Tag: France (Page 1 of 2)
Due to limited vacation time and a desire to see pretty much everything in the world, I tend to do whirlwind trips with itineraries carefully crafted to maximize every second of the day. Here’s the ideal itinerary for covering the best of Paris in only three days. If you’re planning on spending a whole day at the Louvre or enjoying the city atmosphere at a café, this isn’t the right schedule for you. But if you have limited time and a desire to see and do as much as possible, read on.
This schedule makes use of late evening hours that the Louvre and Orsay museums hold on certain nights during the week. Make sure to look up the current late night schedules and you can swap days around accordingly. The best way to accomplish this itinerary is to buy a Paris Museum Pass.
Invalides | Eiffel Tower | River Cruise
This is a slower day to accommodate morning flights or jet lag adjustments. Start by exploring the city a bit and take a quick visit to see Napoleon’s tomb at Invalides. Book your Eiffel Tower tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in line. Try to go up in the late afternoon just before sunset so that you can enjoy the view in the daylight, watch the sunset, and see the city light up below you. Read more about that here.
Take your time and enjoy a glass of champagne at the top and then take the elevator back down. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from for dinner in the area. Take an evening cruise along the Seine to enjoy views of the city at night and an introduction to some of the other highlights you’ll be visiting during your stay.
Versailles | Notre Dame | Louvre | Arc de Triomphe
Start the day by taking an early train to Versailles. Take your time touring the palace and grounds, and enjoy lunch on site in the tea room. Take a mid-afternoon train back to Paris and head to Notre Dame.
Explore inside of the cathedral and then head up to the top for some close-up views of the famous gargoyles and the belfry. Once you’ve had your fill of the view, grab dinner at one of the resturants on Ile de la Cite.
Walk or take a train to the Louvre to enjoy their late evening hours. You’ll have a few hours to explore the museum and see highlights like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Make sure to enjoy the view of the famous pyramid lit up at night – it’s even better after dark than it is during the day.
Pantheon | Sainte Chappelle | Sacre Coeur | Arc de Triomphe | Musee d’Orsay
Begin your day at the Pantheon, France’s collection of national heroes all entombed together. From there, you can walk to the Ile de la Cite to see the beautiful Sainte Chappelle. It’s not as famous as Notre Dame, but the interior is a must-see.
Have lunch nearby on Ile de la Cite, and then hop a train to Sacre Coeur. There is an inclined railway up to the top if you don’t want to climb the stairs. On your way back, you can take a detour to visit the Moulin Rouge before catching another train to the Champs Elysses.
Start at the Arc de Triomphe. Make sure to take the underground walkways to get to the center of the famous traffic circle surrounding it. A climb to the top offers beautiful views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants on the Champs Elysees.
Your final stop of the night will be the Musee d’Orsay for its evening hours. Here you can enjoy impressionist paintings in the beautiful setting of a former train station. Be sure to climb all the way to the top of the main hall for a bird’s eye view.
Read more about our visit to Paris:
Opinions on the value of city passes vary widely, with some people viewing them as tourist scams and others seeing them as huge savings. When I was planning my visit to Paris, I did a lot of research into the options available and decided against the city passes I saw offered and instead bought just the two-day museum passes. The transportation, cruise, and Eiffel Tower add-ons that come with the city passes didn’t provide nearly the same value as the museum passes alone did based on our travel plans.
Are they right for you?
After our visit to the Eiffel Tower, we grabbed dinner nearby and then headed down to the nearby docks for a sightseeing cruise on the Seine. We were treated to a gorgeous view of the tower while we were waiting to board and I was excited to see it in “sparkle mode.”
Ours was the last cruise of the evening, and there was only one other group onboard with us. The front part of the cabin had evidently been used for some kind of private party involving champagne on the previous cruise, but the staff cleared it out shortly after we departed and we were allowed to sit in the front area. We spent part of the time in the bow area, but it was too cold to sit there for very long.
