Sunday, April 29, 2012

Back on Track

I've been so busy getting the Paris blog done that I haven't kept up with our day to day activities since our return. 

We attended a 50th anniversary party on Saturday for Pat and Don, camping friends of ours.  He told the story of being in the service when they married, being transferred from Waco to Tampa and spending $9.60 in fuel for his VW Beetle to get there in 1962.  Great story!  They played the Oldie Wed Game and Ted and I got two answers right - our song, and my favorite treat from a convenience store.  After 47 years I'm not sure what that proves.

I met Gerre on Sunday for lunch and shopping.  We had planned for a movie but I told her if I sat in a dark place for two hours I would fall asleep.  That seven hour time change is tough to handle the first few days.  We had a great time catching up and I got some things I needed while we were out.

Ted's great-niece's husband was in town for Coast Guard training and he came for dinner on Monday.  Afterwards we took him for a ride around our area and he was suitably impressed.  His opinion up to that point had been colored by the city traffic which he didn't like at all.  It was good to see him and we had a nice visit.

I was scheduled to work the Junior Forum Senior Luncheon on Tuesday and the theme was, are you ready for this?  April in Paris!  How fitting for me.  We were told to wear our berets but I wore my new Monet scarf instead.  There were 26 tables of 8 seniors each and I was assigned to Table 22 as the hostess.  Lo and behold, Joanne, a fellow camper whose husband had a stroke, was at my table.  They had to sell their trailer five years ago and he is in a nursing home.  Of all the tables in that room, God put her at mine so we could catch up with one another.  What a blessing.

Ted left for Austin while I was at the senior center.  That's how we spent our 47th anniversary.  Not very romantic but that's life. 

By Wednesday I was ready to take it easy so the only thing I did besides the normal straightening up and such, was to go to Happy Hour.  I'm afraid with Susan's move to Atlanta and Sherida's recent illness, this group is falling apart.  There were only three of us last time I went and four this time.  And two of them were already there having dinner after playing Bridge.  Not a good sign.  I hope I'm wrong but only time will tell.

I played Canasta on Thursday and came in third.  That means after having never won, I have now won two months in a row.  Jacque was second and our scores were within 500 points of each other.  That's not a lot in Canasta.  Maybe I'm playing better, have better partners or the card gods are smiling on me.  Whatever, I'll take it.

Rebecca cleaned on Friday which gave me the opportunity to finish up the blog and send it off to those expressing interest in our trip.  I've received some nice feedback, one comparing me to Rick Steves.  What a compliment.  Ted and I say that when we can't go anymore, we'll read the blog to each other and relive the wonderful trips we took in retirement.  I hope that's a long way off.

We went to church last night and then out to eat for our anniversary.  Today Ted is shooting and I'm going to start getting my things together for our trip to Michigan next week.  I also need to go to the grocery to tide us over until then.  Chris' parents have still not sold their house so he'll be back.  I think he is looking forward to the long stretch this summer when he becomes "king of the hill" around here without us or his parents anywhere around.

The weather has been near perfect since our return. We've been in the high 80s already and it isn't even May.  I know what is coming and it's time to "get out of Dodge."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Napoleon's Tomb and Au Revoir to Paris

We had a rainy last day and decided to do something inside so we headed to Musee de Larmee Hotel National Des Invalides, both a museum and a monument.  It houses the Tomb of Napoleon I, the Saint Louis des Invalides Chapel, a Charles DeGaulle Historical Exhibit and the Museum of the Two World Wars which they listed as 1871-1990.  After all my travels, I do believe someone was fighting with someone somewhere during all that time ... and before and since!

The building was originally intended to lodge veterans.  It was a town unto itself in that it contained a veteran's home, barracks, a convent, a hospital and a workshop.  Napoleon converted the chapel into a national military pantheon with the installation of the tombs of Viscount de Tureene (1800) and the Marquis de Vauban (1802).  In 1840, Louis-Phillippe ordered the remains of Napoleon to be returned to Paris and a tomb to be erected under the Dome.  It was completed in 1861 (the start of our Civil War). 

The Dome ceiling

Napoleon's sarcophagus of red quartzite resting on a green granite pedestal.  Around the sarcophagus, 12 victory statues symbolize his military campaigns, 8 famous victories are inscribed on the marble floor and civilian achievements are represented by 10 bas-reliefs decorating the walls of the crypt.

