garage (garage door wide open) and what do I see but a gymnasts type of gym. ‘Iron Cross’ type rings, balance beam, etc. and young men in tights doing the gymnast thing. I almost laughed but just smiled. A few stopped and said something to me, of course I had no idea what that was, so I just waved, smiled/laughed and kept walking. HA! TOO FUNNY! I mean, if there is a song that men in America wouldn’t be CAUGHT DEAD working out to, I think it’s that song! I should have taken a picture while the guys were in there, but I was just a little surprised. We stumbled across the same place later, and I took a pic. The guy coming out of this place was in a uniform and I realise now there is a pole in the middle. FIREMEN??!!
The next day, I had booked us an Eiffel tower tour. We were late (see Misc. post) and so had to reschedule for later in the day. Not a big deal. We went out to the new Grand Arch, saw the Arc d Triumph, walked Rue de Elysses, headed back to the Eiffel tower, had lunch and joined our tour.
We saw this restaurant on our walk to the Arc. I was taking a picture because it’s called Deauville, like the restaurant in Strathmere. The waiter made a big fuss like I was taking his picture. HA! Strike a POSE!
Our three favourite selfie pictures.
Smiling, Snarky, and Crazy. From the top!
The Eiffel tower is very busy, and certainly there is an amount of patience needed, but the view from the top and just the pure SIZE of it, is so impressive. Plus we had Champagne, which I don’t normally drink, but hey, when in Paris.
Afterwards we got Laney some cotton candy. For starters, ITS HUGE!! Then, the really funny part. About 10 minutes into eating it, Laney starts freaking out “There’s A BEE IN MY COTTON CANDY”. Yes there was. If he was there from the ‘making’ or flew in later, we’ll never know for sure. I can tell you there were lots of bees flying around the cotton candy stand while he was making it. HA!
The picture was take before the bee was discovered. Maybe you can see it if you look closely? HA
After that, we headed home. For a home-made meal of tomato (and for me, chicken) sandwiches. On fresh baguette. Seriously, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!!
The next day we had an afternoon bike tour booked. Hidden Paris. Supposed to be away from the typical tourist stuff. I used our leftover baguette to make french toast. Get it? FRENCH? OK not funny.But it WAS pretty good.
BUT, before that, I DRAGGED Laney to see Notre Dame. I bought her cappuccino and we drank it there before our bike tour began. We learned nothing, but we got some good pics before other people showed up. Had the place almost to ourselves at 930am. HA.
Yup, going to hell for that one.
It was a good bike tour. I had a bit of a hard time understanding the guide. He apologised in the beginning for his accent. Very cute. We did see the Shakespeare bookstore, and some other interesting places. More importantly, we met some really nice people. Pat and her grand-daughter, Emily, from the west side of Canada. Laney and Emily enjoyed having someone their own age to talk to. Pat and I, well, the same I guess. Pat invited us to come stay with her toward the end of our year, and I think we may just take her up on that!
I also saw this cool sign on the bike tour. It was hard to photograph because it was a mirror on a crowded street. Someone tell Jeff Young I found his Mecca. HA!
Another chill evening, for us.
The next day, we had booked ‘skip the line’ tickets for the Catacombs. This was one thing Laney was very excited for. Thank goodness we had the tickets – the line was crazy long like around the block. And even our short line (with only about 8 people in front of us), it took us 20-30 minutes to get in!
Well, we walked down a LOT of stairs, and entered the catacombs, which originally were dug out for the purpose of mining limestone. Later, the tunnels started to collapse, and so were reinforced. At that same time (or later?) the remains were moved from the city’s cemeteries to the catacombs. They were basically mixed together, in theory separated only by which original graveyard/neighborhood they came from. And the bones in the front (all femurs, if memory serves) are stacked in front with some skulls. Behind that, the bones are pretty much just tossed into the ‘bin’ that is formed. Crazy. You can see it in one of the pics. The random piles of bones.