The cruise was narrated in three languages: French, English, and Spanish. It was very hard to hear the narration on the outside part of the boat, but the speakers inside were fine. I actually learned quite a bit from it. One of the buildings that was pointed out was the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur, which evidently inspired architecture in Washington, DC, including the White House. I also didn’t know that the Musee d’Orsay was an old train station prior to the cruise.
It was fun to get another view of the highlights of Paris after seeing them from above earlier in the evening. The cruise gave us our first up-close sightings of highlights like the Louvre and Notre Dame, increasing my excitement level even further. The cruise took us all the way down to Ile de la Cite and back.
I absolutely loved taking the cruise at night. Seeing the lights reflecting off of the river and the buildings all lit up gave Paris an almost magical feel. It was not ideal for photography – being on a moving boat at night isn’t very conducive to taking quality pictures without a high-end camera – but we were there to enjoy ourselves. If you want to get good pictures, I’d recommend a day cruise, but for sheer atmosphere, the night time is definitely the way to go.
Read more about our trip to Paris:
We had to stop at the hotel first because we were hauling our luggage, so we asked the lady at the front desk about getting a cab, but she said that most of the drivers wouldn’t take such a short fare. Since there was no good way for us to take the Metro closer to the Tower, we power walked through the Champ de Mars to the base of the Tower.
We were a few minutes late, but it didn’t seem to matter. I’d read about horrendous lines for security and the elevators, but we seemed to breeze right through. Plans to increase the barriers around the base of the tower were recently announced, but guards and barriers were already heavily present. We had to walk through metal detectors before being allowed under the structure. Security only took a few minutes and we didn’t have to wait for more than one elevator car at any of the levels. Booking your tickets online is well worth it, and in the summer, it might be your only chance at getting to the top.
When to Visit
When making our reservations, we debated about what time we should do the Tower. One school of thought was to go up during the day so we could have good views of all of the landmarks. The other was that we should go up at night to enjoy the sight of the City of Lights all lit up below us. (And also to take advantage of its late hours so we could use the days to hit museums and other sites that closed in the evening.) It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that going up in late afternoon so we could watch the sunset over the city and see both day and night was the ideal solution. We googled the sunset times for November in Paris and chose our tickets accordingly.
I wanted to get tickets about an hour before the sunset to give us time to get through security and all the way to the top, but there was a mix-up when booking and we ended up with only about 25 minutes between our ticket time and the sunset. On top of that, we were a few minutes late, so we made it to the top just as sunset would’ve been ending. It didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because it was overcast that day anyway. The best laid plans can always go awry, so sometimes you just have to make the best of things. We still had amazing views and got to watch the city light up below us.
At the Top
There is a (slightly overpriced) champagne bar at the top. My sister and I spent the extra 5 Euros to get light-up glasses with ours. We were not disappointed. I took mine home and used it at midnight on New Year’s Eve, so if you factor in two uses, it was less expensive
It was freezing and very windy at the top of the tower, but we braved the cold and took our coats off anyway so we’d look semi-decent in some of the pictures.
I could’ve stayed up there until midnight, but we had tickets for a river cruise so we eventually headed back to earth to grab a quick dinner and find the docks. Kicking off the Paris portion of our stay with a visit to the Eiffel Tower was definitely a good way to start. It worked well logistically based on the locations of our hotel and our cruise departure and made us even more excited for the next few days. After finally laying eyes on the Louvre and Notre Dame from afar, it was almost impossible to sleep knowing that I’d be visiting them up close the next day.
Read more about our trip to Paris:
As a kid who grew up roadtripping to Disney World almost every year and a former Cast Member, it’s long been a dream of mine to visit all of the Disney parks worldwide. I recently got to check Disneyland Park off of my list, putting me halfway to this goal. Here are my thoughts.
It Knows How to Make a First Impression
As we were walking through the train station to get onto Main Street, I was practically bouncing with excitement. I’d been looking forward to exploring the Studios, but I was positively giddy to hit what I considered to be the main attraction.
