Paris Revisited

I have a few more planned posts of Normandy that I’m skipping by request from a friend to “get to Paris!” These posts are to revisit Utah Beach and Omaha Beach; also, for Point du Hoc, Longues sur Mer, Saint Mer Eglise, La Fiere Bridge and Pegasus Bridge.  I will publish these in the near future, so keep an eye out for them.

After arriving in Paris (and a lengthy stay at the police station-see my post Paris, and a Lesson Learned for details), I was able to explore the city with my friends as planned.  I was able to see the Eiffel Tower at a distance, but never got close.  I also wanted to photograph the Tower at night, but apparently they turn the lights off at 1:00am, so I missed it.  Although as compensation, we drove around the Arc du Triumph about six times while raising a ruckus.

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Not far away, is Napoleon’s Mausoleum and Tomb, these are next door to the Military Museum.  I will have a post on the Military Museum at a later time as well.

IMG_3557Napoleon’s Mausoleum IMG_3562Napoleon’s Tomb

Looking toward at the Military Museum and Napoleon’s Mausoleum:IMG_3585

By the way, the police station is under the far right side under the park.  Going the other direction is the River Seine and its magnificient bridge.IMG_3579

The River Seine, with the Eiffel Tower in the background:IMG_3588

No visit to Paris would be complete without visiting the Louvre.  We had actually planned it for this day since it was open later than normal, but that was scrapped because of the visit to the police.  On the second to last day in France, we were able to make it to the Louvre but they closed at 6:00pm, and we didn’t arrive until about 8:00pm.  It’s still an amazing place.

IMG_3788IMG_3808The Louvre is extremely large, this is inside one of its courtyards.

After leaving the Louvre, it’s easy to get lost in traffic even with a GPS unit, and what do you see when you get lost in Paris?  Why Notre Dame of course.  I was hoping to visit this magnificient edifice but that was dashed when it caught fire earlier this year.

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Paris is an amazing city.  There are many interesting things to see.  If you do visit, secure all belongings and don’t carry too much cash, especially on the subways.

Enjoy,

Kelly

Normandy American Cemetery and Museum Colleville-sur-Mer, France

I’ve been wanting to post this for a while now, but life seems to be getting in the way (that and my internet connection is extremely slow). I also know I’ve had a couple of posts already about the American Cemetery in Normandy, located on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. At the visitor center, there is an amazing museum that has artifacts and comprehensive displays of the history surrounding D-Day and what the costs were.

However, it was quite crowded there a couple of days before the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so we had quite a walk to get to the museum and cemetery. Along the way were vintage WWII vehicles, and a person well known for helping defeat Germany in the war, none other than Winston Churchill, of course this is a re-enactor, but hey, he looks the part.IMG_1986IMG_1991

The displays in the museum start with the occupying of France by Germany, how the French people were treated, and the Allies’ goal of liberating France.

It also has a replica of the Czech hedgehogs designed by Rommel as part of the “Atlantic Wall”. There were several layers of defense put in place all along the coast of the English Channel, here specifically are the coastal defenses.

The French Resistence played a major role in helping the Allies get intelligence about the occupying forces, their movements, etc., and they had to risk their lives to do so.  Even owning a radio was forbidden.

Did you know there was a training exercise for D-Day?  It was called Exercise Tiger, which had heavy casualties causing the US military to take actions for training so the actual invasion would be successful.

Operation Titanic was designed to take the focus off of the paratroopers landing in France, it consisted of dropping exploding dummies among troops to confuse the Germans.

There were displays of several US troops and their stories.  Here are three.

Hundreds if not thousands of civilians were also killed on D-Day and following the Allies’ arrival into France.  Saint-Lo was totally destroyed by air bombings in a matter of hours.  It was such an important crossroad that it was necessary to create a gap in German defenses.  I’ve read somewhere that the treasures from Mont Saint-Michel were taken to Saint-Lo for safe keeping but were destroyed in the bombings; however, I haven’t been able to verify that yet.

The human cost of the invasion was extreme: approximately 8,500 US and Allied troops were killed, wounded or went missing in action on D-Day alone.  Approximately 225,000 Allied troops were killed during the Normandy campaign, and about 18,000 French citizens were killed during this time as well.  The Germans suffered approximately 400,000 casualties during the liberation of Normandy.

Which brings us back to the American Cemetery.  In our history of engaging in war on foreign soil, we were never there for conquest or gain, only for freedom and liberation; all we ever asked for were plots of land to bury our gallant dead.

