|Chateau des Montgommery in Ducey|
Covid made a mess of some of our travel plans over the last few years. A once-in-a-lifetime cruise to New Zealand was sunk months before departure. Likewise, a long-distance train trip was derailed (sorry for the puns).
We have regrouped and are determined to have at least one more biggie before travel becomes too difficult or uncomfortable...or before the next pandemic.
As a bit of background, Betty's family has left a long trail in parts of Europe. Her maiden name, Montgomery, is more prominent than we realized until she began serious research on Ancestry. That name is quite prominent in the Normandy region of France. The Chateau above was built in the early 1600s under the reign of King Henry IV.
|Chateau de Montgomery in Domfront|
This castle and grounds were besieged by William the Conqueror in 1051. Five hundred years later, it served as a refuge for The Count of Montgomery trying to avoid being caught by royal forces. That didn't work: he was captured and, not long after, was beheaded on the orders of the Queen. Ouch.
|Saint Foy de Montgomery|
With those fascinating historical details, we have committed to a trip to many of the places her historical family left their mark in this part of France.
A more emotional and contemporary tie involves her father; he was part of the D-Day invasion in that section of France.
Betty has uncovered diaries, paperwork, photographs, and specifics of his time in France during the war. The yellow marks on this map mark his stops.
We will visit the actual beach he stepped foot on, see the museum that honors those who risked their lives, and see both the American and Canadian cemeteries where those who made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered.
His diary detailed his work as an engineer who built bridges for the Allied troops and then blew them up before the German soldiers could follow.
To complete this deep dive into Betty's family history, dating back almost thirteen hundred years ago, in September, we will spend two weeks in Paris and Normandy. After a few long flights, we will begin with an eight-day river cruise on the Seine River.
Our shore excursions include visits to the gardens in Giverny that inspired Monet, a walking tour of the historical sites in Rouen areas, and a historical Castle in Les Andelys high above the river below. Some of the key D-Day sites are included. The cruise portion will end with an evening boat trip up the Seine to see the lights of Paris.
After the cruise, we will test how good our very limited French is at getting us safely on a train to Caen. Three days of tours of the Montgomery sites and stepping where her dad did, should give Betty (and me) a deeper understanding of her family's role in the history of this part of France.
A return by train from Caen to the Paris airport will leave us enough time for a good night's sleep before a very long trip back to Phoenix. Jet lag is promised!
I know this will be an extraordinary trip for both of us. Betty will come home with a much more personal link to her family and its impressive history. I will come home knowing we have made memories and some friendships that will linger for the rest of our lives.
Wow! What a magnificent, fascinating and truly meaningful expedition the two of you have planned! Your anticipation is palpable, Bob. I'll bet Betty's is off the charts. I can only imagine the number of photos she'll return home with. A round of applause for both of you for conceiving and bringing to fruition such a grand and immensely personal adventure! By the way, if Alan and I had to depend on my high school French to get us through France, we'd be in serious trouble. Your confidence impresses me!ReplyDelete
We have hired an English-born guide who lives near one of the Montgomery castles to make our lack of French less of an issue. Our travel agent daughter is arranging various transportation links between hotels, cruise ship docks, and the train stations, again, to avoid most problems. Even so, we know enough basic French phrases to make an effort and please the locals with our attempts.Delete
I tend to stress when confronted with foreign situations, so we are taking as many steps as possible to ease that worry.
We will have plenty to talk about when we see you and Alan in the fall.
That thought had crossed my mind - looking forward to it very much!Delete
Hi Bob! This sounds like a wonderful trip! Are you doing it via Road Scholar by any chance? I had to cancel my travel to Europe in 2022 due to covid, but i'm ready to dive in again. I have a trip to Italy in May, and then Denmark and Holland in September, both through Road Scholar. Traveling as a single woman, I look at Road Scholar as a safety net for me, especially since it will be my first trip to Europe. Can't wait to hear about your experiences!ReplyDelete
We are not using Road Scholars but I have heard nothing but good things about that company and their tours.Delete
I found a "Tours by Locals" website that allowed us to connect with the fellow who will be our private guide for Normandy.
You have exciting trips ahead of you, Carole. We have been to Italy and Holland and loved them both.
