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Paris, Normandy & the Loire Valley with our Granddaughter

Paris, Normandy & the Loire Valley with our Granddaughter

Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 05:46 AM
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John:Thanks for your "political" comment on Rouen.Our group is usually a very reduced one(just a couple in our "lower 60's").I am now in line to buy a paint from A.I really like paints made with a trowel!!!Thanks once again for a great report!!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 05:58 AM
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thanks for continuing! A must be a real delight as a fellow traveller. (Some of my best times have been with my nephews when they were in that age bracket.)
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 06:55 AM
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jean - our Garmin sent us on some rural roads that we would have never chosen ourselves by looking at a map. After the first few times of being a little nervous about it but getting to where we needed to go in about the same amount of time if we had taken the "bigger" roads - we decided to enjoy the rural areas that we would have never seen otherwise. And let me tell you, some of the roads were little. Our favorites were the several times it sent us on one lane roads (thankfully we never met another car on any of them) and through some really tiny villages.

jelopez - when we don't have granddaughters with us, our group is a reduced one very similar to yours in size and age. It will be interesting to see if A follows through with painting.

irish - She is a delight to travel with (and most other times too). It's a lot of fun to see things through their eyes, isn't it?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 12:44 PM
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 04:48 PM
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Sat (Day 10 – Memorial in Caen, Drive to Sully)

Up at a reasonable time and had another good breakfast at the hotel. We said our goodbyes to Etretat (which A rated tied with Paris as her #1 favorite place on the trip – even ahead of the castles in the Loire Valley) and drove to Caen. Surprisingly we did not hear the 5 syllable R word once (I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks or at least how to listen to a GPS) and arrived at the Memorial in Caen quite easily. Bought the family pass and toured the museum.

We highly recommend visiting this museum first before touring the D-Day sites. It gives a great overview of everything and can really help you plan your visit if you are doing it on your own. It is big enough to have a lot of content but not so big that it is overwhelming. Something not to miss is the split-screen movie showing things from the German perspective on one screen and the Allied perspective on the other. And the holocaust portion of the museum is very well done. Like I said, we really like this museum. We had lunch at the museum’s cafeteria and went outside to the gardens. We really love these gardens too and spent quite a lot of time walking around and taking a bunch of pictures.

For some reason, I really feel relaxed in this part of Normandy. Once you get off the super highways, traffic seems to be very light and driving is more of a pleasure than a chore. All the D-Day sites are easy to get to and the roads are well marked. Even though we are more serious and don’t seem to laugh as much here, I really like the area. Maybe I’m too used to seeing the overbuilt beach areas of the eastern US but it just seems impossible that all the wide open spaces that have spectacular sea views are still pretty much completely undeveloped. It is too weird to see farmer’s fields for miles and miles going right up to the edge of the Channel. Enough of this serious stuff!

After leaving Caen, we had an easy drive to Sully. As we turned in the gate and she saw the chateau, A said “I have a smile on my face” and she did every time we turned in the gate. At the end of every day when we had finished touring for the day, we would say we were now returning to “our chateau in Sully”. We really liked our room, the staff was very helpful and we liked the bar area too. http://www.chateau-de-sully.com/ We had stayed at the Chateau de Sully in 2004 and just to try something different I looked for another place. But Sully had everything we wanted and I couldn’t find anything I liked better so we stayed in the same room again (just like we did at the Dormy House in Etretat). The room had a nice setup with a comfortable bed for a third person and we like the hotel's location close to a lot of the D-Day sites.

We unloaded our luggage and walked around the grounds for a while before going for a long swim (we had the pool to ourselves). A loves to swim and this was the first place we stayed that had a pool so we took full advantage of it. After our swim, we grabbed a couple of glasses of wine from the bar and went to our room to relax and get ready to go out for dinner. We decided to go to Arromanches to see the remains of the artificial harbor and to have dinner there. We found a little restaurant in the pedestrian part of the town and had a very nice low key dinner. We walked around the beach area and took some pictures of the sun setting over the Channel.

