Posts Tagged With: france

Favorite Vacation Photo from Normandy, France

Our first trip after moving to Finland was to the Normandy region of France, in June 2012.  We stayed in Deauville , and spent 6 days driving around the region.  I had quite a few favorite photos, but this one tops my list.  Mont St Michel through the poppies.  If you know me, you know I love poppies!

A view of Mont St Michel through the poppies

If you like this photo, you can buy it on a variety of products on zazzle.com

Read about our travels in Normandy, and see pretty photos, here:

Day 2 – Pont de Normandie, Le Havre, Sainte-Adresse, and Etretat

Day 3 – Rouen

Day 4 – Deauville and Trouville

Day 5 – Mont Saint Michel

Day 6 – Honfleur

Day 7 – Bayeux, the D-Day Beaches, and the American Normandy Cemetery

Baby J update – 29 Days to go! I’m blogging every day until I give birth, so you’ll know when the baby is born!

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Normandy France Day 7

Day 7 of our trip was June 6th – the 68th anniversary of D-Day.  We did the only thing possible – visited the Normandy coast.

We made a brief stop in Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry – no pictures of that, as photos aren’t allowed, but it was extraordinary.  By itself it would have been impressive – a 230ft long embroidery, for goodness sake!!  But viewing it, realizing that it was made over a thousand years ago…incredible.

Afterwards, we headed up to Arromanches-les-Bains, where the artificial harbor was built in 1944.  Since this was the anniversary of D-Day, there was a big party – tons of people, lots of veterans, period costume and automotive relics.

Poppy wreath at the statue for Royal Engineers – “They shall now grow old as we that are left grew old, age shall not weary them or the years condemn…”

We also made a stop in Longues-sur-Mer, where the German Artillery battery stands.

Looking back at the artificial harbour in Arromanches from the German Battery

Next, we headed on to Colville-sur-Mer, where the American Normandy Cemetery is located.  We walked down to Omaha Beach in the rain and looked out to sea and up the hill, imagining what those who saw it 68 years ago were thinking.

Looking down onto Omaha Beach from the bluff

Looking up to the bluff from Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

I’ve heard the cemetery described as memorable, touching, moving, beautiful, somber, heart-wrenching.  It’s all those things.  You cannot truly appreciate those words in association with that place unless you experience it yourself.  Yes, rows upon rows of white crosses and Stars of David, some with names, some without.  Thousands of people walking around in almost complete silence.  The weight of what you are seeing is immense.

We purposely stayed until the flag was lowered at 5:20pm.  There was a little old lady there, all of 4’1″, who was apparently a nurse in the war and being honored that day.  The man in charge of the flag lowering invited any WWII veterans up to help with folding the flag – there were nine men there who stepped up.  Next the man in charge asked for any other veterans to please help with the flag folding, some who might be “a little stronger” than the elderly men up there already.  It was a windy day, and that flag was snapping around like crazy.  The flag was lowered, and folded, and to be in that place, at that time, was something special.

The flag being folded

“Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”

“Their graves are the permanent and visible symbol of their heroic devotion and their sacrifice in the common cause of Humanity.”

 

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Normandy France, Day 6

We wanted another “lazy” day, so we drove up the coast a bit to Honfleur…and I was completely charmed!  I fell in love with this little town – streets lined with galleries, an enclosed bay with sailboats, beautiful buildings and views.

Looking across the enclosed harbour of Honfleur

We spent the day walking around town, window shopping at the galleries and shops.  Later, we walked up the Côte de Grâce, a very steep hill, to get a great view of the town and the Pont de Normandie (plus some good exercise!).

Looking out over Honfleur and the Pont de Normandie

One of (I think) four photos of the two of us on the whole trip – the others were self-portraits!

Much of the town was decorated with pretty blue flowers, although I’m not sure why.  If anyone knows, please let me know!

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Normandy France, Day 5

Mont Saint Michel today!  And it’s just as beautiful as expected.