Paris, and A Lesson Learned

After leaving Normandy last Friday, we made our way to Paris. After much rain and congested traffic, we finally made it to our hotel. The room was 10×15, three beds (one was a bunk bed), and a bathroom that was 4×6. Needless to say, it was tiny but comfortable, for the most part. No, I didn’t get photos, it just didn’t make sense.

The next morning, we drove to the nearest subway station, purchased our tickets and boarded the train heading for the military museum and after, to the Louvre. I realized I was a victim of pickpocketing when I went to get my cell phone and wallet and they were not in my pockets. I was devastated. Luckily I was able to contact my bank and cancel my credit cards and carrier to suspend my cell service. This is why I fell off the face of the social media world on Saturday.

Here’s the lesson I learned. When using public transit, there are some things you need to do to keep your valuables safe. If you have a bag, backpack, etc., put your wallet and cell phone in the bag and keep it in front of you. Better yet, if you don’t need your wallet, don’t take it with you, just enough cash to get you through the day in a coin purse in your bag. Don’t wear expensive watches or jewelry either, that makes you a target. Luckily, they didn’t get my passport or main camera. I was able to recover the photos I took with my phone.

The biggest lesson I learned was this: don’t use a password generator app to keep your passwords secure. If I had been able to login to my cloud service, I could’ve shown the police where my phone was. Yes, I spent about 3 1/2 hours in the police station filing a report. I couldn’t access my email because the password was generated by an app and stored securely, yes, on my phone, as were all my other passwords. I tried everything I could to change my email password so I could get the security code to access my passwords, to no avail. Always know what your passwords are.

After the stint in a Paris police station, we made it to the military museum with an hour to spare. No, we didn’t make it to the Louvre either. I did get some photos but we were rushed and couldn’t really enjoy it. We went back the next day for a longer visit and I’ll do a post about it once I get my photos processed.

Over the next few days, we made it to the museum of the Great War (WWI), the US memorial to the victims of WWI at Chateau Thierry, and at closing time to the American Cemetery in Belleau Wood. Nearby is the German cemetery from the same war. I’ll do posts about these places as well.

After a wonderful, high stressed stay in Paris (as you could probably guess), we made our way back home.

I enjoyed my time in France, with memories that will last a lifetime.

Enjoy,

Kelly

D-Day Plus 75 Addendum

Yesterday afternoon, we were finally able to make it to Point du Hoc after all the ceremonies were done for the day. It was very interesting to see this place. I’ll post photos later. Just before we left, we ran into a guy that was filming at the memorial, and before we knew it, we were interviewed by @BlackRifleCoffee for a documentary of D-Day they are producing. It was really cool!

We had to go back to Omaha Beach again for more photos. When we got there, we happened upon the wreath laying ceremony at the memorial. It was a sobering and moving experience. I’ll post photos later.

As we were leaving our hotel this morning, our neighbors bid us farewell and telling us to moove along.

We then made our way to the Longues-sur-Mer Batterie. It’s the only German battery with the original guns still in place. I’ll do a post about this later.

There was also an army camp nearby.

We then went to Pegasus Bridge, which I’ll post some photos later.

After staying in Normandy for four days, it was time to leave. It’s absolutely gorgeous in Normandy. Small villages everywhere, winding country roads with hedge rows on both sides and trees lining the roads.

It was sad to see Normandy in the rear view mirror, however it was time to move on to Paris and the next leg of our journey. The traffic was absolutely crazy. Also, there’s a toll booth every 20-30 kilometers on the main freeway, which sucks. Anyway, we made it to our Paris hotel after fighting miles of rush hour traffic.

A Long Night: Traveling to Paris

What’s more fun than taking a 9 hour flight from New York to Paris? Taking a flight that’s delayed two hours (sitting on the plane) for a major storm that stopped all flights until it passed. Once the storm passed, we taxied out to the runway, and after sitting there for a half hour, the captain announced we’re waiting to clearance to take off and that we were number 20 in queue. Then the plane drove around JFK for about a half hour before takeoff to get to the right runway. Finally we took off two hours after we were scheduled to leave New York.

The plane had this cool feature of a tail camera that was shared with passengers during the flight.

My watch showed 2:00am, but the local time was 10:00, so I opened the window shade (couldn’t sleep anyway) and saw this:

About two hours later we landed in Paris.

It’s really hard to fathom how green everything is, coming from a desert that has multiple shades of brown and red. Here it’s multiple shades of green.

We drove straight to Normandy to our B&B on a farm. It’s absolutely gorgeous here! Woke up to hearing church bells and birds singing, and this view from the window.

Last night for dinner we drove to the next village for pizza, and found this nearby:

It’s now a church, but it was a castle at one time. It deserves further exploring.

Enjoy!

Kelly