11-15-17 Waterford, Blarney Castle and Titanic last port of call

First thing on Wednesday we hopped on the bus for a 3-minute trip to the Waterford Glass Factory. Waterford – bring to mind exquisite glassware for sure and our tour re-enforced that notion. Our guide, Mike, has worked for the Waterford Company since the 1970’s and clearly had a grasp of the process of the system. While most of the Waterford glass was manufactured in the late Slovakia, it would seem the more decorative or limited edition pieces are done in the Waterford plant.

Janeen at the entrance to the Waterford factory tour.

Starting with a brief video highlighting the history of the company – started in 1783 closed in 1890 and restarted around 1947 it was an interesting presentation and gave a good understanding of the historical position of the company.


Step one – work on the wooden mold for the item to be created.





When making limited edition pieces, they start off with a wood model and from that make a wooden mold in which the glass is blown.

Starting the shape of the bowl before placing it into the mold.
Blowing the bowl into shape.
After the bowl has been shaped, it is taken from the rod and cured overnight.












Once a design is determined to be acceptable more permanent metal molds are made. Our first stop was the model shop where we watched a woodworker make the finishing touches on a mold. From the model workshop, we moved on to the glass blowing station – with two stations heating and blowing individual pieces. While we were there they were making a limited edition Saint Patrick’s Day Bowl for sale to the US Market in February.

Step one – after polish and before etching has started.
Step 2 of the engraving – note the lines marked on the bowl.
Step 2 of the engraving.

After the glass bowl has been ‘blown’ and cured overnight it moves to the first to the marking station, where all the design is drawn onto the bowl and then to the engraving stations.




Engraving the bowl

Each bowl is hand engraved using diamond wheels and water. The training for the engraving station takes 5 to 7 years before the individual is truly fully trained and allowed to engrave the materials. It was interesting to watch these workers (99% men by the way) perform their tasks. Etching is done at the last station by artists with hand tools, both male and female.

Fine detail and interesting pieces. Nothing I wanted to take home however.

From the production end of the building we of course went into the sales area where we were able to purchase a wide selection of Waterford products. Most tableware is now made in Slovakia. Needless to say, we didn’t purchase anything ,but it was interesting to see the wide range of items available.

Our guide on the tour and now in the show room.
A portion of the items available in the showroom.









After our tour we got back on the bus and headed towards Blarney Castle. There was a photo stop along the way to see the coastline – Atlantic Ocean and village of Dungarvan.

Overlook of the Atlantic on the right and the area around a couple of villages.
Here we are taking a selfie at the overlook.

The countryside is GREEN with limited farming beyond sheep grazing the grass. The overcast sky’s and damp weather make it very clear we are Ireland.










Blarney Castle as we walked towards it.

Blarney Castle – what can I say about this place. Blarney castle is the third structure to have been erected on the site. In the 10th century there was wooden hunting lodge here, around 1210 this was replaced by a stone structure. This was all demolished and the foundations used to create the current castle built by Dermot MacCarthy in 1446.

Why do people go to kiss the Blarney stone? Well, legend indicates it all started when Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, was called to Queen Elizabeth to explain his lack of payments to the Crown. McCarthy met an old witch woman on the way who told him that anyone who kissed a particular stone she indicated would be given the gift of eloquent speech. So he kissed the stone and went on to the Queen and was so eloquent in his speech he was completely successful and returned a tax free happy man.

This is where the Blarney Stone is located!

He subsequently had the stone placed in the upper tower of the Castle. From then on, the legend grew to such an extent that for over 200 years world statesmen( W.Churchill), literary giants and millions of ordinary folk have climbed the steps to kiss the Blarney stone and gain the gift of eloquence.

After getting off the bus we headed to the Castle and up the stairs. There are over 500 steps – not all in great shape and in a circular tower to get to the top. On top of all of that, it was misty and the steps were wet with dew. However, we made it to the top and proceeded to Kiss the Stone. Fortunately, there are a couple of guys there to help with the process along with grab bars and a mat to lay on to perform the ritual. Of course, you do it on your back, have to slide over the edge and while hanging UPSIDE DOWN slide down to kiss the stone.