Since I knew we wouldn’t get to Mont Saint Michel very early, I wanted to arrive late, after 4pm as Rick Steves suggests.  So we stopped in Caen along the way and visited the Memorial Museum for Peace.  I didn’t take any photos while I was there.  It didn’t seem right, somehow.  And I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t like the museum.  That’s not to say it’s not incredibly educational and well put together – it absolutely is.  This  is a must see for WWII buffs, and it’s very educational – we saw several school groups there, and I think the museum did a very good job of putting all the information together in a wonderful way.

The drive through Western Normandy was spectacular – I absolutely loved the countryside.  Rolling hills, towns nestled in valleys or on hillsides, wind turbines and cows and poppies along the roadside – it was beautiful.  I took some photos from the car, but of course, they don’t do it justice.

Mont Saint Michel – wow.  Wowie-wow-wow.  We caught a glimpse of it from 10 miles away – floating “like a mirage on the horizon,” indeed.  I took entirely too many pictures, but here are just a few:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance

Mont Saint Michel – through the poppies! (For those that don’t know, I love poppies!)

Mont Saint Michel

We bypassed the main street and went up along the ramparts, as suggested. Glad we did – we missed the crowds and the kitschy shops. This is looking down on the main street-

I was captivated by the mud flats surrounding Mont Saint Michel.

A view of the smaller island through a window in the abbey – Mont Saint Michel

On top of Mont Saint Michel, looking down to the mud flats

Saint Michael at the top of Mont Saint Michel

Looking out from Mont Saint Michel over the mud flats and the reclaimed, salty pastureland

“Pilgrims” crossing the mudflats to Mont Saint Michel

It was absolutely gorgeous, and I definitely recommend you visit!

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Normandy France, Day 4

After 2 days of driving and walking and more driving, we took it easy today and stayed local.  We didn’t even see the car, come to think of it.  We walked over to Trouville, just across the river, and spent a couple of hours being looky-loos.

There was a market set up, which was a nice surprise.  I got to explore a little bit – produce stands and meat markets and embroidery and…well, other stuff, just like you would see in the States – shoes, purses, clothing, trinkets, etc.

We went down to the beach and saw some people surfing and kite-surfing:

We walked along the streets, looking at houses and gardens and through shop windows.

Next we headed back over to Deauville and walked along the beach there, with it’s iconic beach umbrellas:

After that, we went back to our hotel for “a break” to hit the bathroom and gather my laptop, then we were going to go sit out at a brasserie for a bit, having some wine.  But we decided to nap the afternoon away, instead.  It was probably a good idea anyway, because a two hour dinner starting at 8pm (early by French standards) including three or four courses and a bottle of wine normally means I’m falling asleep during dessert.  But tonight, thanks to the nap, I made it through dinner and into the bubble bath I’ve been coveting since we got here.  But not before seeing a big, beautiful full moon over Trouville:

Stay tuned for Day 5:  Mont Saint Michel!

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Normandy France, Day 3

Rouen today!  Cathedrals, big clocks, and half-timbered houses galore.

Our day started out with an hour drive to the Southeast, a little later than I would have liked, but that came to be the norm.  But there was so much to do today, and I knew we wouldn’t have time, so we had to pick and choose.

I had wanted to go to Rouen on Saturday, as that was the big “market day.”  We started out at the Place du Vieux Marche and walked through the market – not nearly as exciting as I was hoping for.  Granted, I didn’t have much of a chance to really immerse myself in it.

We walked down past the palais de justice, a restored gothic building complete with gargoyles.  They had a great display on the Southwest side describing the damage to the building in WWII and the reconstruction.

Then we hit the Cathedral, which has a very rich history.  It contains the tombs of Richard the Lionheart and the Viking Rollo.    The Cathedral was painted quite often by Monet, and I hear that during the summer, they project these images on the facade of the Cathedral at night.

