Friday, October 23, 2009

Normandy AKA Normandie

So, the last day of ours in Paris, we took a train to Bayeux, a town near the coast in the region of Normandy. I am sadly not very well educated on the events of D-Day, so this trip was very eye-opening for me. I had the 'Saving Private Ryan' version in my mind, but nothing compares to seeing it in person.

This is a snapshot of the town of Bayeux. The church that you see in the background is soooo old! Not the whole thing, but a portion of it was in existence in 1066, when William the Conqueror was around!!!

We went to Pointe du Hoc, where the Rangers scaled the 90 ft. cliffs to defeat the Germans. I'll post a picture of those cliffs in a second, but you should think about while you are looking at that photo that not only are they having to scale those cliffs which would be hard enough, there are angry and determined Germans cutting their ropes, shooting guns, throwing grenades and firing cannons at them all the while. Unbelievable any of them survived. 225 Rangers began that attack, only 90 survived, mostly injured, in that encounter.

The little (huge) rock jutty-out-thingy that you can see there on the beach is Pointe du Hoc. 90 foot cliffs, hard to imagine having to climb that with people trying to kill me.

You know, you always see these fields in war movies, and they actually look exactly like the movies.

This is on the way out to the land that is above the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc where the Germans had many bunkers and personnel bunkers. Any ditches that you see out there are from the 100 tons of bombs that were dropped on June 6, 1944. With the exception of pathways leading you around this area, nothing has changed since the war.

This is one of the German Bunkers that was made. It accommodated one of six extremely large 155 mm guns, capable of firing 12 miles away to Utah and Omaha Beaches. Unlike later bunkers, this one allowed them to fire 360 degrees. When this became more dangerous for them, they redesigned them, making them covered, no longer allowing for 360 degrees of firing capability, thus keeping more of their men alive.

This is one of the redesigned bunkers. The Germans were now more protected from Allied fire. Also you will notice that in the other bunker there was a smooth surface over it, this is because they were pouring these of solid concrete using wood to make the forms. As the war progressed, they could no longer get wood, so they had to begin making concrete bricks with materials they had. This is a way that they judge the age of the bunkers.

I mentioned earlier that some of the bunkers that were there would house personnel, this is one of the sleeping quarters. They could attack bunks, three high, on the four walls and sleep 20 in a 12x12 room. Way too close of quarters for me! They would remove the beds during the day and use the rooms for operations. These rooms are even outfitted with a ventilation system because they were so afraid of poisonous gas being used on them while trapped inside.

The outside view of the personnel bunker. Yes, that is me sticking out my head from the look-out hole!

Waaaay in the distance you can see the cliffs above Utah Beach, where at the end of this campaign, just over 800,000 men fought, on that beach alone.

All of the ditches you see here are from the bombs.

Another view of how all the bombs effected the area. This really doesn't do it justice, but it's the only one I have that really shows it well.

This is a sign telling about what happened on that day, and if you look at the drawing you get an idea of how many bombs fell and where. Pretty amazing precision, even in 1944.

This is a temporary bridge that was brought in to Omaha Beach. They would build them in England and then bring them over in ships in pieces to put together on the beach. Our tour guide explained that they were a little like Lego's. They would drop concrete pillars into the ocean and then place these on top in order to drive supplies to shore. There were those "jacks" looking things that you see in the movies on the beach and out into the ocean and when the tide was high, you wouldn't see them, causing your ship to be destroyed. This way, the temporary bridge eliminated the concern for those.

Omaha Beach

Overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel from the American Memorial and Cemetery.

American Cemetery:
9,387 headstones of those not burried at home
1,557 Missing in Action
41 Sets of brothers
172.5 acres of grounds

With our tour guide Rose before getting back on the train to Paris

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Paris is for lovers...

Jeffrey and I just got back from an amazing week in Paris! We had a great time seeing all of the sites, eating in cafes, and trying our best to speak their language! Such a beautiful language.

That's us in the airport, about to board British Airways, loved their accent on that flight! We chose to stay in an apartment for the week rather than a hotel and it was so nice to just sort of live like Parisians. We were in a great neighborhood near several Metro stops and tons of cafes and shops. These pics are from looking out of our living room window onto the street below.