Janeen Kissing the stone!
David Kissing the stone
Certificate that Janeen has kissed the Blarney Stone!
Certificate that David has kissed the Blarney Stone!














After getting back down the tower steps, we walked over for lunch at the pub and Blarney Woolen Mills purchase of a vest for David, and then back to our bus for the drive to Cobh. This village’s major claim to fame is that the Titanic made the last port of call prior to setting sail across the Atlantic to her meeting with the iceberg. The other major event, for the village, was the sinking of the Cunard Liner the Lusitania on May 7th 1915 resulted in the deaths of 1,198 of the 1,9659 people on board. It was torpedoed off the coast and many of the boating people of Cobh went out and rescued survivors and brought back the dead.

Lusitania Peace Memorial – the two standing represent all the sailors who went out in their boats from the Village to tray and rescue people.
Lusitania Peace Memorial showing the inscription.










The village has two memorials – one large one for the Lusitania and a smaller one for the Titanic. We also learned about the local history of the village, people who had visited and more answers to Ireland in WWII. Once our guide had shared his wisdom, we boarded the bus for our final drive to Killarney.

Special Memory of the Irish Emigrants and all those who lost their lives in this Great Tragedy.
The bronze statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers. She was the first emigrant to step ashore on Ellis Island and was from Cobh.

11-14-17 Glendaough and the Dunbrody Immigrant Ship

Tuesday our Driver Tony, although a native of Dublin, was ready to head out of the busy city and south toward Wicklow County where we explored Glendalough, Valley Between Two Lakes and site of the 5th century monastic community of St. Kevin Coemhghein (fair begotten). Although never officially declared a saint by Rome, the stories of his works and miracles keep him an “Irish Saint”.

Here we are at the entrance to the Glendalough National Park area.
The Round Tower at Glendalough. This is one of only a few that have survived in Ireland.










Tower and graves – note the cross in the graveyard.








Kevin’s Cross-incorporates the Christian Cross of Crucifixion with a circle of the Sun/Son, symbolic for the local people of the spirits of their previous deities. The Monks built a 30-meter high tower of local mica slate and granite, probably to mark the community for travelers and pilgrims, and perhaps to protect any property from marauders. It has a conical roof and four windows facing North, South, East and West at the summit. A bell called out worship times from the top. Glendalough was meant to be a place of communication with nature and quiet meditation. The community supported itself simply. Even after 12th century Ecclesiastics abandoned the site, local people continued using the “cathedral” and the cemetery to bury their dead in a consecrated ground.

A unique feature was this double arch entrance way into the compound.
Inside the Cathedrial
The round tower and Kevin’s Church
Here we are inside the ‘Cathedrial’

Continuing our adventure, we headed along the coast, moving clockwise around the Ireland, we rode on to Wexford County, and New Ross, port for Wm. Graves “Hunger Ship “.  When the potato crop failed for two successive years, and English Landholders saw their properties fail as families died off from starvation, they sought alternatives. One was to offer a family passage to the New World (US, Canada,) on a cargo ship.

While the ship looks like it has gun ports they were just painted on.
The view foward on the ship
The deck looking towards the stern.

The Dunbrody Famine Ship is a reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel; it provides a good interpretation of the famine emigrant experience. On board the ship, our guide talked about the realities of life on these notorious “Coffin Ships”. Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was anything but pleasant. Packed cheek by jowl below decks, the steerage passengers barely saw the light of day – maybe 30 minutes a day they were allowed up on deck. During bad weather, which could last several days, they never made it on deck – not a pleasant experience for anyone.

As many as 1.5 MILLION people may have traveled to the “better land” in these ships.