It was around 1pm, so a lot of the places we wanted to see were closed, so we went tot he Musee des Beaux-Arts and wandered around for a couple of hours.  They have a large collection of 17th century religious paintings – not my favorite school of art.  However, they did have a couple of cool things:

This was an installation in the stairwell (I didn’t get the artist’s name) – in the mirror, you can see that it’s a bullseye, but it’s distorted on the wall.

“Anamorphose d’apres L’Erection de la Croix de Pierre Paul Rubens” by Domenico Piola – this was pretty cool, you can see that it’s done in like a circular, distorted fashion, but when you have the reflection pole in the middle, it turns into something viewable.

After the museum, we were quite thirsty, so we stopped in at a nearby Brasserie and had some wine and a bit to eat.  I ordered the tomato and mozzerella appetizer, and Stephen ordered the charcuterie, and the waiter was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure?”  We wondered if we were going to get small plates, but no, it was plenty for us for a small lunch!

Then we hit the Ironworks Museum (link in French, you’ll need to translate).  I had read that this museum was pretty good, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to waste my time there.  But Stephen wants to do ironworking when he retires, so we stopped to check it out, and I’m glad we did – it was really great!  They have around 14,000 pieces of ironwork – lots of keys, but also signs that would have hung outside business, chests, sewing bobbins, scissors, swords, knives, and a ton of other stuff!

That’s a big gun…and if it’s iron, can you imagine how heavy it is?!

A sewing bobbin

Swiss Army Knife with eating utensils?

Hair irons

Did they have Hershey Bars 200 years ago?

We wandered down toward what turned out to be the Hotel de Ville, so we stopped in next door and toured St. Maclou.  The flying butresses and rose window were definite highlights.

After that, I wanted to check out the Plague Cemetery, but we missed it and got turned around (not sure how – we were right there).  Instead, we headed up to Le Gros Herloge (the Big Clock) just in time to get to walk to the top.  The audio tour was great, explaining a lot of what we were seeing, including the different parts of the building, the operation of the clock, and the history.  At the top, you can go outside and get a bird’s eye view of the city.

A view from inside the tower – see the little lamb pointing toward the hour (6)?

The view from the top – that’s the cathedral on the right, and the Church of St Ouen on the left, and in front of the cathedral you can see the mass of people on Rue Saint-Romain.

Some miscellaneous pictures from around town:

Half-timber buildings

A little park behind St Maclou

Stay tuned for Day 4: Taking it easy around Deauville and Trouville.

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Normandy France, Day 2

Today, we drove over Pont de Normandie, walked around Le Havre, made a quick stop in Saint Adresse, then hiked the cliffs at Etretat.

Knowing we would be walking a lot on Saturday in Rouen, running around trying to fit everything in, we decided to take it a bit easy on Friday and wander up the coast.

Pont de Normandie

This bridge crosses the Seine between Honfleur and Le Havre, with a toll of 5,30€ each way.  I knew this bridge was big – 700ft high and 1.3 miles across, the second biggest cable-stayed bridge in the world.  Now, those who know me know that one of my big fears is bridges over water.  As we approached, I believe a couple of cuss words escaped my lips.  The thing was HUGE!!

Le Havre

This city is a large, busy, modern-ish city, since much of the city was destroyed in WWII.  We took some time to walk along the waterfront, stopping at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which has the second largest impressionist collection outside of Paris.  Unfortunately, part of the museum was closed while we were there, but we still got to see some paintings by Monet, Sisley, Degas, and Renoir, not to mention a ton of Boudin.

“La Seine au Point-du-jour” by Alfred Sisley

I said “a ton” of Boudin, right? These are just a few in which he painted cows. He *really* liked cows.

Next we made a stop at the Church of St Joseph, a modern concrete and stained glass structure that stands like a lighthouse at 107 meters tall.  I thought I had read that you could climb the stairs to the top for a great view, but if that’s true, it was closed the day we went.

