Tuesday, November 8, 2011

france: normandy and paris

novembre 2011: We finally took the kids to France. What a memorable trip for all of us. I can't wait to share it with you. In a nutshell, we flew in to Paris, picked up our rental car (budget) and drove to Giverny (Monet's Garden), continuing on through Rouen, Honfleur, Caen and Bayeaux...to the Manoir du Quesnay (where we would stay for 3 nights). Our visit in Normandy would include an entire day of visiting the U.S. D-Day Invasion Sights, including Omaha Beach, The Normandy Countryside and the city of Bayeux (with the Bayeux Tapestry). After 3 nights we drove back to Paris, returned the rental car and moved into our tiny apartment in the 5th arrondissement for 2 nights, while we explored Paris. See below for our travel entries and photos.

Books I would recommend prior to a trip to France:
"On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town" by Susan Hermann Loomis
(Susan Hermann Loomis is an American who studied french cooking in Paris and eventually moves to Normandy with her family...her experiences in french culture, wonderful insights to daily living and a great feel for the food and recipes of the region. She has a number of additonal cookbooks and a website) 
"The Normandy Diary of Marie Louise Osmont 1940-1944" by Marie Osmont
(At the time of the invasion, the widowed Osmont was mistress of Chateau Pcriers, a sizable Normandy estate about 3 miles inland from Sword Beach. The book is her diary of day to day happenings as her chateau is requisitioned by the Germans and then the English. Quick read with wonderful insight)
"Paris" by Rick Steeves
(Includes all the information on Normandy sites as well)

31 octobre: We arrived early a.m., picked up our Budget rental car (GPS a must), and headed north towards Normandy. We arrived at Monet's Garden just after it opened. No lines, a big plus to a visit in the fall. Amazing how beautiful everything was that time of year.

monet's house

inside: just as it was in Monet's Day.

Trip Sketching in the garden.



Nick and Trip...Nick promised Mrs. Rupe, his elementary art teacher, that he would go one day. Nick was 7 when he promised and now he is 17, and preparing for college next year.  

pink roses

31 octobre: after leaving Giverny, we continued our drive up through Rouen (where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake), Honfleur (fishing village where many of the impressionists would paint, including Monet), and Caaen (virtually destroyed during the D-Day bombings and re-built). Eventually we came to Bayeux...struggling to stay awake to reach the manor house we would be staying in for the next 3 nights. Just outside of Bayeux, in the country lies the highlight of our trip, Le Quesnay, a bed and breakfast with lots of space, charm and history...we were the only guests. Jacques and his wife Alix, met us and gave us a tour, eventually carrying our bags to the Moat House, which was all ours during our stay. The five of us stayed for a very reasonable price: 140 Euro a night. Breakfast was an extra 10 Euro per person, and well worth it. 

le quesnay has been in Alix's family for over 150 years. 

love the way the lawns were mowed and hedges were trimmed

the moat house: our family accomodation

our door

the horse stables...the horses were out in the field this time of year, but we were able to pick apples from the tree and feed them.

the french blue on the doors is my favorite color...it jumps at me everywhere in France.

looking out and down from our bedroom window

behind the moat house

the main house steps. the steps were designed back when the manoir had to be protected... narrow to be slow to ascend and reversed so a person could not use a weapon with their right hand as they ascend.

trip going down.

these little windows were for shooting thru

the main house renovation...beautifully designed.

the little french birds laid an egg while we were there

original stone carvings in the beams

looking down from Jacques library into the main house living room

Alix has decorated the manoir with family antiques and gorgeous oil paintings.

the stairs leading up to our rooms in the moat house

looking out from our room into the upstairs hall

our room

our wonderful window. we would sleep with the window open and hear the cows and horses in the morning.

the key to our room. i carried a beautiful tasseled skeleton key with me. 

one morning bren and i left the kids sleeping while we went to the main house for a little pre-breakfast cafe au lait.

in the garden...

peeking into the breakfast room

le petit dejeuner

this cupboard was charming...the 3 doors on the right are actually storage but the one on the left is the doorway into the kitchen. 

another table set for breakfast

huge aubusson tapestry 

sharing some vin rouge in the moat house living space

the fireplaces were huge. we had a fire every night thanks to bren

Nick et moi in front of the huge oil painting covering one entire wall in our living space.

a pigeon from the kids window

1 novembre: after a delicious breakfast at the manoir, we set out to see all the WWII D-Day sites. I followed the suggested order from Rick Steves, which was very  smooth and coherent. Rain was originally anticipated, but the day turned out to be absolutely perfect. We began in the town of Arromanches, climbing a hill to watch The Price of Freedom, a very moving film in a 360 degree theatre to set the mood for the rest of the day. A must!