Almost forgot about the flea market. I think it was the same day as the Catacombs. I gave Laney a choice between a cool park, and the crazy flea market. Both I had read about somewhere. She chose the flea market. Well, off we went on the metro again (Did I mention how much I love the Paris metro system? It totally rocks. – especially when you’re look at the right map.). Funny story. So, on about the 2nd or 3rd day, Laney and I head out to get somewhere. I had somewhat scoped it out as far as getting there by metro, on the map I had at home. But I needed a quick reminder. So, when we got to the metro station, I spotted a map and started trying to confirm my plan. as I always do. Well, nothing looked right. Stops were NOT in the right place, but some of the names were the same. Like the whole shape of the metro was wrong, different than I was used to seeing it. I seriously thought I had lost my mind or that my brain just was not working. Laney was off buying tickets. When she came back I explained how it didn’t look right. I was a little freaked out because time was wasting and we needed to be somewhere on time. I asked Laney to go find another map. She did. I looked at that one (also on the wall of the metro) and it totally made sense, looked familiar, the whole thing. Looking back at the original map I was looking at, well, it was a bus map. YUP. Give me a sign. I’M STUPID. HA. That was in the main Metro station that we used about half the time from our flat. So, every time we went in, Laney would ask ‘Mom do you want to take a look at the map?’ and point at it. Kids. Can’t live with ’em…… and probably get caught if you kill em. SO, she lives on. HA.
ANYWAY back to my original story. So we headed out to the flea market. When we got there, and even on the Metro on the way there, my instincts were telling me this was not the BEST neighbourhood. I reminded Laney to be cautious. I followed some vague directions and found A flea market. The one I read about was supposed to be something special. Unique things. This was T shirts, sneakers, leather jackets, the usual crap. Finally, walking a little further, I peeked down an alley to my left and saw weird stuff. So, I convinced Laney to go that way. Well, we def saw some weird stuff. The article I read also said the stuff was weird and for insane prices. From what I saw, this seemed to be true. I mean, 5Euro for an antique bicycle bell? or two for a toy train ‘street’ sign? I mean it’s not a lot of money but these things are TINY. And there’s a lot of them! We saw lots of weird stuff. Strangely enough, I was quite entertained. Laney was bored, so we left. HA.
On the last full day in Paris, I convinced Laney to go to the Salvador Dali museum. I thought she would like it. Well, not so much. I liked it. Laney is completely over the museum thing. Maybe I’m just not good at making things interesting. HA. Whatever.
Above a cool trick. The two figures are the same, but flipped over. The gold looks like an elephant but the reflection is of the swan. Vice versa on the swan. Not a great pic. SO I got these from my friend Google Images
Above, a chess set made from models of Dali’s fingers (and his wife’s for the queens, if memory serves). This was made for some kind of charity.
This one above is cool. the drawing of an insect is transformed into a self-portrait (of Dali) when looked at on a curved mirrored surface.
This Abe was on a magnet as we left through the gift shop. Not a great pic since it’s a pic of a 2×3″ magnet, but I liked it and wanted to send it to my friend Karen who is a big ‘Abe’ fan. Or is it a ‘big Abe’ fan? or a big ‘Big Abe’ fan? whatever.
When we finished at the Dali museum we had a snack and drink at the adorable cafe with some live entertainment. First a guy on a cello. Then a tight-rope walker.
When we left (to go down ALL THE STAIRS we had come up – there were 2 or 3 sets like the pic below), we noticed a bustling area nearby so went to check it out. It was the artists area, where they do paintings and the like. Rather touristy perhaps, but we ended up paying them for these, nonetheless. Kinda cute how they incorporated Laney’s glasses (on her face) and mine (on my head). A good, packable, memory!
The next day, we packed up, cleaned up, and headed out to the airport (via Uber – I love uber). HA. We were flying to Krakow, Poland! The motherland! HA!
A/N – wow, when I look back at all of this I can hardly believe how much we have done. No wonder we’re tired! HA!
Ciao for now readers! Thank you for following along!
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