Note the circular staircase to the left – that would have been a fun, if dizzying, climb!

(By the way, Le Havre is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.)

Sainte-Adresse

This is the number one reason I picked Normandy to visit.  This town.  It’s silly really.  You  see, I have forever loved the painting Jardin à Sainte-Adresse by Monet.  It’s my all-time favorite painting.  I wanted to see this spot, the spot that I’ve loved for so many years without actually having seen it.  It’s almost as if I have a memory of this spot, it’s so strong.  Unfortunately, the day was grey, and I didn’t see many gardens, but that didn’t stop me from wandering down the boardwalk, looking up at the houses along the hillside, wondering which terrace Monet painted.

Étretat

You’ve seen Étretat, even if you don’t think you have.  It’s been in numerous wall calendars, on desktop backgrounds, painted by Monet, and pinned on Pinterest often.  The white cliffs, with their natural arches, are just as beautiful and awe-inspiring in person.  I only wish I could have captured the water color better, the deep blue changing to turquoise turning to green.

I believe this is Monet…I could be wrong, though.

The colors on the beach/rocks at low tide are beautiful.

Stay tuned for Day 3 in Normandy:  Rouen.

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I’m in f-ing France!!

In case you haven’t been reading my blog, I’m an American who has only ever been to Mexico, and I’ve been living in Finland for about four months now.  We’ve been planning this trip to Normandy for a couple of months now, but I never really got too excited about it.  Until today!

I’m not sure why I wasn’t excited.  Maybe because I was already living in a foreign country, because that was enough of an anomaly.  Maybe because I don’t actually have a place of employment to get away from, or co-workers to brag to about my upcoming trip.  I don’t know why, but the idea of  coming to France wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it should be.

We flew into CDG today, picked up our rental car, and drove straight up to the Normandy coast.  At some point, I finally got excited.  “I’m in f-ing France!!  Holy crap!!!”

Honestly, I think it’s just that it actually feels old.  Where I live in Finland, it’s actually a UNESCO Heritage site, with 500 year old houses in Old Town.  But I guess it’s not as “old world Europe” as I expected, and therefore it doesn’t really feel that old to me.  But here, all the crumbling stone and half-timber buildings – it’s gorgeous!!

Crappy pictures from inside the car, when I was so excited I just couldn’t believe it!

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And the contest winner is…

Last week, I introduced my first contest:  Where should we go for our first vacation?  There were a lot of great suggestions, on the blog, on Facebook, and via email.

Italy was quite popular, as was Paris.  Beth suggested Venice and going to see Murano glass making – I love Murano glass!  Angela suggested we go to Ireland, her home country; Kathleen suggested Ireland, as well, a walking tour that both Stephen and I thought sounded wonderful!  Sara suggested a Volga River tour in Russia, on which you can see many of Russia’s bigger cities and sites.

Pam suggested Stockholm, and Denise suggested St Petersburg, both of which are close enough to be long weekend trips (which we’re already planning on).  Catie suggested Prague, which is one of my top three destinations.  I’m a little worried about being disappointed on my first trip, though (that whole “reality can’t live up to such high expectations” thing), so I wanted to keep Prague for another time.

We pretty much ruled out everything in southern Europe – Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal – because we’d like to go to the warmer climates in the winter.

I narrowed our choices down to three areas – the South of France (as Melody Jane suggested), Southern UK (including Bath, which Mary suggested), and the Normandy region of France, which Jen mentioned (although didn’t suggest).

In the end, I decided on…..

(drumroll)

Normandy, France!  I’m declaring Jen the winner of the contest, with an honorable mention to Denise, who said she wanted to go there…along with twenty other places!

I’m in planning stages, pricing flights, looking at websites, trying to decide where all we’re going to go.  We’re going to fly into Paris, but we’re going to save actually touring Paris for another time – we’re just going to get a car and drive out of town.

So excited!!

Any suggestions on where we should go, what we should do, where we should stay?  Bring it on!

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