A typical layout for a family in one of the ‘bunk’ areas in steerage.
Below deck spaces in steerage area view towards the stern.
A rendering of what it might have looked like in steerage on the ship.

It was an interesting visit seeing the ship and hearing the stories along with all the information they provided.

Janeen holding up the life ring from the Dunbrody.

After completing our tour, we boarded the bus and headed to our next stop for the evening – Waterford. Once there we did a quick walking tour highlighting the Viking, and Norman Conquest of the city and visiting some of the significant sites.

Inside view of a Viking ship replica in Waterford
A Viking ship replica in Waterford

11-13-17 Dublin – Trinity Collage

Monday – Day one of our C.I.E tour of Ireland and we discovered there was a 2 PM bus and walking tour set up to begin the adventure. Our guide, Felicity, introduced us to Dublin City while we drove around and looked at the sites. Unfortunately, being on a small bus, doesn’t really give you a chance to take any good pictures plus the fact it was trying to rain didn’t help much. However, the history and sites were really interesting. We drove over the River Liffey a couple of times on 16th century and 21st century bridges to see the sites.

Dublin city bridge – lovely color of building on the side of the River.
Father Mathew Bridge
Halpenny Bridge
This is the Convention Centre, designed to look like a keg of beer!
Dublin Castle was the fortified seat of British rule in Ireland until 1922.
The General Post Office on O’Connell Street was at the centre of the 1916 Easter Rising.

































Oscar Wilde sculpture across the street from his childhood home.

We stopped to see the statue of Oscar Wilde and the Children’s Play area near by which is across the street from his childhood home. The structures are designed to match the fairy tale of the Selfish Giant, a tale written by Wilde.

The Selfish Giant play area.









One of the large open areas of Trinity Collage

Soon we were at Trinity Collage, established in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, our next stop, which included a walking tour with a student (from upstate New York working on his PHD) and a visit to the Library and a viewing of the Book of Kells.


One of the oldest towers at Trinity Collage – also with bells that are rung only on special occasions.
One of the early guys at Trinity Collage










Janeen at Trinity Collage

The College has about 17,000 students and takes up a fair piece of property in Dublin. The walking tour highlighted some of the key spots on the campus, talked a little about being a student there and it’s requirements and ended up a the College library.





The Book of Kells under glass.

The Trinity College Library is the largest research library in Ireland.   Due to its status as a ‘copy right’ library, it receives two copies of EVERY book published in Great Britain and Ireland every year – that’s a LOT of books. Incidentally, any profit made from a creative endeavor, books, paintings etc. is NOT Taxable. Creativity is supported by the government. The Library we walked through holds much older publications, the Book of Kells and Brian Boru Harp.

A close up of a part of the Book of Kells









The Book of Kells is from 800 AD and is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together other examples of monastic literacy. It was created in a Columban monastery in Ireland. Needless to say, the book is old, protected under glass and tightly secured. The colors of the book were amazing, the inks being layered on calfskin, and produced with natural plants and minerals . The Brian Boru Harp is the oldest surviving Irish harp and is the model for the insignia of Ireland. It dates from 14th or 15th Century. It too is protected behind a glass case.

Brian Boru Harp from the 14th or 15th Century.




After getting back on the bus we motored back to our hotel for a welcome drink and a quick review of the upcoming events. I’m sorry we didn’t get more of an introduction to Dublin on our tour but we come back at the end of the trip around Ireland and we may have additional time to explore this City.




11-10-17 Final days in London & first pub in Dublin

Our last day or so in London had us walking around a lot – visiting various shops and picking up play tickets to see The Ferryman.

The Market place – this was really across the square from the Apple store. Not sure if that’s how the Market got it’s name or not.
Janeen really liked the large Mistletoe hanging from the ceiling
Outside the Market was this big potted Christmas Tree. No decorations really on it yet.
Entertainment in Leicester Square. This guy ended up juggling three pins at the top of the ladder. Nice entertainment.

The area round the Apple Store, which I visited a couple of times, was called Leicester Square.

A large Christmas market opened that evening in Leicester Square. Fortunately there wasn’t anything we HAD to have being sold.

In the center of the Square was a Christmas market that opened while we were there – nice things but we were not in the buying mood.

HUGE M&M store – of course we went in.
There were three levels, or maybe four, of various M&M stuff. We didn’t buy anything but did get some free samples.



































Also, part of the square, is an M&M Store.   This store reminded me of the store in NYC we visited some years ago. The place is 3 or 4 levels with LOTS of M&M stuff. We got some free samples and left.








The Giegud Theatre home for the Ferryman.
The Ferryman cover of the program.
The principals of Ferryman

The Ferryman is a LONG play (3 hours!) so we got tickets for the Saturday afternoon performance. The play is about Northern Ireland, 1981. The Carney farmhouse is a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest. A day of hard work on the land a a traditional night of feasting and celebrations lie ahead. Unfortunately a visitor comes and delivers bad news – the brother of the principal star who has been missing for 10 years has been found dead.   WE find out a lot about him, his brother, the wife (now widow) and the rest of the doings during a turbulent period in Irish history. Very well done and is being considered the “play of the year” in the West End Theatre world.

Sunday we were off to Heathrow Airport and a flight to Dublin.  After we checked in to our Hotel we immediately headed to the local pub – also called The Ferryman for a pint or two.

The Ferryman Pub – in Dublin – close to our Hotel.
I never did get this guys name but we spent a couple of hours drinking pints and talking! Really an enjoyable afternoon.
Not crowded when we got there as they were not serving any food – only during the week – just pints of great beer.


11-9-17 The Ledbury Restaurant

Sometime ago, I don’t honestly recall, I ran across a listing of the top 50 restaurants in the World. We have had the opportunity to sample several of these (Arzak – San Sebastian Spain #30 and Le Caladre – Rubano, Italy #29) so it seemed fitting to see if we could get a table at The Ledbury in London #27 (Knightsbridge-Chelsea).

Janeen at the entrance to the Restaurant

Fortunately we were able to get a table for lunch Thursday and settled in for an afternoon lunch of tasting great foods and drinking fine wines. We were greeted warmly at the entrance, given space for our coats and scarves, and shown to our linen covered table.

There are several menus available – a menu providing 3 choices with four courses, a fixed lunch menu and a tasting menu. We opted for the tasting menu with paired wines. This was an 8-course extravaganza with various presentations paired with wines from around the world.

After presenting the menu (both food and wine) we ordered an aperitif (Lilli Blanc) and looked over our options. It didn’t take much convincing for me to get Janeen to agree to the tasting menu (the entire table must take it) so no other decisions were needed at the time. We did have three beautifully presented small bites to help us decide (see Amuse Bouche photos).

Amuse Bouche number 1!
Amuse Bouche number 2!
Amuse Bouche number 3!
















We really enjoyed this place!


Chantilly of Oyster Tartare of Sea Bream and Frozen English Wasabi

The first course of Chantilly of Oyster paired so perfectly with the Austrian Gruner Veltliner, that Janeen knew our chefs and sommelier were about to entice us at every level.




White Beetroot Baked in Clay, Caviar Salt, and Smoked Eel


Courses two and three left Janeen in awe of the mandolin skills of the kitchen (such thin beetroot, truffle, ham…) and the pure savory of egg and truffle captured David.

Warm Bantam’s Egg Celeriac, Arbois, Dried Ham and Truffle










Giving our palate some respite before meat and red wine, we tasted eggplant infused with olive and black tea and John Dory simply grilled with pumpkin shellfish cream on the side.

John Dory Pumpkin and Shellfish Cream
Aubergine Dusted with Dried Olives and Black Tea









Middle White Suckling Pig Hen of the Woods, Potato Emulsion and Rosemary



The suckling pig course, accompanied by a Spanish Tenerife Margalagua, was surrounded by Hen of the Woods, (seemed like mushroom to Janeen) was savory to be sure.


