Monday, June 2, 2014

France 2014 - Part 6

April 16 – Wednesday

Today was our D-Day experience. After an early breakfast, we met our local guide, Stuart Robertson, for a tour of the battlefields. 
We began at the German cemetery. The statue at the center of the graveyard says it all. A tall cross in the center is flanked by a man and a woman—the parents left to grieve the dead soldier. Those who fought at Normandy were not the elite troops. Many were POWs from Russia and Poland who had been released only if they agreed to fight with the German troops. They did not support Germany’s aggression, and many were older men and young boys.

We stopped in Sainte-Mère-Église, made famous in the movie The Longest Day where Red Buttons played the paratrooper John Steele whose chute caught on the steeple of the church. A manikin still hangs there today to commemorate the event.
Next we went to Utah Beach. Stuart gave us a thorough overview of the strategy and execution of the invasion.
We ate lunch at an historical farmhouse (sandwiches, chips, fruit, yogurt, and a Twix bar). The owner is quite a character who served in the US, British, and Canadian air forces. He is restoring the old building.
On to Pointe du Hoc where the rangers rappelled up the cliff to disable the German guns.
 We finally reached Omaha Beach. There we watched a short video featuring veterans telling their stories in their own words, followed by the visit to the beach. Although the day was clear, it was cold and windy.
The tour ended with the American Cemetery. Very moving.
Back in Bayeux, we went to the local brassiere, Larry had the plat du jour: pork with a mushroom sauce, pommes frites (French fries), and ratatouille. I asked if I could get just a bowl of ratatouille. The waiter gave me a strange look but said I could—and it was delicious! Of course we had the ubiquitous basket of bread (baguette).
Jack and Soledad from our group joined us. Several of the others also ate at the same place.
Larry had a sundae for dessert, and I ordered coffee ice cream. We finished with cups of espresso. Delicious, as always.
Back in our room, we repacked our suitcases and got ready to leave the next morning.

April 17 – Thursday

Another delicious breakfast. We usually had a spread including yogurt, fruit, juices, croissants, cereal, eggs, and bread. Occasionally, plates of meats and cheese were available. Of course, delicious coffee and hot chocolate were poured, and tea was also available.
We met at the bus for our return to Paris by way of Giverny and Monet’s gardens.
This was another of those places I had been looking forward to seeing, and I wasn’t disappointed. We began in the water gardens. Even though the water lilies were not yet blossoming, the wisteria and lilacs were, along with tulips and lots of other colorful flowers. A small stream flowed through the gardens, crossed in several places by bridges. Lacy trees shaded the walking paths. Little frogs with big voices serenaded us on our stroll.
Then a leisurely walk through the flower gardens—a kaleidoscope abundance of colors and scents—led us to Monet’s house. In addition to copies of Monet’s paintings, the house contained many Japanese woodcut prints, including my favorites by Hokusai.
Once we toured the house, we set out in search of lunch. The café close to the gardens was packed with tourists, but we found another little cafeteria-like place where Larry had a chicken sandwich and a pear tart. I chose the quiche. Several of our group also opted to eat there.
We returned to the bus for our return trip to Paris. As we had throughout the trip, we did a ‘buddy check’ to be sure we were all present. It was only during this last check of the trip that we discovered Ray and Rosemary and Kent and Mary Jane had been each other’s buddies! They were traveling together, and the direction had been to choose someone we didn’t know. If all four had been missing at any time, we wouldn’t have realized it.
On the way into the city, Virginie played some iconic French music.
We reached our hotel, Jardins du Marais, but the bus could not make the turn into the narrow street, so Renè parked a couple of blocks away. By this time, a short walk—even with luggage—was a piece of cake.
Our final hotel, Les Jardins du Marais, in the upscale Marais district, was decorated in art deco style. Erté prints covered the walls. I was delighted!
After a brief time in our rooms, we regrouped to walk to the restaurant la Place Royale for our farewell dinner—another memorable meal.
We started with a kir toast. I selected the vegetable tarte and Larry had fish to start.
Larry and I both chose the steak for our entrée and the crème brûlée for dessert.
Virginie’s husband, Olivier, joined us for dinner. He’s a lovely young man who works in England. This means they are separated during the time she is escorting tour groups. However, she is so good at it and enjoys it so much he’s supportive. They hope he will be able to transfer to France at some time so they can spend more time together.
At the end of our meal, Larry really hit the wall, so we decided to return to the hotel after saying goodbye to everyone. Several others made the same decision. Although a couple were worried about getting lost, we made our way without error.
We were more than ready for bed.

To be continued...


  1. It is so beautiful to be able to accompany you all through your pictures and narrative. It was very moving to read how you stood on the beaches of the invasion. Enjoy your journey!

    1. Hi, Chris. You're right. Larry found This to be the most moving day of the trip.