France to Ireland: Chartres, Normandy & Dublin


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March 24th 2010
Published: July 16th 2010
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Paris to Dublin


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The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Tuesday, March 23rd was to be a busy day. We left our Paris hotel early in the AM, boarded the motor coach and took off for Normandy, France. Along the way we stopped in Chartres, France. The main attraction was the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres which is considered to be one of the finest examples in France of the Gothic style of architecture. While it didn’t have the wow factor of the Cologne Cathedral it was still a beautiful building. After a walkthrough the DrakeSMART group fanned out to experience the town. A few photos, a few souvenirs and we were back on the motor coach.

Once in Normandy we stopped by the Allied Cemetery. This was a sobering experience. I was determined to not let it get to me, but it did. In every direction you looked all you saw were endless uniformed rows of grave markers. One of the first things you noticed was how young the soldiers were. It was overwhelming.

Next we made our way down to Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the main landing points of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings
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The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
on June 6th, 1944 during World War II. Those of you who have seen the Tom Hanks movie Saving Private Ryan will remember the opening scenes which depicted the landings at Omaha. Having a deep personal interest in WWII I have mixed emotions about this part of the trip. On the one hand it is fantastic that the beach is open to the public. On the other hand I hate the fact that the French have turned it into a tourist trap for Americans. The area has been greatly altered to allow for souvenir shops selling 101st and 82nd Airborne shirts and mugs. I also recognize that if Americans would stop buying it the French would stop selling it. Somewhat disappointing, but sometimes that’s how it goes. We also stopped by the town of Ste Mere Eglise, visiting the church where American paratrooper John Steele’s parachute got caught, leaving him dangling on the steeple. He would hang there for two hours before being found by the Germans.

In Cherbourg, France we boarded a ferry for the overnight trip to Ireland. I’ll be honest in admitting that I was dreading the ferry rides we would take on this trip. Not
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Omaha Beach
because of seasickness, I don’t get seasick, but because I had pictured the trip as being unbelievably boring. The ferry was like a cruise ship, only cut in half. There were several restaurants, bars, clubs and a casino. So much for being bored! After Zach and I checked into our cabin we were off to dinner. We met up with several of our fellow travels and enjoyed a nice meal and a Guinness or two…or three. We were headed to Ireland after all and it was time to step our game up! That evening we hung out on the rear deck of the ferry, Ann playing music while we drank and talked. It was interesting to watch the lights in Cherbourg fade off in the distance, leaving darkness in every direction.

We eventually made our way down to one of the ferry’s bars where we found a large portion of our travel group drinking, laughing and playing cards. We found a table and joined in on the fun. This might have been my latest night out since Copenhagen, Denmark. If you want details on the events beyond this point you will have to talk to someone else who was
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D-Day invasion. June 1944
there; what happened of the ferry ride stays on the ferry ride. Besides, we were in international waters...weren’t we?.....

We arrived in Rosslare, Ireland on Wednesday, March 24th. We made the 170km trip to Dublin via motor coach, our driver showing off his unrivaled skill as he maneuvered the large Mercedes through narrow city streets. When we arrived at our hotel in Dublin we were met by the hotel manager who welcomed us to Ireland, explaining that there were free drinks and hors d'oeuvres awaiting us in the hotel bar. This was a fantastic touch, the word “free” being music to our ears at this point. After taking a few minutes in our hotel rooms to compose ourselves and plug in electronic accessories we headed down to the hotel lobby. One by one we filtered in to the bar area, finding a pleasant but relaxed atmosphere. Comfortable chairs and reserved dining tables greeted us as wait staff took our drink orders and brought out a variety of delicious appetizers. We sat in small groups, eating, drinking and discussing plans for the evening to come. A free night in a storied city that most of us hadn’t seen before awaited
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The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
us, so eat and run we did.

Those of us who hit the town at dusk found good weather and a gorgeous sunset, providing a picturesque backdrop to the Samuel Beckett Bridge as it stretched across the River Liffey. DrakeSMART travelers lucky enough to witness this scene no doubt walked away with some of the best pictures of the trip. We took in the view as we made our way down the south bank boardwalk to the Temple Bar District. For many of us this area would in large part come to define Dublin. Not just because of the famed bars but also the narrow stone streets and hundred-plus year old buildings which housed art galleries and studios in what was explained to us to be Dublin’s “cultural quarter.” In small groups we explored the district until the late hours, returning to our hotel for the obligatory nap that separated one life changing day from the next.



Additional photos below
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Normandy, France

D-Day invasion. June 1944
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Normandy, France

Omaha Beach
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Normandy, France

Memorial on Omaha Beach
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Normandy, France

Memorial on Omaha Beach
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Normandy, France

The village church in Ste-Mere-Eglise. On D-Day, a paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne was dropped on this church, his parachute was caught in the steeple. For two hours he hung there, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. This is not him...this is a dummy
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Normandy, France

Stained glass in the village church in Ste-Mere-Eglise. Pretty neat.
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Chartres, France

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres
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Chartres, France

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres
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Chartres, France

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres
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Chartres, France

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres
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Chartres, France

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres
Ferry Ride: France to IrelandFerry Ride: France to Ireland
Ferry Ride: France to Ireland

DrakeSMART group at one of the ferry's bars


16th July 2010

I love it Joseph... wonderful write-up, and yes... what happens in international waters, stays in international waters. Love Mom!
16th July 2010

Thanks, Ann! I am only on TravelBlog because I read your blog like a year ago before I even met you :)

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