Passionfruit Curd Sauternes and Olive Oil


Pre-dessert led David to opt for 5 of 10 choices of cheese with Piedmont sweet wine pairing.

Cheese of course – five different styles.





Dessert was followed by a visit to the kitchens, a request we had made on entering.



Greg Austin Head Chef and Janeen



Although Executive Chef Brent was not in the kitchens, his head Chef, Greg was welcoming and gladly chatted and allowed photo opts, as well as offering us more ice cream.

The Kitchen staff! Wonderful to share a moment with them





When we told our wait staff we were headed for Dublin and would like recommendations, they sent over General Manager Darren, native of the city, who printed out food options, pub bests, and sites not to be missed, and explained each choice either as a personal choice, or recommendation of his parents. Lovely bonus.

While this restaurant has only 2 Michelin stars it’s place as number 27 on the top 50 restaurants in the world is well deserved. We had a wonderful afternoon and spent the rest of the day savoring the lingering tastes.

11-6-17 to 11-8-17 London

London has the British Museum (Victoria & Albert), National Gallery, Changing of the Guard, Kensington Palace, Tower of London, Churchill War Rooms, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Thames River Dinner Cruise all great activities and some of which we have tasted. However, doesn’t seem like we will be doing any of these on this trip – at least so far!

We arrived via Euro Star Train on Sunday – that evening we saw a play called The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. This is a production of Mischief Theatre Company and they have another award winning production called The Play That Goes Wrong that we saw on Tuesday. Both were very entertaining, especially if you are a fan or “Panto”.  The Play That Goes Wrong is in pre-production on Broadway and will be opening soon. During the day we really haven’t done much but walk around and enjoy our stay in Covent Gardens. (David “shopped” and actually purchased things!)

The stairs down to our apartment.

This area of London, Soho, has a bunch of restaurants, bars, shops, coffee places and generally a very active crowd – although mostly younger than us (big surprise).

The Covent Garden (near Dean St.) apartment we are staying at, while in the basement, is quite nice. While there are some things I would change, if it were mine, generally it’s OK. The steps down to the front door do have the potential of being very slick in the rain but there is a strong handrail, so not a problem there really.

Sherlock Holmes pub – not even close to Baker Street.
Emily joined us for a Pint and a meal. Great to get caught up.
After our OK dinner and FANTASTIC Sticky Pudding we stopped for a photo outside.

On Monday we were able to meet up with a friend of Jason and Terri’s’, Emily who is in town for work. Emily had stayed at our home in Alhambra sometime last spring for a few days and it was neat to catch up with her here for a pint and a meal. When we were here 4 years go, the Sherlock Holmes Pub was discovered right close to our hotel – which happens to be the same one Emily is staying at – so it was fun to swing by again and have a beverage and a dessert of their

FANTASTIC Sticky Pudding – at Sherlock Holmes Pub – wonderful.












Sticky Toffee pudding – still amazing!






The City is getting more decorations all the time for Christmas (remember there is NO Thanksgiving here in the UK in November) and lights are turning on in the evening making it quite lovely. Of course, Tiffany’s, Harrods, Selfridges are bedecked with greens, lights and other sparkle. Lots of construction, renovation, and roadwork making driving in the City a task for professionals.

Harrods all decked out for Christmas
Of course we had to visit Harrods.
We had breakfast at a nice spot, Jackson & Rye our first morning
Janeen stopped to smell the flowers at Harrods
The joy of having to figure out which dessert to have is really hard!
More desserts
and More desserts


11-5-17 Paris to London

Sunday and time to leave Paris where all we really did was drop of our car for shipment to the US and organize our “stuff” again to make it easier to carry.

We have reduced the amount of ‘stuff’ we carry around but still it’s a huge pile!

