Ok, the luxuries I was talking about is none other than French baguettes and French pasterries. Imagine, getting fresh warm bread at the local bakery everyday and fresh pasterries for breakfast in the morning?? Sign me up.
So the two short days we were here, that is what we did. 3 different occasions to be exact.
You know the scene in the Disney movie Ratatouille where the girl chef tells Linguine, (please read with French accent), "How do you tell a good bread without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound...the crust...listen. (*Crackle*) Oh, symphony of crackle! Only great bread sound this way."
Yes, yes, YES!
The sound of the crackle, the crisp yet soft sound, as she squeezes the bread. THAT my friends is the sound the baguettes make here.
We were in the car when I went to break a piece of the baguette for one of the girls and I had to literally freeze in place, close my eyes, and take in the sound of the baguette. No joke, I did that. We bought a baguette in London the other day to take to the park and Tim said, "The ones in France are way better." Agreed.
We found this little boulganerie right around the corner from our hotel where we went for breakfast this morning and 2 other times yesterday to eat their yummy pasterries. The best e'claire I have ever eaten I had here.
Since it was Saturday morning the street market was now going on, and you know I love me a market! We bought strawberries, Tim bought a sausage dog for him, and I freaked out Marisa by squealing from seeing lobsters still moving ever so slightly on the seafood tables and small really wriggling bug-like sea creature thingys moving too. EEEek!
We left Bayeux and headed to one final stop before we headed back to Paris. Tim wanted to see another World Heritage Site which is Mont Saint-Michel.
It is pretty cool to see from afar. As for the inside, it reminds me a lot of Carcasonne. Once we were inside, everyone went up some more to go exploring in the Monestary, but I just stayed by the steps and sat and waited again until everyone was done. Before you think I was grumpy and that is why I didn't want to go explore, I wasn't. Like I said, I was over seeing things like that and was perfectly content sitting and chilling. Plus, Natalie was sleeping in her buggy at the time and we couldn't bring the buggy inside it.
The drive home to Paris took us 5 hours. It wasn't bad at all other than the fact that the GPS Grandpa and Grandma got didn't work in the city so we had to use Tim as our guide. He really likes maps, (like, he reads maps for fun) and he actually brought his own map of France to Paris, so it was actually a good thing he did because we used him as our GPS.
Funny side note: While we were driving away from Paris Grandpa said it was his goal to not get honked at. Despite that we were in the bus lane for a little bit and got lost many times in the city, but not too bad, we only got honked at 2 times during our total driving time. But we were able to honk at other bad drivers 2 different times and each time we did honk Grandpa and Tim would yell in the car, "Yeah! 1 for 1!" and then "Yeah! 2 for 2! We are even!" hahaha
In London, the day before we left for our trip to Paris we just needed to book a hotel for our last night there. We had previously booked all other hotels way beforehand. We just needed something close to the train station because we were literally only going to sleep the night in Paris and leave early in the morning the next day. Tim and Grandpa booked the hotel and we didn't think much of it. Well...
FYI: The area around the train station is not a good area. And the hotel we stayed at, well....check for yourself. This is all of us right before bed.
The room was so small and so ghetto. Plus, there was no breeze since it was hot that day in Paris so we were all sticky and warm. There were only two queen sized beds so each girl had to sleep in between the adults. Notice that Marisa is the only one smiling...in her underwear. Natalie had completely zonked out and her shirt is wide open because she was practicaly sweating. And when I flipped over to my side to sleep my face was literally 6 inches from Grandma's. haha I'm surprised I even fell asleep with all that was wrong.
Since we had an hour or so to kill before bed we decided to go for one last crepe run. We figured we would go right where we were last time we were here. On our way out of this hotel Elaine said, "I have been to many amazing hotels like, (I can't remember the name), but this is the worst place you have taken me, Wayne." haha
The Metro by the train station was so sketchy too. It reeked of urine so strongly that even Marisa asked, "What's that smell?" Also, everyone was black except for us. Can we say, target? And there was a homeless drunk guy completely passed out in the middle of the hallway inside the Metro with his pants kinda low. What the freak?? I was really missing the London tube.
We made it safely to our destination, successfully got our Nutella and banana crepes, and were even able to see the Eiffel Tower "bedazzled" one last time. I was really happy the girls got to see it. They were mesmerized and to this day remember the tower so beautifully lit.
