Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friday, December 24, 2010

April 27th, 2010

We drove to the coast of Normandy to see where D-Day happened.  First we went to the World War II museum in Cane France and spent a lot of time watching movies and looking at displays regarding the Allied invasion and liberation of Normandy.  We went through Bayeux, though I didn't have time to see the famed tapestry there.

We didn't have much time before the American National cemetary at Omaha beach closed, so we drove straight there.  It was a grim reminder of how much blood we left in Europe during World War II, seeing countless rows of white crosses across the beach.  After paying our respects at the graves, we walked down the beach and and stood in the sand that once was an Axis butcher field.

When we were finished, we returned to Paris, parking the rental car in the basement of the hotel and then for dinner we went back to the Italian restaurant that we first ate at near the hotel.  We wanted to have some of that delicious ice cream once more before my parents flew home.   The hotel staff even left chocolates on our pillows that night!

The next day we drove the rental to the airport, returned it, and then I saw my parents to the gate for their return flight.  It was another three days in Paris for me, and then a week in Athens before I'd rejoin them. 

All in all it was a great trip and definitely a fun way for me to wrap up my 9 months abroad working in France.    I loved showing my parents around the continent that I fell in love with when I was 19, and getting the rare occassion to put my European Studies and French degrees to good use.

April 26th, 2010

Today we were dedicated tourists.  We started off with the Louvre, a former palace turned museum.  From there we walked all over Paris, visiting the famed shopping district on the Champs Elysee, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower.  The Eiffel Tower might be my favorite place in Paris, especially when they light it up at night.

We ate lunch at a creperie.  I had a crepe with ham and cheese.  They were huge, like giant quesadillas, and quite filling.  For dinner we opted for a classic French meal at a French restaurant.  Onion soup, a really good filet of salmon...The meals are mom's favorite part, I think, and so far France has been a big success on that front.

We also made arrangements at the local Avis for a car rental for the next day, though Mom wasn't thrilled about that.  Driving through Brussels was harrowing enough that she wasn't looking forward to trying it again, but we were determined.

April 25th, 2010

Sunday brought us to downtown Paris again, this time in search of the Sunday morning meeting of the local Parisian ward.  We found it in time for sacrament meeting, and they had translation in English for the folks.  From church we hopped a train to Versailles, where we took a tour of the luxurious extravagance of the court of the Sun King.

Murals, paintings, mirrors, chandeliers, it was the seat of power of the world's headquarters of culture in the 17th century.  You could almost see the musketeers patrolling the halls.  We didn't explore the gardens, they were big enough to go hunting stag if we wanted and we were still a little exhausted from the previous day.  We took the train back to Paris and ended up in a little area behind the Notre Dame cathedral.

The funny thing about Notre Dame is that its an incredibly famous landmark now, but in the 1800's it was fairly unknown.  The post-revolutionary French government was in debt and was planning on dismantling the building and selling it for construction parts.  The poet and writer, Victor Hugo heard about this and rightly thought it was a travesty.  He wrote the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame to raise awareness of the building. Sure enough, the national attention caught fire and now it is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world.

We ate dinner in the area behind the cathedral and then returned to the hotel for another night's rest.

April 24th, 2010

This morning we took the train from Amsterdam back down to Paris.

The hardest part was getting from the train to our hotel.  It involved navigating the Parisian metro system with all of our luggage.  They are crowded enough without the piles of suitcases, but somehow we managed to haul everything back above ground.  Then it was a long walk from the metro to our hotel, and we nearly lost our will to move several times.  We were exhausted but we eventually came to the light at the end of the tunnel: The Marriott Hotel!  (insert picture)  Mom and Dad were glad to have a little slice of America and our room was great.  I even had my own bed this time, in the form of a fold-out couch.

This was my fourth time in Paris so I pretty much had the tour down pat at this point.   I like to start with the Montmartre district, a neighborhood of Paris immortalized in crime films from the 40's and 50's, and more recently in Moulin Rouge.  The tour begins at the bottom of a hill, in a pretty sleazy area filled with cabarets, kebab shops, and sex shops.  You then ascend the winding hill through communities of artists and bohemians until you arrive at the top of the hill, the magnificent Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  I had a professor who compared it to ascending from hell to heaven.  The Basilique overlooks the hill and provides a wonderful panoramic view of the city.  Its a great way to start the Paris portion of the trip, although mom's feet did not appreciate the climb.  She was already run pretty ragged by the ordeal of getting our luggage to the hotel.

Going down, we took a new trolley/lift that saved us a downward climb, and then we headed back towards our hotel.  There was a cozy little Italian restaurant in the neighborhood where our hotel was (Neuilly-sur-Seine). The food was great but it was the ice cream that made us decide we needed to come back before the trip was over.  After that we returned to our hotel room and called it a day.

Our hotel is Point A.

Our metro stop was Anatole France.  It doesn't seem that far but its a bit of a walk with luggage.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

April 23rd, 2010

We took the bus to Keukenhof and saw the tulip expo.  Its an enormous garden where tulip growers show off their flowers.  I had been there twice before, once as a missionary and again with Matthew Lanoy during our trip to Holland.  There was a windmill, a hedge maze, and thousands and thousands of tulips.  Mom and dad enjoyed looking over the various options for what flowers they'd someday want to plant, but I think the highlight of the visit for mom was the petting zoo.  There was a pony in there that she just had to go in and pet.

After Keukenhof, we became Harlem globetrotters by touring the city of Haarlem.  We stopped off at a nice department store and then spent some time wandering the riverside.  We saw a really cool windmill but by the time we arrived it had closed for the day.  Dinner was Indian food, something mom had been craving.  I got the spicy south Indian style dish and heartily enjoyed it.  I learned some Dutch words from our waitress, and then we returned to Amsterdam on the train, exhausted from an entire day of walking.

Tomorrow: Paris!

April 22nd, 2010

I AMsterdam, or so the T-Shirts declare.

We took a canal tour of the city, which was pretty interesting.  We got to see a lot of classic Dutch architecture. We opted out of the Van Gogh museum and instead visited the Anne Frank house.  It was a sobering experience to be sure, and it made me think about how much things have changed in Europe in the past seventy years.

The food wasn't as good as in Brussels, but we did find a pretty decent Italian place for dinner.

We spent the rest of the day walking around Amsterdam, looking at the carnival that was going on downtown and getting ready for a travel day the next day.  We bought tickets for the bus to Keukenhoff and Haarlem and returned to our hip hotel where I slept on the floor of our swanky little room.