There are several ways to get to London from Paris – you can fly, take a ferry or take the train through the Channel. It didn’t take much thinking about it to decided to take the train and experience high-speed travel underwater!

Gare du Nord Station in Paris
The inside of the Gare du Nord Station. The Eurostar leaves from a special platform on the far left actually outside the station in an adjacent track area.




The Train takes about 2 ½ hours from Paris Gare du Nord Station to London St. Pancras Station. The entire distance is something like 450 Km or around 275 miles.



During the trip we were underwater for 50.5-Km or 31.4 miles and reached speeds of 300 Km per hour (186 miles per hour) or so. It was a smooth uneventful trip and included a lunch with wine!  The train was practically empty with only maybe 10 people in our coach.


This is what a high speed train looks like. Someday California might have one of these but don’t hold your breath.


St. Pancras Station







When we arrived in London, we gathered up all our stuff and headed for a Taxi and a ride to our VRBO apartment in the Soho or Covent Garden area of London. We had booked a nice basement apartment with a living/dining/cooking area a large bedroom and a bathroom with a classic old tub.  All the comforts of home and in a great location to explore the City.

The view from the front door – kitchen area on the left.
Guess what this room is used for!













Scotch prior to having a plate of pasta.

After catching an OK dinner at an Italian restaurant we decided it would be OK to try and take in a play, so after a while we walked down to Piccadilly Circus and the Criterion Theatre to pick up a couple of tickets for The Comedy About a Bank Robbery.

The Criterion Theatre less then 10 minute walk from our apartment.
The cover of the Playbill









The crowds around Piccadilly Circus were all having a good time.








The area around Piccadilly Circus was filled with people all having a great time. We walked down the road a bit and popped into a couple of places to warm up. One of them, a very large bookstore, had the first Christmas tree we have discovered on our trip.

Our first Christmas Tree of the year. This inside a very large bookstore just down from the Theatre.


The play was a very funny play more in the style of a vaudeville production with lots of funny lines and actions. It was a nice entertaining evening and with all the other plays in the West End I expect we will see another one or two while we are here.

11-2-17 Rouen – Capital of Normandy

Rouen France – the Capital of Normandy – a lovely city where we stayed for a few days prior to going to Paris. We had NO specific plans other than to just relax and walk around the City. We stayed across the street from the main train station and very close to the Old Section of town.

A mix of styles, colors and types of shops.


During our walks we passed a number of Beaux Arts buildings next to sagging Half-Timber buildings, and even some places that appeared to have been damaged as a result of WWII.

These appear to be bullet holes left over from WW II on the side of this building.
These appear to be bullet holes left over from WW II on the front. We didn’t see any other buildings with this in the City. Clearly a reminder of the not so good times.











Claude Monet – Sunset on the Road
Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Bouquet of Chrysanthemums
Claude Monet – Field of Poppies


During our visit to the Museum of Beaux Arts , we were most likely the only Americans in the place. Yes there were other tourists, it is the end of the 2-week school break, but most of the other folks were French.


It is enjoyable to be visiting places throughout our trip where the normal USA Tourist doesn’t come – particularly during this time of year. Rarely did we hear English being spoken, mostly French.

Claude Monet loved Rouen because of its light ,which reflects on golden sandstone building material off of the Seine. The Museum’s cathedral painting, however, is shrouded in a grey veil. The Joan of Arc room showed multiple artists through the ages who have portrayed The Maid, visionary and martyr. Enormous religious paintings rescued from churches during the Revolution fill many rooms, but are more easily viewed than those at the Louvre. Shops closed for All Saints Day, but fortunately for us, PAUL eateries were open for lunch, even late lunch.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Rouen is known for its Notre Dame Cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower) financed by the sale of indulgences for the consumption of butter during Lent. The cathedral’s gothic façade (completed in the 16th century) was the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet (several of which we saw in the Museum of Beaux Arts).


The street with the Clock over it has lots of different shops.



