Monday, June 16, 2014

travels | normandy, france | seventy years since DDay

Several years ago, my family went on a history tour and toured Normandy over DDay.  Those few days will forever stick in my memory and I was so very deeply moved.  I vowed that I would come back for the 70th anniversary in memory of the men who died on those beaches.  I guess I knew it was a long shot, and didn't really expect to return.

And three years passed by...
My best chum, Anna, and her family had been planning to go to France for about a year and invited me along.  They'd booked a chateau, arranged for a tour and promised some time in London.  Unfortunately, I had to decline due to a close friend's wedding in June.  Anna kept me updated as the time got closer, reminding me that it wasn't too late to come along...  When I found out my friend's wedding was postponed til August due to an emergency surgery, I looked at my calendar and checked with the parents and decided that I couldn't turn this down.
Traveling to France for the 70th anniversary of DDay was very meaningful to me.  My great grandfather was in Normandy, arriving about two weeks after the invasion.  He passed away about 10 years ago and never shared any of his stories or experiences.  It was too painful for him and understandably so, but I would have loved to hear his perspective as he watched everything play out. He was an incredibly kind man, one of the Greatest Generation, I think of him instantly whenever WW2 is mentioned and always smile.  Seeing the precious veterans last week brought back sweet memories of him.

I returned home last Sunday (with a slight case of the "lag of the jet") and have just a few stories to share...
We began in London, my absolute, hands-down, favorite, non-American city.  With just one day to explore, we stayed at a hotel on Westminster bridge.  Being that close to the middle of the city worked out so well and we were able to save lots of tube-travel time (I'm going to let you in on a secret: Abbe hates trains).  Churchill War Rooms was our first stop.  I cannot express my love for this museum enough!  It's one of the very best in the world.  If you're ever in London, be sure to include it in your itinerary.  You won't be disappointed.  
Since we visited approximately 39,000 museums during our last London trip, we narrowed it down a bit this time.  My vote was the Victoria & Albert museum to see their special wedding dress exhibit.  Nothing makes my heart leap like all things wedding related!  The V&A is what I refer to as a "girly" museum.  They have incredible collections of fashion, fabric, china, and jewelry.  And the museum cafe!  Don't even get me started!  It's divine!  The exhibit itself was beautiful, round, in a gorgeous room and two stories high, everything was white and perfectly lit.  The most famous dress on display was probably Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall's wedding "coat", as well as quite a few vintage dresses belonging to London socialites from long ago.  
Before taking the ferry from England to France, we spent a day in Portsmouth traveling out to visit Southwick house.  I was unfamiliar with the significance of this home.  Eisenhower needed a place to plan DDay from and chose this quiet town in England.  Two men from a toy company  were hired to come out and set up a map on one of the walls.  Now known as the "DDay Map".  Once installed, the men had to stay at Southwick for 6 months, due to the top secret nature of the project.  You can see the little wooden boat shapes and the red strings that show the routes each boat will take.  It was incredible to think that 70 years ago, this room had been the epicenter of such an important military plot.  I could almost smell the cigar smoke.  We walked a half mile into town and ate lunch at the pub that became the unofficial "mess hall" while Ike was there.  It gave such perspective into daily life during that time.
I will be posting more photos and words (of course) over the next few days.  There's just too much to put into one post.  

(The really good photos in this post are from Anna's 5DM3, the meh ones are from my iPhone.  P.s.  I told her I was stealing them.  P.p.s  She said it was fine.)

1 comment: