Thursday, April 11, 2013


With Paris in our rear view mirror, our road trip across the continent had officially begun, Normandy programmed in our GPS. Words can hardly express the heavy emotions felt along the coast of Normandy where thousands of American and British soldiers once fought on June 6, 1944. Naturally, I hate visiting anything American related while in a foreign country, as I feel that I should experience the country that I'm currently in; however, the beaches of Normandy are a different story. There was a great national pride visiting the sites where my country's men fought and died to liberate the people of Normandy. 

We stayed in Normandy for just a day and a night in a little town called Bayeux (Bay-you) where the streets were narrow and quiet. Our hotela tiny, rustic style building right in the middle of townwas an authentic French cottage with a tiny water closet, a lever that pulled up to flush, and real wooden shutters . Dad had to lean his whole body out the window to pull them shut at night. Though different from some of the luxurious hotels we stayed at in Paris and London, the hotel was a true French experience with a charming local atmosphere. Just down the narrow, cobbled street was a massive cathedral, towering high above the tiny French buildingsit was almost too big for the village, but that made it all the more magnificent.

By car, we drove along the skinny, winding back-streets, through small towns with high stone walls and past courtyard villas. Every building, every farmhouse, every curve in the road was picturesque and it was driving Mom crazy that she couldn't capture the experience on camera. We had to stow away our cameras most of the time, but occasionally one of us would scream "stop the car!" and we'd come to a squealing stop. 

Along the drive, we stopped at Omaha Beach, Point Du Hoc, and the Normandy American cemeterya tour through June 6 where the soldiers marched through the raging waves, scaled steep cliffs, and took over the German forces. Standing on the beaches where one of the most influential attacks in our world's history took place, was incredibly movingwithout the sacrifices of these young men, our world could have been a very different place. Even more emotional was standing in the cemetery where thousands of little marble crosses and David stars dot the green grass, marking each individual life lost in the battle, forever remembering them as young, brave soldiers. Several times, shivers crept down my spinepartly from the emotion, and partly because of the wicked winds that nearly knocked me off my feet. 

The following day, we hopped in the car again, now programming Brussels, Belgium in our GPS, the city where waffle stands are on every corner. Again, we only stayed a day and a night, exploring the old town of Brussels. Though a quick visit, we saw a good portion of the city, including the Grand Plaza where the ornate buildings surrounded us on every side of the stone courtyard, towering tall with their fancy gold trimming and pointy spires. Mom was so excited, she got real serious saying, "Okay guys. Okay. Everyone in the picture!" We made the view last for a few hours longer by eating in a restaurant with a brilliant view of the plaza; our waiter was terrible, though, as he made a mistake with every order: drinks, more drinks, and food. Dad even started predicting the mistakes. As the sun set, the lights came out, giving life to the magnificent buildings, and everyone oohed and aahed like we were watching fireworks. It was the grand finale to our stay in Belgium. 

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