Renaissance clock up closer





Another well know feature within the old section of Rouen is the Renaissance clock mounted in an arch crossing the Rue du Gros-Horloge. This clock, the oldest in France, was built in 1389 and shows the phases of the moon and the days of the week. The façade represents a golden sun with 24 rays on a starry blue background and measures 2.5 meters (a bit more than 8 feet) in diameter.

A Flamingo chained to the building so it wouldn’t wander away.
Half Timber Houses along the street. Lovely.









Our car, as we left it for shipment

We left Rouen heading for Paris as we needed to turn in our car for shipment to the USA. We are now without our own transportation – and are heading to London on Sunday via the Chunnel and EuroStar train. More about that later.

10-31-17 The Beaches of Normandy

All my life I have known about D-Day and the beaches of Normandy. While I didn’t have any relatives (that I know of) actually involved in this effort, my father, uncles, grandfather were all in the Navy and so my military history was something that was part of growing up. While my relatives were all in the Pacific, Normandy and its beaches were certainly part of all history of World War II.

Landing at Normandy
Normandy Beach June 6th or 7th.






For our visit to the area, we stayed in Bayeux where, I came to learn was the FIRST village or town the Allied Forces liberated! Little did I know when I made the reservation at the hotel.

Monument on the wall across from Cathedral – in Bayeux

One of the first memorials I saw was a plaque mounted across the street from the Cathedral which states, in English, “To the glory of God and in the Memory of all Ranks of the 50th Northhumbrian Division who laid down their lives for justice freedom and the liberation of France in the assault on the Beaches…” I was to find more of these kinds of plagues as we toured around the area.

Now more than 70 years after D-Day, the Normandy coast is peaceful with lovely seaside towns and picturesque beaches. Many of the towns have names of the form something-sur-mer; sur-mer is French for “on the sea”. Behind the coast is an old-fashioned farming landscape of grain fields, cattle and pastures, hedges and farmhouses. However, the memories of war and D-Day are engrained in the landscape.

One of the remaining bunkers built by the German army

Along the 80-km (50-mile) D-Day invasion coast there are the remains of German gun emplacements and bunkers, while war memorials and monuments mark where the allied forces landed. Inland, there are monuments in almost every village and at every bend in the road,


A memorial along the side of the roa

for there is barely a square acre that wasn’t fought over. Along the coast and inland there are numerous D-Day related museums. Only by visiting do you get a proper idea of the vastness of the enterprise.

We started at the west end and visited Utah followed by Omaha both of which were American force Beach assault areas. From there we visited the American Cemetery and then a bit of Arromanches.

Dedication plaque to the Coast Guard
Utah Beach sign
The US Navy Normandy Monument
Monument to 1st Engineer Special Brigade
Memorial plaque to those who died in the rehearsal
















Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial entrance









At the American Cemetery there are various sections – I looked at a number of crosses – solders from Texas, California, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois – from all over the country. All with dates of death within a few weeks of June 6th 1944.

American Cemetery close to the monument
American Cemetery – words fail me here.

Arromanches still has a portion of the pier created by sinking several ships bow to stern. Once these were sunk, the upper decks were destroyed allowing a platform for a pier to be created and thus other ships could tie up next to this “pier” and off load equipment, men and supplies

You cannot leave these areas without feeling a profound sense of loss – over 450,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. While the battle started on the Beaches, it quickly moved to hedgerows, towns, villages, farmhouses and every yard gained was painful. A staggering number in such a short period of time. Along the roadside, you see these ‘can’ shaped monuments that mark the progress of liberation from the ground zero spot at the Beach.

Normandy beach today
A monument created at Utah Beach – “I created this sculpture to honor the courage of these men: sons, husbands and fathers, who endangered and often sacrificed their lives in the hope of freeing the French people.










So, we visited the area, saw the sights and left. However, you cannot visit, see the area and not be struck with how vast the landing force was and how much coordinated planning was required to get all the ships, men, equipment staged and moved across the English Channel.