The castle. It absolutely lived up to my expectations. In fact, the only thing preventing me from declaring it the best out of the three Disney castles I’ve seen so far is my own childhood nostalgia. And a general dislike of the color pink. The gorgeous details on it were incredible, and it only got better when it was lit up at night.
We happened to hit the park while a lot of rides were being refurbished for the 25th anniversary, but the only thing I was really disappointed about missing was Big Thunder Mountain. Many Disney fans cite it as their favorite version of the ride, and as a Frontierland girl from my Cast Member days, missing out on it was hard. Since it was a slow weekday during the off-season, a lot of the quick service restaurants were closed too, which left a good stretch of Adventureland almost completely empty.
My two favorite ride experiences at the park were It’s A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought both of them topped the versions at either of the American parks. WDW’s Small World, with which I’m most familiar, starts out with a lot of detail and cultural variety in the European room and then sort of slowly fades as you move through the other continents. It felt like the Small World here made more of an effort to acknowledge individual cultures in other parts of the world instead of just tossing a couple dolls out there and calling them African. It even had a whole room for North America with Canadian hockey players and American football players. I was delighted. The final show scene with the kids from all over the world seemed better too. And cleaner.
Pirates of the Caribbean had a much better storyline than the WDW version and is a lot closer to the original in California. Most of the iconic show scenes were close approximations of the WDW ones I was used to, but there were additional elements that I really liked. We were totally unprepared for there to be a camera on the drop, which got us a great picture of my mom, who hates drops and barely tolerates the one on Pirates, on our first ride.
Space Mountain was the other ride that stood out to us. We rode it four times during our day and a half in the parks. It’s much more intense than the WDW version (I can’t comment about DL’s because it was under refurb during my only visit there) and we loved the speed and loops weaving through planets. It’s currently being turned into Hyperspace Mountain, but from what I’ve read it doesn’t sound like the track will be changing. I would’ve loved to have seen that theming as I am also a huge Star Wars fan, although it doesn’t really seem to fit with the overall theme of the building.
Per family tradition, we wandered through the Emporium and snapped some pictures on the delightfully empty Main Street before heading out of the park and making our way back to the hotel.
Read more about our trip to Disneyland Paris:
My favorite area of the park by far was the Toy Story part. I’m a sucker for goofy photos and there were so many cute spots for pictures in that tiny little section of the park. I also loved the way the fences were styled like K’nex. I wished that the weather had been better the morning we spent there because if it hadn’t been raining, I could’ve wandered through this area for hours. I’m now even more excited to see the Toy Story area that is currently under construction at Hollywood Studios in Disney World.
My favorite ride in the Toy Story area was the RC Racer. I’m a roller coaster junkie and love the stomach-flipping feeling that you get from big drops. Even though this ride is pretty small, it was quite a bit of fun and delivered plenty of that feeling. For those who are nervous about coasters, the sensation was more along the lines of a pirate ship swing ride than an actual coaster.
We did the Backlot Tour next and it was great to see the familiar Catastrophe Canyon since it’s no longer at WDW’s Hollywood Studios. The tour itself was a little weird though. There was a video with two narrators – one speaking French and one speaking English – but they were conversing with each other in their own languages so half of the dialogue was in French and half was in English. It made it impossible to understand unless you knew both languages. It would’ve been much better to just go with a French voiceover and have English subtitles on the bottom of the screen instead.
We had an early lunch reservation at Bistrot Chez Remy. We picked it more for theming than the menu and were not disappointed. We were the first table seated that morning because we accidentally showed up a few minutes before they opened. I loved the clever little touches the Imagineers added to really immerse you in the world of Chef Remy. There were giant paper drink umbrellas over some of the tables, and our chairs were designed to look like the tops of champagne corks. I hung my coat up on a fork that was almost as tall as I am. It was exactly the kind of cheesy that I love.
All four of us had steak frites with ratatouille, and it was about what you’d expect for theme park food. The steak was decent, but not memorable, though the fries it came with were delicious. I’d never had ratatouille before, so I was excited to get to try that. It tasted a lot like minestrone to my unsophisticated palate.
The Ratatouille ride consistently gets rave reviews, but I didn’t really fall in love with it. I felt like it was lacking something and was a little hard to follow. I was fascinated by the ride system and the way the cars moved through moreso than the ride itself. I could also see it being a problem for people who get motion sick.
Crush’s Coaster was closed the whole first morning, so we had to come back during EMH on our second morning to ride it. My sister and I tried to talk our mom, who doesn’t even like kiddie coasters, into riding it. after the first 30 seconds or so of the ride, we were convinced that she should give it a shot. We had gone through the outdoor curve and the slow show scenes and thought it would be perfect for her. Then we got into the main building where things opened up and we were zooming around curves left and right. It packed quite a bit of punch for such a small ride and I loved it. It was the only ride we had to wait in line for more than five minutes for on either day – it had gone up from 25 to 45 minutes by the time we got off – or we would’ve ridden it again.
My only regret at the Studios was missing the shows. I had read about them before coming and was excited to see them, but the timing just didn’t work out for us. We were only at Studios for a couple hours the first morning and less than an hour the second morning and left before the first showings each day. No one else was willing to walk back later in the afternoon to check the out, so we ended up skipping them.
Read more about our trip to Disneyland Paris:
Disney Village serves as the gateway to the two Disney parks at Disneyland Paris. It’s full of shops and restaurants both Disney-specific and part of large chains. I was able to dine at two of them (both featuring Mickey!) during my visit.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
We had to run from the Sequoia Lodge to get there on time, but we made it with seconds to spare. I’m told that we missed a fun singalong with Goofy out in the lobby area, which would’ve been fun, but I was just relieved to get to see the main show. We were given straw hats representing our team color – getting to cheer “Go Blue!” warmed this Michigan girl’s heart – and took our seats just as the lights were dimming for the intro.
I was pleasantly surprised by the food. I’d read in a bunch of places that the overall food quality at DLP is a bit lacking, so I went in with kind of a skeptical mind. We started off with a bowl of chili, which is a dish that I’m fairly picky about due to my dad’s most excellent family recipe, and I thought it was fairly good. It was served with a side of tortilla chips, which was a little odd, but it was tasty and hot and I loved that it was served out of a big metal bucket.
The main course was delicious as well. I got a large piece of bone-in chicken, a couple of ribs, an unidentified sausage, and a pile of really good potatoes. We also got some sort of tropical juice and a choice of soft drink or beer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sausage, but everything else was delicious. Dessert consisted of some of the best apple cobbler that I’ve ever had anywhere. It was served piping hot and I definitely burned a lot of my mouth eating it because I just couldn’t wait for it to cool down. I keep thinking that eventually I’ll learn to let my food cool before eating it, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe my thirties will bring me more wisdom.
The show was as cheesy as expected. Minnie, Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Goofy performed a couple of song and dance numbers and there was a cowboy brawl around a campfire. Annie Oakley did a bunch of sharpshooting and the cowboys raced to deliver letters a la the Pony Express. Sitting Bull and a group of Native Americans were also featured.
The end of the show pitted the audience members against each other, as the cowboys and Native Americans split up into four teams for some skill competitions. They were either totally rigged to keep the score close, or the judges were totally blind, but it was fun to cheer our guys on. Each team also had a rodeo clown to lead it in cheers and get everyone into the competition. The last task involved audience participation passing a ball up and down the rows and then giving it to the actors on the field to try to make a basket with it. I don’t think any of them has a future in the NBA, but we got really into cheering them on. Our team ended up winning, which was great because my family tends to be pretty competitive.
The winning team gets to have three audience members chosen to help “guard” a stagecoach shipment of gold. My brother and I were both chosen, so we got to climb down onto the sand – I wouldn’t recommend volunteering if you’re wearing heels or other shoes you wouldn’t want to have filled with dirt or if climbing up and down a short ladder would be difficult for you – and were taken backstage to participate in the final scene. We got to ride in a stagecoach with the ringmaster as it drove around in the arena. We were pretty terrible guards because we were almost immediately attacked by bandits, forced out of the stagecoach, and tied together like characters in an old cartoon. Fortunately, it’s a Disney show, so without giving away any spoilers, it had a happy ending. It was the perfect way to kick off our Disneyland Paris stay.
Our other experience in the Disney Village was eating at Café Mickey on our last day. We had purchased the dining plan, and this was the only character meal it covered (characters will no longer be appearing at the restaurant after the end of March) and it sounded like a fun way to wrap up the Disney portion of our trip.
I hadn’t looked at a menu prior to booking, and we found that there were only a few options available. I ended up with a cheeseburger, which is the kind of thing I usually avoid when traveling abroad, but nothing else really appealed to me. For dessert, I had a Mickey cupcake, which was adorable, but looked better than it tasted.
We were amused by the eclectic mix of characters milling around. I’ve been to plenty of WDW character meals and they usually have some kind of theme ie. princesses, Pooh characters, Fab Five, etc., but this one featured Mickey, Rabbit (from Pooh), Goofy, Pluto, and the penguin from “Mary Poppins.” I was particularly excited to see Rabbit because I’d never met him before, and it’s rare for me to get to see new characters after working at WDW for almost two years through college and grad school.
I’ve spent enough time in Europe to know that meals take longer than most Americans are used to, but we were shocked at how long it took for our food. It took at least half an hour for our desserts to come, and they were all pre-made, so it’s not like there was a lot of prep work involved. When we finally got out of there, we had to run back to the hotel to get our luggage out of storage and hop on the RER train. We almost missed our Eiffel Tower tickets because we were running so late. I would leave yourself a huge cushion of time if you’re planning on dining there because you might end up missing Fastpasses or other commitments if you cut it too close.
I really liked having the Disney Village as the gateway to the parks. It felt very much like Disneyland in Anaheim. As much as I’ll always consider WDW to be my Disney home, the way it’s spread out will always be a major drawback. Park-hopping with a five-minute walk sure beats a 20-minute bus ride and going through security again.
It’s also a great way to get a taste of Disney without having to shell out for park tickets. If you’re a Disney fan visiting Paris but don’t have the time, funds, or desire to spend a day or two at the parks, you could hop an RER train out to Marne-la-Vallee and spend an evening at the Disney Village enjoying the food, dinner show, or general Disney atmosphere before heading back into the city.
This is important to know about me: I am a huge Disney nerd. My family visited Disney World frequently when I was a kid, I worked there for almost two years during and after college and grad school, and I’ve gone back multiple times as an adult. I’ve always dreamed of going to all of the Disney parks worldwide, and one of the reasons I chose to go to France alone in November was because I knew none of the friends I’ve traveled with before would want to spend time at Disneyland Parc. Then my mom and sister and brother jumped on the bandwagon and it turned into a 2/3 family vacation.
We wanted to stay on site to make the most of what we figured was a once-in-a-lifetime trip there, so we chose the Sequoia Lodge. I’m a huge fan of the Wilderness Lodge at WDW, as well as the real National Park lodges out west that it’s based off of, so I was pretty excited since this seemed to be a close approximation of those. The lobby was pretty and well-themed, but lacked some of the grandeur that the Wilderness Lodge has. The Christmas decorations in the lobby added a warm, homey touch for the holidays though.
As WDW veterans, we were not surprised to have to check in with security when driving onto the property. We were unprepared to have to show proof of our reservation though and it took me several minutes to dig through my phone in search of the confirmation. (I was saved by Google’s new-ish Trip app, but that’s a story for another post.) They also required us to pop our trunk for a quick peek before we were let into the parking area.
I dropped my mom off so she could check in while the rest of us parked the car. When the rest of us came in we were surprised to find more security there. My sister and I had to put our purses through an x-ray machine and we were all wanded with a metal detector before being allowed to enter the building. The security was a little off-and-on, so when we came back in hauling our large suitcases, no one was manning the checkpoint and we just walked in. The whole thing felt like security theater., which I hate. The whole thing just felt silly since none of the other doors even had key card locks to limit access to registered guests.
