Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day Eight- Normandy and Northern France

We woke up earlier than usual on a vacation to pick up a fun little smart car from the rental place and headed north to Coleville, France. Dave is a huge history buff and really wanted to see the Normandy beaches and the US cemetery there. France donated a large piece of land to the United States for the Memorial and Cemetery. The Memorial houses a nice exhibit with lots of information (almost museum like) and short videos on the D-day invasion and World War II history from that area. 
Here I am in front of the wall of flags of Allies. 
Dave overlooking Omaha beach where the majority of US troops came onshore - and the majority lost their lives. 
Through the tree you can see the graves.... so many of them! I believe around 6,000 men and women lost their lives that day and on the following few days. 
Very well maintained, beautiful, and peaceful setting. Almost a reverent feeling abounds.
The Memorial on the outside near the gravestones houses these large maps that show the course of the battles and where they went once onshore. 
The central statue at the head of the Memorial. Can't remember what he symbolizes though :(.
Looking towards the graves from the Memorial.
Reflecting ponds run through the center of the graves. You can see the ocean off past the trees and graves. 

The outside memorial.
We spent some time just reflecting on what these men encountered all those years ago and their heroism and bravery to go up against such a strong enemy. 
Dave wandering amongst the headstones. 
This young man bears the last name of our eldest son's first. Made me think of all those mothers who had to bury sons.... can't even imagine!
Dave has always held those who serve in the Military in the highest regard and has such a great love for his country and freedom that so many take for granted.
A beautiful beach that once was the scene of such bitter fighting. 
We took the trial that led down to the beach....
Such serenity and peace. 
The view looking from the water toward the shore and land. Probably close to how it looked for all those young men when they arrived to fight. 
Looking West you can see Utah beach in the distance. 
We found some old bunkers and forts that the Germans must have built in preparation for attack.
Now a peaceful setting. You can see a cathedral in the distance. 
We left Coleville and drove East along the shore until we reached Deauville. A place the Parisians call the 'Parisian Riviera'. It looked like it had a lot of German influence and we really weren't that impressed overall but we did find a little deli that served some good traditional ham sandwiches and then we headed south towards Rouen.
Some of the buildings in Deauville. It was quite a happening place with the tourists. 
Here is the Notre Dame in Rouen. It was quite grand in scale (much larger than the Paris Notre Dame). Obviously very heavily influenced by the Gothic era. This cathedral was built just after the one in Paris. It was currently going under some pretty heavy renovation and it had obviously not received the same loving care as the Notre Dame in Paris. 
Very impressive none the less. 
Hard to imagine how they crafted so much detail with their lack of machinery and technology but they did!

This guy was attempting to get monies from people by getting them to feel for him and all his pets. 
This is down the main shopping street in Rouen. It was like a large outside mall with wonderful ancient architecture. The street was filled with shoppers and tourists (we were there on a Saturday). 
Their famous clock tower. 
An interesting find. This man was trying to get money and signatures.... for what? We didn't stick around long enough to find out but he did like the fact that I took his picture. 
Original statues in the grand center.
Just some architecture that I like above some of the shops.
Some more of the German influence.
This is the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. 
Can you see me? I am standing in the place where she was killed. 
Another picture that isn't accurate as to the beauty of the French countryside. Every so often we would pass these wonderful yellow fields of flowers which would highlight the greens and blues around them. It was fun to just drive and witness the landscape on our own time frame.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Day Seven- Sacre Coeur and Versailles

We said goodbye to Judah and Keslie and headed back to Notre Dame to pick up a souvenir (book) for Liam and then went up to Sacre Coeur. Compared to Notre Dame and a lot of other architectural cathedrals in Paris, Sacre Coeur is relatively new. I LOVED the architecture but was bummed that they didn't allow any photography of the interior of the building. It was fabulous and amazing and I could have stayed there for a very long time, but we didn't :(. We left and rode the train out to Versailles. 
Pictures just don't do it justice.
Sacre Coeur.
The ceiling of the chapel in Versailles. Versailles was larger and more impressive than I had imagined. Can't even picture how anyone could consider a place this size a 'home'.
Dave in front of a fireplace. It is taller and much much wider than he is. That thing was massive, and there must have been lots of more just like this one! 
Dave and I in front of the Hall of Mirrors. Not as impressive as the pictures make it out to be, maybe because it was so crowded with tourists. 
Here we are again. 
A small fraction of the total amount of gardens in the landscaping of Versailles. Can't imagine the landscaping bill each month! It was fabulous and very green! 
Dave in front of part of the back side of Versailles. 
Me in the same location. 
We finished at Versailles with it still being light outside so we headed back to Paris and went by the Plaza de Concorde.
There was a fun little market that we toured through and purchased some souvenirs. Always lots and lots of meat stands, cheese stands, and creperies. Of course, each time we just have to pick up a hot crepe (I like them with Nutella, Dave typically gets sugar). 
Next stop, Hotel Deville. Historic plaza of many beheadings. Now a government building. Very large and wonderful architecture. We spent some time in the plaza in front by the fountains watching some young boys torment an older lady and her birds.