Arromanches...looking out to Port Winston...where the U.S. set up an artificial harbor.

many remnants of the harbor

on the beach with the boys

then we went to Longues-sur-Mer Gun Battery 

standing on one of the four German casemates (three with guns intact)

We often saw drawings and art of poppies (the symbol of remebrance of soldiers killed in wartime) on memorials and such...but as we walked from one gun battery to another i came upon this lone poppy. the only live one I would see on the whole trip.

We then went to the American Cemetary and Memorial...the path above Omaha Beach, leading from the museum to the cemetary.

The view of Omaha beach from the path 34,000 Americans would land on this beach by days end. Estimates for this beach alone range from 2,500 to 4,800 killed and wounded on that day.

the infinity pool at the Amerian Cemetary Museum

some had no names...very moving

Our next stop was Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument...very memorable. The memorial is a "Dagger" planted firmly into the ground. This was The German's most heavily fortified positions. The Allies determined that this cliff was critical to the success of the landings, and so they proceeded to bomb it to smithereens for months. The Rangers had to scale the cliff with grappling hooks and rope ladders. Only 1/3 of the Rangers survived.

this view shows the cliff the rangers had to scale.

Nick near a crater

Trip in a crater

Another crater....the bombed bunkers are now considered german gravesites and picnicking is forbidden.

Nick and Cal looking out through the German Bunker. 

Inside the German Bunker

Inside the Bunker. 

Next we went to the German Cemetary. 

The grave markers were flat stones with 1 marker for every 2 graves...It was a very solemn dark place, in contrast to the white of the American Cemetary.

On Omaha Beach with the boys.

Looking up to the American Cemetary from Omaha Beach. The sand was very soft, if it was wet at all your feet would sink in...could not help but try to imagine trying to run in full gear, completely wet and exposed with a heavy pack.

The stones further up on the sand. 

Nick, Cal and Trip...November in Normandy...on Omaha Beach.

2 novembre: we originally planned to spend a day going to Mont St. Michel, a 1200 year old Abby 90 minutes away...however having driven 2.5 hrs. from Paris to Bayeux we decided to take it out of our itinerary and focus on Bayeaux, The countryside around us and the Manoir du Quesnay. We were glad we did. We enjoyed our day in Bayeaux and had time for a football game on Omaha Beach.

Notre Dame in Bayeaux

a wall within Notre Dame

Beautiful Statue of Mary. Notre Dame means "Our Lady" and thus it is used for a number of churches.

a carving on the door.

The Bayeux Tapestry Museum. 

Amazing 900 plus year old Tapestry showing William the Conquerer's ascension to the English throne.

Our BMW rental.

3 novembre: We had a relaxing breakfast, packed up to head back to Paris for our last two nights. Jacques kindly arranged to have our rental car dropped off close to our apartment rather than the airport. Bren dropped us off to find our apartment, and he returned the car and joined us. We stayed in a tiny apartment with a king size bed for Bren and I, a loft for 2 boys and a make-shift pullout bed for another. Close quarters to say the least but fun and economical. All 5 of us stayed in a GREAT location (right across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral) in the 5th arrondisement, The Latin Quarter. Our apartment was 135 Euro a night for all 5 of us.... Verde actually wrote La Traviata in our apartment. We could look up to 500 year old beams.

Our street...St. Severin.

First stop: The Louvre. The boys in front of The Mona Lisa.

my boys et moi in the louvre.

The guys outside The Louvre in La Jardin Tuileries.

The Eiffel Tower at night.

Nick and Trip, just before it began to rain...

4 novembre: Bren's Birthday! His second in Paris. We went back to The Eiffel Tower and climbed to the 2nd level...and then the elevator to the top.

picnicking along the Seine

crepe anyone?

Les Deux Maggots for a drink

live jazz playing on the street corner near Les Deux Maggots

Flower stand. Arrangements sold in plastic bags holding water.

Cal found these roses in the trash can...surprised me by coming around the corner and presenting me with them...."flower my lady?" He assumed someone got dumped and threw them away...turns out the flower vendor selling them to people got caught by the police and had to throw them out. Cal gave them back to the vendor later when we found out.

the vendor gave Cal 1 rose as a thank you....

Our last evening in Paris. Bren carries down the street in St. Germain.

Trip and his new Football scarf.

Trip and Nick in St. Germain