This sounds like a wonderful trip. Given both your artistic pursuits, I'm glad you are planning to include a visit to Giverny. In addition to seeing the beautiful gardens that inspired some of Monet's most famous paintings, the house includes his collection of Japanese art.ReplyDelete
I wasn't aware of the Japanese art collection. We have several hours for that visit so I hope seeing that display is part of the experience.Delete
Sounds like a great trip and exploring your Betty's family history will add an extra dimension.ReplyDelete
A good friend of mine's last name is Montgomery through he was from Scotland and I'd always thought of it as a Scottish name (like WWII British Field Marshal Montgomery who's family were Ulster-Scots). Seems like the name may have made the crossing with William The Conqueror of Normandy.
In case you happen to be near there... My mother's family was from the Normandy town of Ranville and her family last name is "Rainville" which is an anglicized version of Ranville. They would have come to Canada (or have been settled) back when it was New France, likely in the early 1600's.
Have a great time!
We have seen several of her ancestral castles in the U.K. The Montgomery name seems much more widespread than Lowry!Delete
I will definately check the map to see if Ranville is near our route. If so, we will snap a few photos to send to you.
I believe that Ranville in very close to Caen. While it would be great to have a few photos of Ranville I understand if you can't get there, it's your holiday after all. Once again, have a great time and I look forward to reading all about it on your blog.Delete
We have hired a guide so I assume he will go where we ask him to take a slight detour ! Ranville appears to be just north of Caen.Delete
What a great trip to anticipate! One of my favorite tv programs is Finding Your Roots hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Knowing about your roots & walking on the same soil elicits a connection & emotion in the people seeking this information.ReplyDelete
We love Finding Your Roots. A new season began last month. We look forward to it each week and have been known to rewatch earlier shows just because they are so well done.Delete
This mirrors some of the sites we visited on our trip to Paris and Normandy. The WWII sites and the American Cemetery are breathtaking. The countryside is just beautiful and I'm sure you will both really enjoy this trip. I'm kinda jealous. :-)ReplyDelete
My DH is a WWII buff and reads about it incessantly. His father was a tail gunner and their B26 was shot up over the Falaise Pocket in France. They have since established a museum on the hillside overlooking that valley, and we drove through fog and farm country to find it. Very moving. As an aside, the pilot knew if they abandoned the damaged plane, my FIL would be killed since he had no means of escape. So they limped the plane back to England, but on the landing, the wing caught, the plane flipped, and the pilot was killed saving my FIL who ended up in a coma in a British hospital for a month before recovering.
Oh my, what a story of heroism and courage. We plan on visiting both the American and Canadian cemetaries on the trip, as well as the museum at Utah Beach, the place Betty's dad came ashore.Delete
What a fantastic trip you have planned. We also visited many of those sites in Normandy and brought back a jar of sand from Omaha Beach. We didn't realize it, but apparently many people do this.ReplyDelete
A jar of sand...thst is an interesting idea since Betty has small bottles of sand from many of the places we have visited over the years. Sounds like Utah Beach may be next.Delete
I took a similar trip in 2014; cruise on the Seine north towards Normandy. There was a sign in one of the small shops near the beach saying "Welcome to our liberators". (Most of the tourists are American). The people there remember and are grateful for the Americans who came to their defense, many of whom are buried in the cemetery nearby. It was quite a moving site, looking at the vast expanse of graves, knowing that most of them were in late teens or early twenties. I'm sure you will have a wonderful experience, can't wait to hear about it.ReplyDelete
Initially, I was a bit worried about my lack of French beyond some basic phrases. My prep for this trip assures me that just an attempt is all it takes to allow a conversation to begin. Bien!Delete
I am excited for Betty and you to take this trip. I am an immigrant and my family history is known to 1604 on one side and the 1100s on the other. I think that's far enough ;-) And I was lucky enough to spend 21 days in the homeland after my 18th birthday (on Dad's dime-lol). It is so easy for someone like me to think "what's the big deal" and take it for granted. Then Betty comes along and reminds me how lucky I am.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Ellie. She was excited when we saw her family's castles in England. On this trip, besides the properties, Betty is even more thrilled to walk in her dad's footsteps from all those decades ago.Delete
May you have an amazing trip. I think you will find the countryside French will both enjoy and encourage your speaking their language. What a well thought out journey!ReplyDelete
They will be free to giggle at our horrific accents. I'm sure I will butcher, Bonjour! But, I believe the people will be warm and welcoming.Delete