When someone has been looking forward to something for several years and then realizes that dream, there is always the risk that the actual event doesn't live up to the fantasy. Such was definitely not the case with our trip to France a few weeks ago.
Paris was everything I had been told to expect and more. The week-long cruise on the Seine River was perfection. Betty fulfilled her wish to retrace her dad's steps during the D-Day invasion and afterward. We had a private tour guide take us to her ancestral castles and mansions, some dating back to William the Conquerer.
In the town of Bayeux, on the famous Tapestry of Hastings, dating back to 1066, that depicts William's first forays into France, Betty actually located a depiction of her 34th great-grandfather riding next to William, Roger de Montgomery.
He is on the red horse in the center of this frame.
We were humbled and silenced by the endless rows of white crosses, marking the graves of over 12,000 American, British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand servicemen who died during the liberation of France.
Seventy-some years later, many small villages in the area continue to honor the Allied sacrifices with banners dedicated to individual men who died battling the German army.
Our timing was perfect: we were privileged to be at the cemetery at 5pm, when two flags are lowered as the National Anthem and Taps are played.
In Paris, we were treated to the hourly lighting of the Eiffel Tower. During an evening cruise on the Seine, wall-to-wall young people lined the banks, dancing, eating, or simply enjoying each other's company. Boats of every size and style served as bars, restaurants, or disco-themed floating dance floors.
Everywhere we walked (and all of Paris seems to walk everywhere), cafes, bars, boulangeries, and patisseries were overflowing with people. With dinner traditionally starting no earlier than 7 or 8 p.m., we were surprised how tough it was to find a spot for an American-timed meal at 5:30 or 6 p.m among all those enjoying a drink or expresso.
At 9 o'clock, every place we passed had a blocks-long line to find a table. This is a city that makes the most of its outside-style dining and socializing.
In Paris, virtually everyone we encountered spoke English. A simple, mispronounced Bonjour from us would signal the waiter or cashier to switch to English.
Even in the more rural towns, we did not have a difficult time communicating. And, when the language barrier became apparent, our guide switched to flawless French and smoothed the conversational waters.
We did not encounter one single instance of the supposed anti-American attitude of the French people. Everyone was warm, smiled, and welcomed our presence.
Yes, we were primarily in tourist areas. Even so, we expected some of the French "attitude" but we found none.
OK, enough of the words. Betty took over 2,500 photos. Here are some we picked for a quick look at our visit.
Enjoy, or apprecier.
|Claude Monet's water garden|
|Lily pads at water garden|
|Colorful port town of Honfleur|
|A light show set to music every night|
|Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys|
|Built for Richard the Lion-Hearted|
|A thank you gift from the United States|
|The Seine River at night|
|German gun aimed at Normandy Beaches|
|Memorial at Omaha Beach|
|Utah Beach Landing site for Betty's dad|
|Le Roosevelt bar was at Omaha Beach in 1944,|
and is still there today
|Betty added her dad's name to the thousands|
|Pointe du Hoc: site of|
Rangers' assault up sheer cliffs
|Chateau des Montgommery a Ducy-Les Cheris|
|Chateau De Domfront..at one time owned|
by Betty's ancestors
behind the fancy gate
|Thanks for the memories!|