We then went back to “our chateau in Sully” relaxed for a while and went to bed early because we knew we would have a big day seeing a lot of the D-Day sites the next day. An excellent first day in Sully!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 07:52 PM
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Old Aug 24th, 2011, 06:13 AM
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Old Aug 24th, 2011, 10:57 AM
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Sounds delightful. What a lovely hotel!
I loved reading about the influence the Musee D'Orsay and the Etretat lndscape had on A
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Old Aug 25th, 2011, 03:37 PM
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Sun (Day 11 – Sainte-Mere-Eglise, La Point du Hoc, no lunch, American cemetery, Omaha Beach, a nice dinner)

We were up at a reasonable time and had a good breakfast at the hotel. We made a plan for the sites we wanted to see and headed for Sainte-Mere-Eglise. We wanted to start at our farthest point and work our way back towards Sully. We had a very good tour book of the area and, either as we driving to, or when we arrived at a site, B would read a few paragraphs about the history of the place. After an easy drive, we arrived in mid-morning and parked in the big parking lot next to the church. Our first stop was the church and as we walked in we saw Mass was going on – we had completely forgot it was Sunday. We sat in the back until Mass was over and looked around a little. People began to gather in the front of the church and it turns out they were about to have a baptism. I think they are used to tourists being in the church for these events because they did not try to close it to the public and they had an usher put up a rope barrier to block off the area where the baptism was happening. We left just as the ceremony was beginning.

We went in to the tourist office next to the church and the woman behind the desk asked if we had taken the walking tour around the town. We didn’t even know they had a walking tour so she gave us a brochure with a map and told us where to start. It was a short 30 minute tour and we really enjoyed it. Of course we knew the famous story of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Paratroopers landing in the town by mistake and a terrible massacre occurred. One guy had his parachute catch on the bell tower and he watched the battle hanging there all night (all this portrayed quite well in the movie “The Longest Day”). What the walking tour was about was several of the personal stories of things that happened that night to residents and soldiers. We thought it was very interesting – but we like that kind of thing. There were several very touching stories and there were markers at each of the spots where these things happened. It is so unbelievable to imagine them happening to these people right there on these spots.

Anyway, after finishing the short walk, we each ordered 2 boules de crème glace (not knowing at the time this was to be our lunch). We sat on a bench near the church eating our ice cream, listening to the church bells ring and watching person after person walk by with 4 or 5 fresh baguettes. We speculated that they had bought them to take home to the big Sunday family dinners they were about to have. What else could it be? We then drove to Pointe du Hoc.

Pointe du Hoc is one of the few places where they have left the bomb craters and many of the bunkers as they were from the D-Day attack. 700 tons of bombs were dropped here on the night of June 5th and over 600 shells from the battleships were fired here. Then on June 6th, 225 rangers landed and tried to scale the cliffs, 135 did not survive. This is just one of the many stories about D-Day that really makes you hate war and appreciate what these men did. They have built an observation platform here and standing on it, looking over the bomb craters and cement bunkers at the incredibly beautiful water/cliffs is a very moving experience.

After this, we needed a break from the horrors of D-Day so we stopped at a little roadside restaurant to grab lunch (A needed her crepe for the day). We were seated and figured out what we wanted to eat and when the waitress started to take our order, she looked at us very funny and said to wait a minute and walked over to the guy who looked like he was in charge of the restaurant. He came over and very nicely said to us that if we wanted to order anything off one particular part of the menu that we had to sit in a different section of the restaurant. He politely had us walk to a different section and told us to wait while he cleared off a table. There were several tables already set up and when I asked if we could just sit at one of them, he very nicely said no and finished cleaning the one he wanted us to sit at. Both he and the waitress could not have been any more polite so we did not feel like we had committed a major crime and waited for her to come back to finish taking our order.

We waited and waited and waited and it became obvious she was not going to wait on us (at one time A saw her just standing in the kitchen doing nothing for several minutes). We still are not sure how we managed to offend them so grievously but somehow we did. We ended up just leaving. As we left, A said she really wasn’t too disappointed because there were a LOT of flies flying around. So we left and headed for the American Cemetery hoping to find another restaurant along the way. Unfortunately we did not find one so we decided to tour the cemetery and look for food later.

We watched a very good short movie at the visitor center then walked around the graves – admiring the pristine beauty of everything and feeling a little strange knowing we were on American soil in the middle of France. We walked down to the beach and again admired the incredible beauty at a place where thousands of lives were lost. Like I said before, we did not laugh much in this part of Normandy but we really liked our time here. There are many, many more D-Day sites to visit that are just as interesting as the ones we saw but we were satisfied with what we had done. We then went back to “our chateau in Sully” for a swim then a very nice dinner at the hotel restaurant. Since we did not get lunch, we were starving by dinner time and really enjoyed it. After dinner, A and I had a game of billiards then B and A played a game of tic tac toe at one of the tables.

