If you are really keeping tabs on my blog, you might have noticed that there was a “Paris in the Springtime (Part I)” post back in April 2010, but there was never a Part II. Actually, our 10-day trip over Spring Break last year probably needed three or four parts, but for a variety of reasons, they were never written. If you know my husband, I’m sure you can hear the good-natured ribbing that has been taking place ever since:
Me: I should write about x on my blog.
Husband: How’s Paris coming?
I am finally sick of hearing, “How’s Paris coming?” so here are the highlights from the remainder of our trip. If you make it to the end of this really long post, you’ll probably figure out why I didn’t want to write about it at the time!
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
This was probably the best day of our trip, even though it was long and exhausting. We got up bright and early (actually just early since it was still dark!) to catch a train to Normandy. We met Dutchman Roel from Victory Tours for a van tour of sites primarily in the American sector, including:
Port Winston Artificial Harbor in Arromanches. As you can see, the day started out very overcast, windy, and cold. It was actually quite similar to the weather conditions on D-Day.
WWII Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument
Angoville au Plain. On D-Day June 6, 1944 and the days that followed, the church in this small town was used as a medical aid station by the 101st Airborne Division, specifically two medics named Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore. The village was not secured for many hours and German patrols entered the church on at least two occasions. Wright and Moore ordered them to leave their guns outside or to leave the church. Incredibly, the Germans did. Eventually, the area was secured and many of the wounded were evacuated, but two died in the church. When you enter the church, look for a hidden doorway ascending to the steeple. From that door, on June 7th, two Germans soldiers showed up and surrendered! The church was very sobering, especially the blood stains that still remain on the pews from the wounded.
Ste. Mère Eglise. This was the first village to be liberated by the Allies. A parachute has been reinstalled on the steeple where Private John Steele’s became snagged—though not in the correct corner!
We thoroughly enjoyed our day with Roel and highly recommend his tour. He leads these tours because he has a passion for this history and that was very important for us since we have family connections. My grandfather landed on Utah Beach on D-Day+1 with the 90th Division and Brandon’s grandmother served as a nurse during the war with General Patton. We found out that if Roel had known about our family connections, he would have done some additional research into their particular units and where they served.
We would both like to go back and spend more than just one quick day in Normandy!
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
After our full day in Normandy, we took it easy the next morning and did some sightseeing relatively close to our hotel at Les Invalides & Musée de l’Armée. Les Invalides is a former veterans’ hospital built by Louis XIV and today houses Napoleon’s grand tomb.
After lunch, we explored the Musée Rodin. Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is probably most famous for the Thinker, which is located in the museum’s lovely garden.
However, we saved our heavy-duty sightseeing for the late afternoon/early evening since the Musée du Louvre is open late on Wednesdays. We followed Rick Steves’ advice and entered from the less crowded underground entrance. We also used his free iPod audio tour of the Louvre. Since we knew that we didn’t have days to spend inside this vast museum, we were really quite happy just spending a few hours and seeing the highlights. (Amazingly, photos are allowed inside!)
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Today we visited the Pére Lachaise Cemetery. Of course, I was interested in all of the famous composers that are buried in this cemetery, including Bizet, Chopin, Poulenc, and Rossini. Jim Morrison’s grave was also pretty popular. However, the cemetery is so big you almost have to buy a map from one of the florists outside to find specific graves.
We headed back to the Notre Dame area to buy some prints from the souvenir stands along the river. We also took that opportunity to visit the Mémorial de la Déportation since it had been closed when we originally did our walking tour. The simplicity of this memorial made it very moving. Here is the description from Rick Steves’:
The Mémorial de la Déportation is a memorial to the 200,000 French victims of the Nazi concentration camps (1940-1945). As you descend the steps, the city around you disappears. Surrounded by walls, you have become a prisoner. Your only freedom is your view of the sky and the tiny glimpse of the river below. Enter the dark, single-file chamber up ahead. Inside, the circular plaque in the floor reads, ‘They went to the end of the earth and did not return.’ The hallway stretching in front of you is lined with 200,000 lighted crystals, one for each French citizen who died. Flickering at the far end is the eternal flame of hope. The tomb of the unknown deportee lies at your feet. Above, the inscription reads, ‘Dedicated to the living memory of the 200,000 French deportees sleeping in the night and the fog, exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps.’ Above the exit as you leave is the message you’ll find at other Holocaust sites: ‘Forgive, but never forget.'”