The rolling green hills of Normandy, dotted with cattle and quilted with corn and wheat, cover peaceably the ruins, graves, and body littered fields with bombs falling around the roar of heavy artillery. Caen was rubble, as Germans made their last stand on the western front, and only constant bombardment above and around finally sent them out of the area. After an area was liberated, German soldiers of war (POW’s) were tasked with cleanup directed by American Corps of Engineers.

Freedom marker in village
Freedom marker outside of town









Small farms are still a viable way of life in the Normandy countryside, perhaps as a form of healing.




10-30-17 Mont Saint Michel

Our last look at the Mont with afternoon skies

Mont Saint-Michel is, geographically speaking, a tidal isle. To you and me, this means that when the tide is low the mount is connected to the mainland, to Lower Normandy, by a narrow strip of land, but when the tide is high the mount is an island that propels 92 meters (300 ft.) into the sky some 200 meters (650 ft.) off the coast of France.

Here we are just starring out to visit the Mont.

This is what makes Mont Saint-Michel so special; what makes it breathtakingly beautiful. Romantic. Spooky. Stay for a night in one of the isle’s numerous small but comfortable hotels, and I expect you would hear the sea drumming the rocks, the distant coastline wrapped in a light mist, and you only have to close your eyes to imagine wolves howling at hobgoblins and demons and old warriors, maces and axes upraised– why not a vampire, too? – lurking behind the isle’s centuries-old ramparts.

David at the entrance to the Village at he drawbridge.

But beyond such Halloween fantasy, the Mount is one of France’s most visited tourist attractions – 3.5 million visitors annually. Therefore, once you have passed through Mont Saint-Michel’s wooden gateway and are on its main street –

Grande Rue, narrow, steep and winding its way to the abbey, now over a thousand years old (Benedictine monks began to construct it when they settled on the islet in 966) – you will be back in the land of the living. Grande Rue is a moveable feast of seafood restaurants, crêperies (pancake bars) and souvenir shops that sell anything from tiny pewter Archangel Michaels to mass-produced tapestries. Easy for us vagabonds to pass by without stopping on our trek to the top.

Stairs – lots and lots of stairs.

The mount’s main attraction is the abbey. To reach it from Grande Rue, we climbed something like 19 sets of stairs – or at least that’s what my step tracker said. At moments there are great views out over the bay and village, but the climb does seem to go on and on.


Final stairs into the Abbey.



At the upper terrance gathering point for the group.








We got to the abbey and bought our tickets and discovered there was an English guided tour starting immediately – so up to the Terrace as quickly as we could to catch up with the guide.

Our Guide, a lovely young woman, whose name I never quite caught, was very knowledgeable about the Abbey (well she is a licensed professional after all) and took us on a tour lasting about an hour and a half – through the

Inside the gothic sanctuary.


Our guide, and us, taking in the sites. Thanks to Bob for the picture!
Cyrpts are more like more private movement spaces then burial places – more like the underground system at DisneyWorld.
Small window in a Romanesque Chapel in one of the Crypts.







crypts, gardens, formal spaces and


Priory Room – dinning area for the Monks and listening to scripture.
Pilgriam gathering room.
Garden wall outside of the Abbey.

working spaces including the big wheel used to haul stuff up the side of the rock.

The side of the wheel with the rope showing.
The rope
Here’s our guide at the Wheel but immediately behind her is the sled that is used to haul material up the side of the Mont.















We chose to eat a late lunch overlooking the beaches rather than hiking out on to them.

Oysters for lunch! These are local oysters.
Our dessert at lunch. Lovely taste treat.









The street with all the vendors, shops and restaurants.
Rocky cliffs with ramparts at the top of the picture.
Stairs up and stairs coming back down!
View of the village from the rampart.
Janeen with the Abbey above.





















Our last look at the Mont with afternoon skies

All in all it was a fantastic day and the weather could not have been better.