Thursday, July 23, 2009

~Our Vacation in France, July 2009~

We are home from a two week vacation of a lifetime….we went to France. It was the first time for me and the second for my husband. The first time he was a 17-year old high school exchange student there for a summer. We have kept in touch with his/our French family for over 40 years (we were high school sweethearts). Members of his French family have visited us over the years, including his "Maman" who is still alive and doing well at 87, but this was the first he has gone back. We spent our vacation with different members of that family, except for the last three nights in Paris by ourselves. We arrived in Paris July 14th, Bastille Day (Independence Day) for the French!

Steve's/Our French family members live in various parts of the country. Bernard in a small town in Normandy, Bernadette on the east side of Paris and Edith on the west. We were fortunate to have all three of them and their families as our tour guides for various parts of the country. It allowed us to visit many of the places they knew well and avoid lines and waiting. We saw many parts of Normandy and places near Paris, such as Versailles with ease. We were on our own in Paris for 2 full days and 3 nights and then left for home. We had a great hotel that came with a package of sightseeing venues in a location close to everything. I constantly asked to be “pinched” because I couldn’t believe we were there. For example, one night we had dinner with Bernard and his lovely wife, Beatrice outside in a restaurant just (literally) a stone’s throw from the site of where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. It was very moving to visit the D-Day sights and the countless crosses at the American Cemetery. The first night we were in Paris we were on a boat on the Seine in front of the Eiffel Tower watching the fireworks for their July 14th Independence Day. It was the 120th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, so we were told the fireworks were extra spectacular. The following pictures are a very short synopsis of over 1000 pictures (yes, really, can you imagine?) taken during the course of the two week vacation, culminating with a video of the fireworks. It is the job of “moi” to get them edited and sorted the best way for viewing.

Our thanks to Bernard and Beatrice, Bernadette, and Edith, Michele and Clemence for showing us the most wonderful time!

Here are a few of the pics we took. Just a few highlights to give an idea of some of the wonderful places we visited.

The picture below is a strategy map of the landing at the beaches~D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.
The picture below is of the American Cemetery at Coleville S'Laurent. There are 9,386 Americans buried here and 4,410 Americans buried at Saint-James Cemetery. Everywhere you look you see graves. Many of them are marked "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God". Upon looking through our many pictures here, I was happy to find one that gives the impact of the continual rows without a single person walking in the area. There were many people there on this day. It is a sobering place, but an honor to be there.

The picture below is of Cathedral Notre-Dame of Rouen located in Normandy. This is a massive Cathedral that took nearly 400 years to build. It was captured by many artists, including Monet, who was so obsessed with the west facade that he painted it 30 times in all kinds of weather. The inside of this was incredible as well.

In Rouen, we also visited the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc, the site of Joan of Arc's martyrdom. We had dinner one evening at a restaurant literally a stone's throw from this site.

McStevie was big on taking pictures of signs at the various sites we visited.

We visited Giverny, the home and gardens of Monet. I love lavender. The picture below is of one of the pathways covered with lavender. I was inspired by the gardens and hope to make a quilt of flowers.

The picture below is of Monet's home. We were able to go through it, but could not take any pictures of the inside.

The picture below is of me and McStevie near one of the gardens at Versailles. The grounds, gardens, rooms and statues found here are just massive and impressive. I urge you to look up some of the history and pictures of these places on the internet for yourself. I couldn't possibly put all the pictures and videos we took here on my blog.

I had to throw this picture in so that you would believe we actually went to France, and I didn't just list a bunch of pics from the internet....

The picture below is of the Louvre in Paris - the glass pyramid entrance. It was featured in The DaVinci Code movie with Tom Hanks. We spent several hours here and never came close to seeing it all. The paintings were incredible. The detail astounding. I guess we need to go back to get it all.

Below ~ One of the ceilings that enthralled me in the Louvre. There were many like this.

Below is lovely Mona Lisa in the Louvre. There are always crowds around her taking pictures. I had to wait patiently and do much maneuvering to be able to get a shot of just her in the picture.
It' amazing how small the picture actually is.

Below is the lovely Venus de Milo statue in the Louvre. Again, there are crowds around, but I managed to get a pic with no one else in it.

We devoted the last day to shopping on the Avenue des Champs Elysees...where all the large stores are. We shopped in Nike Paris for a few treasures. They love Lance Armstrong there as you can tell. Of course, Tour de France was happening while we were there...what luck!

The picture below is of the big Louis Vuitton shop in Paris. I promised our daughter Mandy that I would get some pics of it. We walked a little on the first floor and then left. The prices were crazy. Mandy has the picture, nothing else...

Below are a few of the treasures we brought back. McStevie got me some Channel #5, oo-la-la. He hasn't bought that for me since before we were married. We got the fabulous linen tablecloth and matching napkins for less than half price bartering with about a 12 year old boy at a typical French market in Normandy. I love it!

Below is video taken from a tour boat on the Seine our first night in Paris. Our first night in Paris was the 14th of July, France's Independence Day ~ called le 14 juillet. The video is of the fireworks from the Eiffel Tower. France was celebrating 120 years of the existence of this wonderful monument.