It was a wonderful way to end our fun Paris trip. We all just couldn't wait for morning to get out of the hotel and back home. Although, Tim and I were unsure if we were going to be able to get home.
We were able to get our permanent passports back in time for this trip but we didn't have time to have our visas transferred to our new passports. (Remember all of our originals were stolen in Barcelona...grrr.) People at Tim's work said to bring copies of everything; copies of old original passports and visas, plus the temporary passports, and our new permanent passports, which thankfully we had even before our property was stolen. It was extremely easy getting out of GB but to go back to GB, well, that could be a different story. We juggled with the thought of risking it and obviously risked it, but this was Tim and I's conversation...
Tim: "Well, let's see if they deport us!" (Totally convinced we should go no matter what the outcome may be.)
Me: "Great..." (Sarcastically)
Me: (Thinking again) "As if sending me back to LA and to AMERICA, the best country in the world, would be punishment anyway."
Tim: "Just think of the blog material you would have!"
Me: Evil eye.
Me: "I don't care about blog material I want my life back!"
Me: "Stupid thief."
We changed gears a little bit today and headed west to the Normandy beaches where we are going to be for the next couple of days. Only about 3-4 hours away. We rented a big black Mercedes van which was so roomy and fun for all of us, especially the girls. Remember those portable DVD players we got for our last trip? Yes, those are the best purchases we have ever made. Note to self: Buy a car with built in TVs when back in the states. Tim already said that was a done deal. :)
We arrived to Bayeux in the afternoon which is a small obscure little town in Normandy. But I just love little obscure dainty towns. So charming and relaxing. There were no French people here speaking English like in Paris so we had to pull out our very, very little French. Basically, "bonjour" and "merci" is all I said. Tim did the best out of all of us. He really wants to learn French, since he can easily read it, so it was fun for him to practice.
The only thing to really see in Bayeux is the Bayeux Cathedral. I was so done with looking in cathedrals so I just hung out outside until everyone was done exploring. I didn't mind a bit because like I said, I love little towns and there is nothing like just sitting in a small town in France!
After wandering this small town a bit, which wasn't much other than cute shops, cute restaurants, and many cute boulangeries and patisseries, we got back in the car and took a small drive to Omaha beach. Tim's grandfather served in the U.S. Military in the infantry during WWII. He arrived to Omaha beach a few days after D-Day. This was one of the main reasons for traveling out of Paris to see Normandy.
It was really hard to transport my mind to what happened on June 6, 1944 on this calm beach. I can't imagine.
We woke up the next morning to do some more D-Day sight-seeing. We headed straight for the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial first. This was a very neat experience for me and I know for Tim and his parents. It was absolutely fascinating to learn what happened on D-Day and all the preparations before hand and all that transpired after D-Day. I mean, honestly, Europe was ultimately liberated because of D-Day.
There was so much to read, a couple of heart breaking videos to watch, and real life items to see.
The building was quiet inside and reverent which really added to the significance of the event and to those who sacrificed so much. One thing that really struck a cord with me was this all white hallway with dim lights and over the intercom a recording of a woman's voice named all the men who fought and died. A name was read, then a pause, another name read, pause, name, pause, name, pause... I got teary-eyed listening.
Here are a few facts that hit home to me:
"In June 1944, the Atlantic Coast of France was one of the most heavily fortified places on Earth.
The Atlantic Wall included over 500,000 beach obstacles, 6.5 million mines, and 13,000 fortified coastal strongpoints, many reinforced with 6-foot thick concrete walls. Almost 1.8 million enemy troops were stationed in Western Europe along with 3,300 artillery pieces and 1300 tanks."
"On Omaha Beach, critical supplies of ammunition and rations run dangerously low. The Germans destroy many shipments before they arrive, and only 100 tons out of 2,400 scheduled for the beach arrive that day."
"After 4 years of German occupation, the people of France had the most to gain from an Allied invasion- and the most to lose. More than 18,000 French civilians were killed during the fighting in Normandy. But despite the terrible risks, French citizens rose to welcome their liberators."
As if all this information wasn't enough, the most fascinating was the actual cemetery. We walked through beautiful well kept grounds from the main building to where all the American soldiers were buried. Families of those soldiers could have had their loved ones buried back in the U.S. but most chose to have them buried here.
The scene is breathtaking.
Row, after perfectly straight row, stood white crosses of where young brave American soldiers were buried. Most crosses had names on them, but some didn't, like the picture below.