Saint Louis des Invalides Chapel

We toured the World Wars museum but I didn't take any pictures.  It's interesting to get another country's take on history.  It is true that the Victors Write History.  This was our final "tourist" stop for our trip.  We found our way to the Metro to return to a shop for Carol to purchase a gift she had seen previously and made our way back to the hotel via a different metro line.  We were getting good at this!

We were picked up at the hotel at 7 am the next day and the six of us were transported to Charles de Gaulle airport for our flights home.  It was 135 Euros or roughly $179 USD for the half hour ride to the airport.  Two cups of coffee and two croissants later we were on board for a 10 hour direct flight home with 30 Euros to save for Rome!.

We did OK with the 7 hour time change though I am still getting up early (~ 6 a.m.) and getting to bed earlier too.  But that has given me quiet time to finish this trip on my blog.

Notre Dame

We had one day left after Normandy to visit some more sites.  Unfortunately we never got to the Louvre.  The wait was three hours to get in.  We were told there are 10 miles of corridors and no matter how much time you spend there, it won't be enough.  You may be as surprised as I was to learn that the Mona Lisa is about an 11 inch x 14 inch piece of artwork!  I thought about all the times I've heard "Is that the Alamo?" when we take someone to San Antonio.  People expect more and are disappointed.  It must be that way with the Mona Lisa too.

We also passed up the D'Orsay and the Orangerie.  We had tickets in advance for Versailles and I think arranging your visit to these popular museums in advance would be a good idea.  We never did get to the Montmarte area of France so did not see the Moulin Rouge or Sacre Coeur Basilica (Sacred Heart) that is so prominent in that area.  I did get a far off picture of it however when we were on the Terrace of the Lafayette Galleries.

We could not, however, pass up Notre Dame.  The others in our group attended Mass there on Saturday when we were at Versailles and they also toured the Montmarte area having already been to Versailles on previous trips.  I needed to be two people at once that day.

The corner stone for the Cathedral was laid in 1163 and it took over 150 years to build.  The front reminds me of the church in Santa Fe, NM where they ran out of money to build the spires.

There is beautiful stonework, all with meaning, in the three naves. 

In the tympanum of the central doorway, the Portail du Jugement Dernier (originally 1220-30, destroyed in 18th century, restored by Viollet-le-Duc), is a representation of the Last Judgment: at the top, Christ the Judge (original); below this, the Archangel Michael directing the righteous to heaven and the damned to hell; below this again, the resurrection of the dead. On the intrados are (left) the choir of the blessed being received by Abraham in paradise and (right) hell, with grotesque demons; on the central pier is a figure of Christ (19th century). On the door jambs are the wise (left) and foolish (right) virgins; on the side walls are the 12 Apostles (19th century); and the reliefs along the base depict virtues (above) and vices (below); the figures on the right are original.

I personally think it is more beautiful from the back.

The lighting is very low inside and in some places you aren't allowed to take flash photography so the best pictures were the stained glass windows.  They are all beautiful and some light is coming through which helps in the photography.

St. Joan of Arc fought in the 100 Years War and was burned at the stake as a heretic at the age of 19.

The rose window in the north transept of Paris' Notre-Dame (c. 1255), with 80 Old Testament scenes centered on the Virgin.

I know Michaelangelo's original Pieta is in Rome and I was unable to find out who sculpted this piece.

In a chapel near the west doors is a fine silver Baptismal Font, one of the annual gifts to the church by the goldsmiths.  This is the only comment I could find about the font in the Baptismal Chapel.

There are so many beautiful churches, basilicas and cathedrals throughout Europe.  Even if you have no interest in their religious importance, the artwork, architecture and treasures are very interesting and to me amazing.  I don't believe there are many artisans today that could duplicate most of what we see in these churches.  And considering the age of our country, their very existence since almost 1000 years ago is awe inspiring to me.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Normandy, D-Day, Saving Private Ryan

Long before we ever left for Paris, I had shared with everyone how to get train tickets from Paris to Caen.  I also hired a tour guide and bus for us.  To be sure we were on the 7:07 am train to Caen, we did a dry run of the two Metro trains we needed to take to the train station and the platform we needed to be on.  It all worked and we had a lovely morning ride passing the Basilica of St. Therese, the Little Flower, in her home town of Lisieux.  It was consecrated on July 11,1954 and has become a centre for pilgrims from all over the world.  Bob and his family had visited it the day before and pointed it out to us.