Other than the security show making me roll my eyes a little, we were thrilled with the hotel. One evening, we wandered through the Hotel New York and Hotel Cheyenne and were even more happy with our decision. The interior theming at the New York hotel was almost non-existent (although I thought the outdoor ice skating rink a la Rockefeller Center was a nice touch for Christmas) aside from some large apples decorating the check in counter. I liked the theming at Cheyenne a lot, but it’s very spread out and would’ve been a long walk to/from breakfast and the parks.
Golden Forest Perks
We had had to make some modifications to our reservation to add my brother who decided to come at the last minute, and somehow while calling the reservation line my mom got us upgraded to a Golden Forest room at no extra cost. This entitled us to a special check-in area (basically there was a desk and chairs you could sit down at and a bowl of Disney chocolate coins that I may or may not have taken a whole pocketful of), guaranteed room in the main lodge, an upgraded breakfast, access to a lounge with free pop, water, and hot beverages in the evening, and an extra Fastpass per person for each day of our stay.
Having the room in the main lodge was by far the best aspect of it. We didn’t realize until the second night that there were separate buildings that had exterior walkways. This wouldn’t be an issue in the summer, but it was cold when we were there.
I also enjoyed the upgraded breakfast. I don’t really have a frame of reference for what it compares to, but the scrambled eggs were way better than the usual breakfast buffet ones, and I had about three helpings of perfectly cooked bacon each morning. We didn’t get much of a chance to use the lounge in the evening, but I did discover on the second night that they would give you cans of pop and bottles of water to take back to your room, so I walked out with an armful of drinks to share with the family.
Our room had a perfect view of the parks and getting to see the landmarks when we first checked in was incredibly exciting. On our second night, after the parks closed, there was some kind of special fireworks and “bonfire” presentation on the lagoon outside of the hotel. Instead of standing outside in the cold for another hour, we just went up to our room and watched from the window in our nice, toasty room.
The room was large by European standards and had plenty of room for the four of us. Our only complaint was the lack of outlets. There were only three places to plug things in in the room, and one of the outlets was controlled by the master light switch so it couldn’t be used when the lights were off at night. If you’re planning on traveling with a larger group, bring power strips or splitters because plugging in all of our phones, cameras, Fitbits, and other assorted electronics was a challenge.
We never hit up the bar in the lobby, but it had a roaring fire and was packed with people who looked like they were having a fantastic time. Instead, we spent our only real evening there attempting to use the pool. The Sequoia Lodge is the only place I’ve stayed at in Europe that actually has an indoor pool. We had to walk (run, actually) outside to get to the pool building. The map of the hotel we’d gotten when we checked in made it look like it was an enclosed walkway to get there, but it was not. And it was very cold. You entered the pool area through a locker room that had showers and a sauna, and for some unexplained reason a bunch of men were wandering through all of the changing areas.
I thought the pool area was very pretty and I liked the fake rock formation that housed the waterslide. My mom and sister were not pleased that you had to swim through the pool to get to the hot tub though. I found it a bit perplexing, but I went for a quick swim anyway. The hot tub ended up not being as hot as I’m used to and having to jump in the cool pool to get out of it kind of negated the effect, but I would’ve spent some more time there if the others hadn’t been waiting for me to leave. I settled for a couple runs down the waterslide and we headed back to the room. I had brought my waterproof camera on the trip just for this pool, but I sadly discovered that it does not work well indoors at all. I’ve gotten some gorgeous shots with it at several different beaches, but this was the first time I had used it inside. I didn’t end up with a single usable picture, sadly.
The hotel also has a great luggage storage area outside of the lobby and they took our crazy amount of luggage with no problem. We found out as we were rushing to leave that there was a quick shuttle from the hotel entrance to the train station, which saved us from having to powerwalk all the way there and try to figure out how to put our giant suitcases through the tiny bag scanners at the entrance to Disney Village.