This was a very peaceful, calm, reverent place. I felt so much sadness yet so much pride and gratitude. America is such a beautiful country on so many levels.
At one point while walking around, a trumpet sounded and the Star-Spangled Banner played. I couldn't hold back the tears anymore and they came flowing down at this point.
Living abroad sure makes you more patriotic than ever. I'm so glad for these experiences because I have become more grateful for what I have. Minus the material things that is. So proud to be an American and the freedoms I get to enjoy.
As we started to walk away to our next destination all the adults were walking and talking when we noticed that the girls weren't with us. We look behind us to see this...
No, that is not a wounded soldier, that is our little Natalie. She apparently decided to just lay down as we were walking and have absolute no care in the world? Marisa was off in the distance too climbing the wall.
We headed to see the British cemetery after this which I didn't take pictures of because quite frankly *cough, cough* the American Memorial is way better. But it was interesting to see the British side of things. And Grandma did manage to capture a picture.
We then ate lunch on Omaha beach which was really fun and then headed back to Bayeux for some more little town luxuries. Luxuries like, cute little sceneries like these...
There was another luxury we enjoyed I believe 3 different times at this one same location, but I will share them with you in the next post...
I feel like we packed all the major things to see in Paris in our first few days of getting here. We really didn't waste anytime! Today we took a little day trip to Versailles.
Like I said, I feel like I have seen a lot of cathedrals, museums, palaces, etc. to the point where they all seem the same to me now. But the Palace of Versailles takes the cake. You have to see it to believe it. So grand.
It is so stunning and unbelievable by today's standards that I can't help but think what this must have looked like back in its time. I mean really?
They had a free audio tour at the palace which Marisa loved. I'm glad because it kept her busy and semi-interested in what she was seeing when she could walk in a room, look for the corresponding number to put into the phone, and then listen to the audio tour.
Again, my pictures do it zero justice on the inside. Just imagine, GRAND! Very GRANDIOSE!
Once you think this palace can't get any more grand you step outside on the palace gardens and it is no less than magnificent.
It was such a beautiful day outside. It was warm and sunny yet completely comfortable and relaxing. And what is ambiance without gelato? I swear we have icecream at least once a week in Europe.
While Grandpa and Grandma did more sightseeing on these massive grounds, we decided to take a time-out by the huge pond and enjoy the great weather. Marisa feed ducks and swans with our left over lunch while Natalie took a nap in her stroller and Tim and I took turns taking a nap on the grass in the sun and in the shade. Ahhhh.....
The sound of water and people paddling on boats in front of us and this as our view...
who can complain? Tim and I kept having to pinch ourselves. Are we really doing this, in France? Marisa wanted to use my camera and so we let her take a picture of us. Not the best picture of us at all but it reminds me that she really wants to be a photographer like her mommy is pretending to be.
After a great day trip we returned to Paris very thirsty and very hungry. Grandpa has been wanting to eat outside a cafe during our whole trip and we finally were able to at a restaurant right in front of Saint Chapelle!
As if we couldn't get enough food nor gelato for the day, we headed out to get dessert after dinner! More gelato! But on the way, I loved seeing this "beach" along the river. I sure miss the beach...
Grandma's brother and my friend both recommended a gelato place called Amorino at the L'Ile of Saint Louis. Best gelato I have had yet. It is huge, and tasty, and so good looking you almost, almost, don't want to eat it. Look! They shape it into a flower for you!
And who is this homeless child? Spaghetti stains and gelato stains everywhere. A sign of a good day!
We were able to leave at night again to see more of the night life in Paris. This time I wanted to go to one of the bridges where people attach locks all along the fence across the whole bridge. If you look at the locks closely they each have lovers names on it, significant dates, etc. It is mainly a thing where you and your significant other can state your love, lock it, and keep the key so you can forever have your lock on that bridge in Paris. You can actually buy a lock and key from street vendors. Next time I want to bring my own so Tim and I can forever be a part of Paris too.
On this bridge at night people come with picnics and wine and sit and chat, sing, make-out. It was perfect for us to just blend in, sit, enjoy the cool night air, and do some of our own PDA as well. ;)
The last thing I wanted to see at night was the Louvre. There were lots of people there too. We layed up against the glass pyramid and stared up at the night sky. And ok, more PDA. It was such a nice evening!