Dominique met us at the train station as planned and we were off in the rain to Utah Beach.  It was raining, windy and cold.  As I maneuvered my way to the edge of the cliff to look out, I thought this is what our servicemen encountered; however, they were being shot at.  I worried what the rest of the day would bring with such bad weather.

I took a picture of this monument listed as 00 for the beginning of the war.  The town of Ste. Mere-Eglise had erected a monument as Ground Zero so Utah Beach became double zero.

 The beach looked pretty much like it did on June 6, 1944.

Our next stop was Ste. Mere Eglise, the town taken by members of the 505th led by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward C. Krause. At 04:30 the stars and stripes were hoisted over the town and Ste. Mere Eglise was the first town to be liberated in France. The town was made famous by the paratrooper John Steel and by the film "The Longest Day". John Steel managed to land on the church and his chute caught on the steeple. He hung there while the fighting continued on the ground for two hours before being cut down by the Germans, taken prisoner and later released by the Americans. An effigy of John Steel is still seen on the church. Inside the church there are two stained glass windows, one shows the Virgin Mary surrounded by paratroopers, the other shows St. Michael (patron saint of the paratroopers) and was dedicated in 1972 at the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the town.

Ted and I took just long enough to see the movie presented at the museum where we encountered this C-47 used in combat.  The dummies were made up to look like the actual men who flew her as they appeared in the film.


Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy in northern France. It lies 4 miles west of Omaha Beach, and stands on 100 ft tall cliffs overlooking the sea. It was a point of attack by the United States Army Ranger Assault Group during Operation Overlord in World War II.

The terrain marred by huge craters caused by shelling by our destroyers.

A German bunker in the cliffside.

Hooks that held German bunks.

Omaha Beach.  I didn't realize this is a resort area where people vacation.  We were told that the Allies asked people to send postcards and photos of the beaches along the Normandy coast to help them plan where they would land during D-Day.  It's a beautiful, wide beach.



"Signal Monument" to 1st Division (US) and 116th RCT in St-Laurent-sur-Mer.

This monument remembers the landing on Omaha Beach. One can see two inscriptions carved on the sides of the monument, one dedicated to the 1st Infantry Division, and the other to the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division.

Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II.

The beach is located on the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel, and is 5 miles long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary. Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east at Gold beach with the American landing to the west at Utah beach, thus providing a continuous legmen on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the Royal Navy.

AMERICAN CEMETERY, Colleville-Sur-Mer (Colleville By The Sea)

The cemetery is a 70 hectare site overlooking Omaha Beach with 9,387 perfectly aligned headstones and a Garden of the Missing bearing the names of 1,557 more soldiers.  There is also a chapel, a memorial and a visitor center.

The chapel ceiling.

Teddy Roosevelt's son's grave

The view of the Atlantic from the edge of the cemetery at Colleville.

This has been the hardest post to do.  We saw so much, some of it in bad weather, and were on the road for over nine hours.  For the mistakes I may have made, the paragraphs I plagiarized from brochures, I apologize.  It is just important to be sure no one ever forgets.

Giverny - Home of Impressionist Artist Claude Monet

Monet spent half his life at his home in Giverny and his gardens provided him with many opportunities to paint.  His water lilies and the bridge over his water garden are probably his most famous.  The grounds were gorgeous and I couldn't stop taking pictures.  After touring his home, we walked down a village road to another museum, Presentation du Musee des Impressionnismes Giverny, featuring the works of Maurice Denis.  Art museums aren't Ted's cup of tea so he rented me a receiver for my listening pleasure and said "Here, I'm going to the cafe for coffee."  This is why we've been married 47 years.  We make it work.  I was able to enjoy the artwork and descriptions while he tried once again to get a cup of coffee bigger than a thimble!  And we were both fine with that.

The famous bridge

Monet's house

Here's another of my purple flowers

350 years old – le Moulin de Fourges water mill house that we passed as we drove out of town.

This was one of my favorite tours.  The weather was pleasant, it was a Sunday and traffic was light.  We arrived before anyone else and had the gardens to ourselves for a short while.  The house inside was lovely with Monet's Japanese art collection displayed and also many of his own works.  There is a photo of him at the fireplace in the kitchen and that fireplace remains unchanged still today.