I would definitely recommend the Sequoia Lodge if you’re planning on staying on-site at Disneyland Paris. It seems to have the best combination of theming and location, and was pretty reasonably priced compared to the higher-end resorts at the American Disney parks.
Visiting Omaha Beach had long been on my travel bucket list. As a major history buff, especially about WWII, as soon as I booked a flight to Paris, I knew I’d have to make a road trip up to Normandy. We only ended up with about a day and a half to explore, but you could easily spend three or four days seeing all of the sights, especially if you were to throw in a trip to Mont Saint-Michel while you’re in the area.
Renting a car is by far the best way to visit the D-day historical sites on the Normandy coast. Unlike other parts of Europe that I’ve visited, there isn’t any great public transportation around there, so a car is essential unless you plan on doing one of the big bus tours that we crossed paths with. I’m not typically a huge organized tour fan because I like having the freedom to explore at my own pace and spend more or less time at a certain location depending on how much it interests me. This was my third Europe trip in the last three years, all of which have involved driving, so renting cars over there doesn’t really phase me.
American Cemetery at Omaha Beach
We didn’t spend much time in the museum area because it was our third D-Day-focused museum in the last 18 hours. We did take the time to watch a fantastic short movie in a theater on the lower level that followed the stories of a few of the people who were killed in the Normandy campaign. I’m not usually much of a softie, but I was a little choked up at the end.
This part of the memorial, behind a glass wall but lit by the sky above, hit me the hardest. Nearby, the following quote by General Mark W. Clark was inscribed in the wall: “If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: all we asked…was enough…soil in which to bury our gallant dead.” Googling at a later time informed me that the full quote specifically refers to Italy, but the same sentiment applied here in Normandy.
We were lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day to walk around the cemetery. It was cold and windy, but the day we were in Normandy was one of the nicest days we had the entire trip. The views from atop the cliffs overlooking the Channel were stunning.
There was a little restaurant in a hotel called Domaine de l’Hostreiere outside of the cemetery, so we stopped for some crepes before heading down to see the beach itself. I had a simple butter and cinnamon sugar one, and was once again left jealous of the choices my mom and siblings made.
A short drive west of the American cemetery takes you to a small town called Colleville-sur-Mer that has access to Omaha beach. I read that you used to be able to hike a trail down from the cemetery, but that it had recently been closed for safety reasons. There were a couple of smaller memorials here that also presented some facts about the landings, but the most interesting part to me was being able to walk on what was the bloodiest of the D-Day beaches. There’s some uncertainty, but this may be where my grandfather came ashore in August 1944. We obtained some of his service records just before this trip, and he’s listed as coming over on Omaha Beach that August, but with Gold Beach handling almost all of the landing traffic at that point, we’re not certain that it’s accurate.
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc was a fortified German position that overlooked both of the American landing beaches. US army Rangers took it at an unbelievable cost by scaling the cliffs and managed to hang on to it with until reinforcements came much later. This was the only area around Normandy that we were able to tour that actually showed remnants of fortifications and battle scars. The entire area was dotted with craters that gave it a moon-like feelin. My brother and I climbed down into one of them and it was almost double my height.
You could also peek into destroyed German bunkers and fortifications that housed large guns. The weapons are no longer there, but you can see the field of fire they would’ve had.
On top of all of that, Pointe du Hoc also offers a stunning view of the Channel contrasted with gorgeous rock formations. I don’t know if the barbed wire that could be seen from the overlook was left from the war of if it was just placed there to keep stupid people from falling off the edge or destroying the rock formations, but it made an interesting contrast to the scenery.
Looking east back toward Omaha Beach, we were even treated to a rainbow. Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit Utah Beach, as we had to hit the road to head back toward Paris.
Read more about our trip to France, Belgium, and Luxembourg:
- One Afternoon in Caen and Bayeux, France
- Why Any History Buff needs to Visit Arromanches-les-Bains
- Disneyland Paris – Sequoia Lodge
- Disneyland Paris – Disney Village
- Disneyland Paris – Walt Disney Studios
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