We began our week at the Musee de Louvre, where we got to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo! Couldn't believe I actually got to see them in person! I must say, I was warned about how small Mona was, but I just had her built up in my mind, so she just seemed even smaller in person, was very surprising! I was also so surprised at how huge the Louvre was! It would take a week just to see everything in there! We went in room after room, hall after hall, it was crazy how huge!!!

Jeffrey posing with a statue of Marcus Aurelius. Silly boy!

After the Louvre, we walked down the river and across the Pont Neuf to Notre Dame, the famous Hunchback's home! It was beautiful and we had beautiful weather to walk down there in!

Me and Jeffrey at the back of Notre Dame, beautiful.

I wish I could describe for you just how big and tall the Eiffel Tower is, but you just have to see it to really appreciate its size and beauty. We went over there one night to see it twinkle and then also went back a few days later to go to the top! That was incredible. I know I've said it before, but it is soooo tall!!!

The video we got of the Eiffel Tower twinkling, so pretty! Not the greatest video ever recorded, but you get the idea!

Looking out from the very top of the Eiffel Tower. I wish you could tell just how high we were, these buildings are HUGE below us and they look so small from up there!

From this side, you can see the Arc de Triomphe (the tall blocky thing on the left center)

Next, we headed to Montmartre, a district north of Paris, though still part of Paris, to see Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, or the Basillica of the Sacred Heart. It's on top of a really high hill so once we FINALLY climbed about a million stairs only to find the lift to take us up there, we got an amazing view of the whole city! We accidentally got lost, the only time on the trip I might add, on our way and found the most amazing little fromager (cheese) shop!

So, before we climbed the enormous amount of stairs, we found this little area, which had these little troughs on the sides of all of the cobblestone roads I had heard about on a tv show about this area. No, they aren't a brilliant way to channel rainwater, they are the midieval version of sewers. You would just dump your chamber pots out in these and the stuff would just run down the street!!! I'm so thankful to have been born in the century that I was! So gross! But of course, we had to get a picture in one! That's me with Karen.

Ok, so on to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Isn't it beautiful? All perched upon that hill?

Look at that view! Can you appreciate how long we walked uphill/how many stairs we climbed now?

Now, we move on to the shopping day of our trip! It started with a trip to the Arc de Triomphe, that I mentioned earlier. Do you remember how small it looked in that picture? Now see how HUGE it is!?

Once you leave the Arc, you proceed down one of the fabuous shopping areas of Paris. However, lets not kid ourselves, its PARIS!!! There is great shopping everywhere! Anyway, you walk down the Champs-Élysées, one of the grand boulevards in Paris. Off of this street is the greatest discovery of my life. It was like a street of couture eye candy. Unbelievable. All I could think about is how much I wish my sweet sis-n-law Caanon was with me to SHOP!!! One after the other, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Pucci, Dior, Chanel, YSL, Armani, Prada, Ferragamo...need I go on? Magnificent.

Yes kids, that is a 4-story Louis Vuitton! The original store, too, I might add.
Le Maison de Louis Vuitton, as they say.

Looking down the
Champs-Élysées from in front of the Arc.

I'm sure many of you have seen the movie, 'Something's Gotta Give,' and the restaraunt (Le Grand Colbert) at the end of the movie is in Paris. Wellllll, we went! It was every bit as charming in real life as it was on the movie. Diane Keeton's character said that their roast chicken was the best in universe, so, that's what I ordered! It was really, really good! Actually, everything that we ordered there was good. And the service was awesome. Whoever gave the French a bad name was totally wrong. We found them all to be really friendly and helpful.

Me and Jeffrey at Le Grand Colbert

So that leads us to the conclusion of our time in Paris proper. Our last day of the trip we went out to Normandy to see Omaha and Utah Beach and the memorial, graves and remnants of WWII. There's just too much from that trip to include in the same post, so I will do a seprate one for that day.

It was so much fun to go with Joel and Karen on this trip and I am so thankful for my husband working so hard that we might be able to go. I can't wait to go again and take the kids to see it all! Beautiful town.