Normandy, Brittany, and Loire Valley Easter Vacation

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March 30th 1985
Published: June 29th 2011
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Linda, Carol and I joined with my Canadian colleague, Hank, and his wife, Gerlinda, to visit Normandy. Gerlinda’s father was a German soldier who had died of appendicitis the year before the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944. She had never visited his grave.

30 March 1985 Saturday. We drove southwest from Brussels to Rouen, France where we stopped for lunch and visited the Rouen Cathedral and the place where Joan D’Arc had been burned at the stake. We then continued on to Honfleur, the picturesque seaport at the mouth of the Seine River. Honfleur was a favorite spot for Impressionist painters Courbet and Monet. We walked around this quaint seaport town that had been a hot spot during the Hundred Years War between England and France. We then drove along the Normandy coast and cut inland to Bayeux, where we checked into our hotel. We had a delicious dinner and conversation before turning in.

31 March 1985 Sunday. Our first stop was the museum with the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth that is 1 ½ feet wide by 224 feet long, and depicts the events leading up to and including the Norman Invasion of 1066, when William the Conqueror was the last person to successfully invade the British Isles. We then headed to the beaches of the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944 and saw where so many died that day and subsequent days. Our primary goal was to visit the German cemetery where Gerlinda’s dad was buried. We had a map that showed the German and American cemeteries, and it showed an American cemetery just beyond the German one where her dad was buried. We found the grave and silently stood over it. Gerlinda grieved a father she never knew. We then continued west to the American cemetery, but the map was wrong; it was another German cemetery. We were headed southwest to Mont St Michel, and the map showed another American cemetery on the way at St Lo. Again the map was wrong. We are probably the only Americans to visit Normandy and only visit a German cemetery. We promised that someday we would return and complete our pilgrimage.

So we continued to Mont St Michel, a rocky tidal island one kilometer off the coast where a monastery was constructed in the 8th century. At the time the island was reached by a causeway that was underwater at high tide. We arrived at low tide, and took note of when the tide would come in so that we would have moved our parked car by then. We climbed through the ancient village to the monastery, and on the way back to the car had a crepe for a snack. We continued west and stopped briefly in St Malo, a seaport from where Jacque Cartier sailed to discover Canada, and where many French pirates raided English ships in the English Channel. We stopped for the night in Dinard. Dinard has timber framed homes, and is considered the Cote D’Azur of the north, and very popular with Brits. I much prefer the real Cote D'Azur.

1 April 1985 Monday. Hank and Linda returned to Brussels, and Carol, Linda and I headed south across Brittany to Carnac, near the south coast, in time for lunch. Carnac is the site of more than 3000 Neolithic menhir stones, arranged in rows about 3300 BC. We walked around the various formations, before continuing east to Anger, where we stayed in a hotel facing the massive fortress.

2 April 1985 Tuesday. We drove west along the Loire River, passing cliffs where modern troglodytes live. We arrived at our first chateau, Chinon, at lunchtime. From there we paid brief visits to the chateau at Azay-le-Rideau and Chenonceaux before spending the night in Amboise, with its own chateau where Leonardo Da Vinci served King Francis I.

3 April 1985 Wednesday. We stopped at our final Loire chateaux at Chambord, built in the early 1500’s by Francis I as his hunting lodge. It is the largest chateaux on the Loire. After a tour through the chateaux we continued northeast to the chateaux of Fontainebleau, perhaps most famous as the place where Napoleon bid farewell to his Old Guard before his first exile to Elba. As we were about to begin our tour the girls needed to use a restroom. We asked a guard where we could go. He replied that for me, I could use the bushes; as for the girls this would be a problem. We made a quick tour and then found a restaurant with a restroom, and then had dinner. We drove home that evening to Overijse. We didn’t stop in Paris on the way home because we would be back the following month.

Additional photos below
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Castle in the middle of BrittanyCastle in the middle of Brittany
Castle in the middle of Brittany

How am I expeected to remember all their name?

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