Jun 12, 2014

European Vacation Day 3 - Ste-Mère-Église, Normandy Beaches, and The American Cemetery

The next morning, Wes asked the lovely proprietor of our BandB if we could eat breakfast at 7:30am instead of 8:30 so we could get an early start.  She graciously agreed and than proceeded to serve breakfast promptly at 8:30.  Which worked out great since Doug and I were a bit jet-lagged and it's just possible we weren't exactly ready to go right exactly at 7:30a.m.

The breakfast, however, was worth waiting for and included a delicious croissant, crusty bread, a selection of different cheeses, yogurt, granola, various yummy jams, and heated milk with SCHOvit (similar to Nesquick)

 And then we were off to our first destination: Ste-Mère-Église.
{The town's main claim to fame is that it played a significant part in the World War II Normandy landings because this village stood right in the middle of route N13, which the Germans would have most likely used on any significant counterattack on the troops landing on Utah and Omaha Beaches. In the early morning of 6 June 1944 mixed units of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and U.S. 101st Airborne Divisions occupied the town in Operation Boston, giving it the claim to be one of the first towns liberated in the invasion.}

This is where paratrooper John Steele got caught on the church steeple on the morning of June 6th, 1944. Ste-Mère-Église was the first French town liberated on D-day.  There is a model of John Steele on the roof, and the stained glass in the church (blown out in the war and replaced) depicts the heroic actions of that day. (We had just watched "The Longest Day" before coming so it was neat to see this place in person!)

Wes and Doug
See the white thing hanging off the roof? That's a model of John!

Stained glass with paratroopers
After walking through the church, we went into the Airborne museum across the street.  They had some pretty cool stuff in there.

(I love this lettering!)

Dress made from parachute silk
Next, we drove over to Pointe du Hoc
{Pointe du Hoc is a promontory with a 100 ft (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in northern France. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group assaulted and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.}

This area is still littered with enormous bomb craters.  It's hard to see how large they are in the pictures, but they were pretty impressive.
Bomb crater

The bombed out concrete bunkers are still there

It's too bad more people don't realize how amazing American history is!

 Lunch was a quick stop for Panini's:

 And then on to Omaha Beach.

 Realizing how far our troops had to run in wet clothes, carrying heavy equipment and under extreme enemy fire, was very sobering. Omaha is a VERY big beach.

We didn't spend a lot of time on Omaha Beach because we had one last thing to see.  The American Cemetery:

Hard to describe so I won't even try. I'll just say that I wish every single American could have the opportunity to visit.

That night we went back Bayeux for dinner. While walking around looking for a restaurant, we stopped at a little art gallery and I bought a small piece of pottery. It's very cute and joins my collection of other small pots, mostly from Japan. Maybe one day when we're rich and famous I'll be able to afford a pot bigger than my hand.  Maybe.

I ordered some sort of puff pastry with chicken and apples and mustard seeds on it and, to get you out of your suspense; yes, it was delicious.

Then back to our cozy lodgings for one more night...

Jun 11, 2014

European Vacation Day 2: Breakfast in Versailles, Dinner in Normandy

Tuesday morning at 6:30 am we arrived (a little early) at Charles de Gaulle airport in France. A few minutes later Wes and Tami arrived to pick us up. They had driven from Germany and stayed the night in Paris.

From the airport we headed straight to see Palace of Versailles.

Since I left a still-nursing baby at home with my sister, I had to take frequent breaks to pump. (and dump.) While Tami and I sat in the car chatting (and one of us pumping), Wes and Doug wandered off to find us some breakfast to eat in line.
Delicious success! Pain au Chocolat
Some yummy meringue thingy
That morning at Versailles, we bought a six day Paris Museum pass.  This was a very good investment and allowed us to skip some long lines later on.

Peaking down a roped-off hall

 The palace was very cool to walk through.  It was also extraordinarily crowded.
Just a few thousand of our closest friends
Marie Antoinette and her two oldest children
I think this may have been the chapel. Pictures are wonky because
they were taken over the heads of the unwashed masses.
One of the ceilings.  The art was incredible.
After touring inside the palace, we left and found some sandwiches and fizzy drinks in the charming town outside the grounds.

Back to Versailles to visit Marie Antoinette's "Hamlet". The Hamlet is a small village built on the grounds where she went to escape the rigors of court life.  But it's not exactly right next door.  

It was a chilly day but we had enough layers to keep us warm.

 We walked down through the courtyard and then rented bikes!


The Hamlet was extremely charming and I'm glad we got to explore and enjoy it.  
Next stop, Normandy!!

After leaving Versailles, we drove straight to our Bed and Breakfast. At least that's what I think we did.  I immediately fell asleep and missed seeing the beautiful French countryside.  
(At least I think it's beautiful.  I was asleep.)

We made a quick stop (at Le Clos des Pommiers in Tracy-sur-Mer) to check-in and change for dinner, and then went out again. 
Beautiful view of the grounds
Our happy and cozy room!
We drove to nearby Bayeux for dinner and wandered around for awhile trying to find a place that could seat us.  It is such an amazingly quaint and beautiful little town--I couldn't stop taking pictures. 
All decked out for the 70th anniversary of D-day

Eventually we settled on a little Creperie and had our first dinner in France.  
And it was amazing!
May I humbly suggest that if you're ever in that neighborhood, go to the same restaurant, and go ahead and get what I got! And may I also suggest that if you ever have the opportunity to have something smothered in creme fraiche, you take it!

This was the first of many times Wes and Tami had to translate menus for us.  They were very good sports about it and gave us some excellent recommendations.
Sweetened coconut on my desert crepe! Why didn't I think of that?!?!

It was a pretty full and magical first day in France. 
If I had had to rush home the very next morning, it would have been worth the trip.