Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another Week Off

We got home from our trip Sunday night and the kids had the next week out of school.  It is always a challenge to keep them productively busy.  They are happy to sit and watch season after season of Monk.  Unfortunately, I think Monk's OCD is somehow being taught to my kids.  Whenever Josh and I walk together he has to be on the same foot as me.  I try to mess him up by skipping a beat but then he just skips and then we look like we are kind of dancing down the path.  It's weird.  Just the other day Kelly was touching every fence post as we walked past it.  I think it's time to come home and get busy.

Thursday the kids and I went to  Murten Lake and had a picnic.  It is just a short thirty minute train ride.  The sun was shining and it was beautiful.  I just felt sorry for all the people around us that were hoping for a quiet afternoon at the lake and had to listen to my kids wrestling, having water fights, and being obnoxious.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Last day

Before returning our rental car, we went to the beach one last time. We found a marina with a small beach totally covered in shells. It was sunny and beautiful -- and I wish we could have revisited all the Normandy beaches in good weather, but we had to go. We took a two-hour train from Caen to Paris St. Lazare, a cab ride through Paris to Gare de Lyon, and a TGV train through Dijon to Basel. We were back home at 1100 pm.  It was a great week.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beaches of Normandy

Saturday we went to the beaches of Normandy. We first visited Longues-sur-mer, where there is a preserved German gun battery. We visited the American cemetery at Omaha beach. The grounds there were beautiful, and the exhibits very well done. There were films and personal stories of self-sacrifice and heroism that made a deep connection. We walked along Omaha beach. We went to Pointe-du-Hoc, with more ruined bunkers. We drove along the coast through the other landing beaches -- Gold, Juno, Sword and saw the monuments, tanks, guns, leftover equipment and relics.    Today there are cafes, windsurfers, fishing boats mixed with the reminders of the war. 
It was the most poignant day -- the children were very interested in the stories behind these places.  We all thought it was a great experience. 

German Defenses, Longues-sur-Mer

Memorial at the American Cemetery

"The Brave," tribute to Americans who landed at St. Laurent sur Mer, Normandy.
Pointe du Hoc
Memorial to the US Rangers at Pointe du Hoc

One of the floating docks from Arromanches - temporary port created by British an 1944 
Anti-aircraft guns at Arromanches
Canadian mine-sweeper at Juno beach 
Saint Auban sur Mer

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bayeux and Le Mont Saint Michel

Bayeux Cathedral right out our hotel window.
Today we debated whether to take an expensive Normandy tour or an expensive Mont Saint Michel tour.  Being tightwads, we decided to rent a car, buy a book and take our own tours.  Today we drove an hour and a half in the pouring rain to Le Mont Saint Michel.  I predicted the rain would stop the minute we got there, and it did!  It started again while we were inside the Abbey for a tour, but stopped as soon as we finished and then completely cleared for the rest of the day.  It was such a beautiful place and the cute little streets up the hill were so fun.  Unfortunately we did not stay for high tide to see the little island surrounded by water.

The causeway (under construction) to Mont St. Michel
A view from the Mont
Climbing to the Abbey
Cute little streets with shops and restaurants.
View of Mont St. Michel from the mainland

This is an Internet picture to show what it would look like at high tide.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rouen and Caen

We had been on a train for four hours Wednesday evening so we decided to cut our day short and stay in Rouen.  It was raining and dreary. Kelly and I sat in the train station with our luggage while Keith and Josh set out to find us a hotel.  Keith found us a cheap little place right by the train station - all four of us for only 80 euros.  It was okay except for one thing.  You know those gross old towels that you've used for ten years to wash your car, those were the towels they gave us.  They were still damp and smelled like bleach.  I used my robe to dry off when I got out of the horrid little shower.  Not that I'm one to complain.  We woke up early the next morning and caught the train for Caen.  
Caen was a great town.  The only problem was they didn't have lockers in the train station and we did not want to drag our stuff all over town.  I ran across the street and found a small hotel that agreed to store our luggage for us.  We took a little site seeing train around town and then headed to the World War 11 Museum.  The museum was amazing and we all wished we had had more time.  Two hours was not close to enough.  From there we took a 15 minute train ride to Bayeux.  This is where I had read was a good starting off point to head to Normandy beaches.  Bayeux is another cool, old mid evil town with the most beautiful cathedral right out our hotel window.

Rouen Cathedral
Rouen museum of fine arts
Castle walls of William the Conqueror, 11th century, Caen
Abbaye de Sainte-Trinité, Abbaye aux Dames
Église Saint-Étienne, Caen, burial place of William the Conqueror
Église Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux, Caen

Mémorial de Caen Musée, Normandie

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Tuesday morning we took the train to the small town of Brugge (or Bruges).  It was such an impressive medieval town. In the 14th century, this was the place to be.  We took a small boat around the canals that wind through the town, walked around for hours, and then went back to the hotel and swam.  The next day we again walked around, stopped in the cute chocolate shops, considered buying something in the beautiful lace stores, and then got on a train headed for Caen around 2:30 in the afternoon.
Brugge bell tower

Van Eyck