Friday, 16 April 2010
We visited Sacré-Cœur and Montmartre today. The Basilica is built in the Romano-Byzantine style, which is very different from gothic Notre Dame and most of the other churches we’ve seen. In addition to the beautiful Basilica, the views of Paris were also breathtaking from Montmartre, the highest point in the city. The only ugly part was the persistent street vendors, but we did our best to ignore them. While in the area, we also saw the house where Van Gogh lived and the famous Moulin Rouge.
After lunch, we walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg, which belongs to the French Senate that meets here in the Luxembourg Palace. There are special rules throughout the garden, such as where cards can be played, where dogs can be walked, where joggers can run, and when and where music can be played. There was just a sliver of grass where people could sit and we surmised that this restriction would not go over well in Germany where we see people on the grass all the time! Since it was a beautiful spring day, there were lots of people out enjoying the garden.
The highlight of the day was taking the Bateaux-Mouches Dinner Cruise. It was a lovely evening full of delicious food and romantic views of Paris from the River Seine.
The dinner cruise should have been the perfect ending to our time in Paris…
Saturday, 17 April 2010
We were supposed to fly home to Germany today. Unfortunately, the silly volcano in Iceland had other plans. All flights were cancelled and it was chaos! We tried getting train tickets, but the earliest available train was Monday. After standing in line at Air France and waiting on hold, we finally got our flight rebooked for Monday, so we decided to try to wait it out and fly. Basically, this day was spent trying to make alternate travel plans and trying to keep Brandon from getting too frustrated!
Sunday, 18 April 2010
Since we had an unexpected full day in Paris, we decided to take advantage of it by visiting St. Sulpice Church and attending the Sunday organ concert. It seemed like a must-see sight for me after I read the description in Rick Steves’:
The Grand Orgue has a rich history, with a succession of 12 world-class organists—including Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré—that goes back 300 years. Widor started the tradition of opening the loft to visitors after the 10:30 service on Sundays. Daniel Roth (or his understudy) continues to welcome guests in three languages while playing five keyboards. The 10:30-11:30 Sunday mass is followed by a high-powered 25-minute recital. Then, just after noon, the small, unmarked door is opened. Visitors scamper like 16th notes up spiral stairs, past the 19th-century StairMasters that five men once pumped to fill the bellows, into a world of 7,000 pipes. You can see the organ and visit with Daniel (or his substitute).”
Daniel Roth was not there that Sunday, but the substitute was still superb. My day was made when she played the Widor Toccata after Mass. (I studied this piece in college.) Being able to see the organ up close was also fascinating. I think Brandon even found it interesting!
Since it was another beautiful day, we walked through the Luxembourg Garden again before visiting the Panthéon. The dome inspired the physicist Leon Foucault to carry out his first experiments with the pendulum in the middle of the 19th century to demonstrate the rotation of the earth on its axis. Of course, since they also allow people to climb the 400 narrow and twisting stairs to the dome, we did, but the views of Paris were worth the effort.
By that evening, we knew that our rescheduled flight for Monday was also cancelled, so Brandon booked us on the first train available on Tuesday morning.
Monday, 19 April 2010
Today was finally our last full day in Paris! At this point, we had already seen everything we wanted to see and just wanted to be home. We didn’t receive a lot of sympathy for being “stuck” in Paris, but being stuck anywhere isn’t really a lot of fun. There really is no place like home! We spent the last day relaxing and walking around the city to see the major sights one last time.
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Today we finally made it back home to Germany! We took the train from Paris to Nürnberg where we picked up our car at the airport and drove home to Groβbissendorf. We were happy to be home, but there wasn’t any time to recuperate before jumping back into work and our other obligations on Wednesday. I had left my Borrowed Military Manpower soldiers alone at the Tax Center to deal with the April 15th deadline. While that is only the deadline to pay for those of us overseas (our tax filing deadline is June 15th), there was still some craziness while I was gone that had to be straightened out when I got home. I was also in the middle of my Governmental & Not-for-Profit class at Stetson University, but luckily that was a pretty easy class after working for a nonprofit and taking the same class at Austin Peay! Needless to say, blogging about the remainder of our trip was not a high priority at the time, but it’s better late than never! So, now the answer to “How’s Paris coming?” is “It’s done!”