The weather had turned pretty warm compared to our time in Paris and Etretat - and Sully is not air conditioned so when we got back to the room, it was very warm. We opened the windows and it cooled off fairly quickly and we went to bed. An excellent second day in Sully!
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Old Aug 25th, 2011, 08:05 PM
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Old Aug 26th, 2011, 07:57 AM
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Very curious about the restaurant behavior, hmmm? Still lovin' your details, John.
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Old Aug 26th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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It was bizarre! I just found the restaurant on Google Earth (I love Google Earth!!!) Can you tell it's a Friday afternoon and I'm ready for a weekend??? Anyway, it is just next to the entrance to Pointe du Hoc and the street view shows the sign out front as:

Le Tivoli
Bar - Restaurant
Creperie
Brasserie
Glacie

It was pretty much just a small L-shaped room and evidently even though it was the middle of the afternoon and the place only had a few tables occupied, it was a major faux pas to eat whatever it was we ordered in the section they first seated us in. I wish I could say this was another lesson learned but I really have no idea what we did that was so wrong that we deserved to not be served at all. But believe me - I have not lost any sleep over it. I don't think we got out of any restaurant on our trip for under 100 Euros and I'm sure we would have spent that much there between wine and food - so it was their loss. It's actually a funny story now.
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Old Aug 26th, 2011, 11:56 AM
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Great trip report, I'm really enjoying reading it!
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Old Aug 26th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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Oops - I meant to say $100 not 100 Euros. That would have been an expensive lunch!
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Old Aug 26th, 2011, 05:33 PM
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Mon (Day 12 – It’s hot! Mont Saint Michel, It’s hot! A nice evening in Bayeux, It’s hot!)

We had debated about whether we should visit Mont Saint Michel on our way to the Loire or make it a day trip from Sully – and the day trip won out. I’m really glad we did it this way because it is a long way from Sully to Amboise and trying to visit MSM on the way would have added way too much time to the trip in my opinion. We decided to go to McDonald’s for breakfast for two reasons – first we thought it would be quicker than breakfast at the hotel and second we wanted to show A how different a French McDonald’s is. A ordered hot chocolate and pancakes, B and I ordered something like an egg mcmuffin meal. When the food came, A had to mix her own hot chocolate and her pancakes were missing. After explaining the mistake to the cashier, they ended up bringing her two orders of pancakes in a paper wrapper (no plate). After finally getting everything figured out and eaten, we could have had a delicious breakfast at the hotel in less time. Another lesson learned – except A did get to see a French McDonald’s.

When we left McDonald’s, it was already very hot outside. We then drove to MSM with no incidents (meaning no toll booth problems and no hearing the five syllable R word). Like almost everyone who has ever been to MSM, we stopped at one of the pulloffs on the side of the road and took pictures of the abbey in the distance with cows and farm fields in the foreground. Neat pictures! We pulled in to the parking lot and were directed to what had to be the exact farthest parking spot away from the abbey. But what are ya gonna do? So we parked and got out of the car. Oh My God or in text language – OMG – it was HOT!!!

We made our way to the abbey and it actually wasn’t all that bad – we just took our time and didn’t push it. Finally got there and began the long hot trek to the top. A found a crepe vendor and had the sucre crepe that she was not able to order at the roadside restaurant yesterday. Again, after taking our time and resting in the shade periodically, we made it to the very top. It is so worth the climb in our opinion. We love the views from the top in all directions. With our cameras zoomed as much as possible, we could see our car at the far end of the parking lot – not a pleasant site! We then went inside the abbey and really enjoyed seeing all the different rooms and hearing about the history using the audioguides.

We made our way out of the abbey and began the walk down. As we left the abbey, we heard several very close thunderclaps and really hoped it would not rain. In 2004 we had stopped at one of the restaurants half way down the hill and enjoyed a nice lunch which we wanted to do again. Luckily the rain held off and we found a restaurant where we were seated outside. A ordered another crepe and one of the huge signature omelettes that some of the restaurants on MSM are famous for. B and I each ordered mussels and fries (with a half bottle of wine). It was all delicious! Just like in 2004, we counted about 100 mussels in our pots. Yes, we do a lot of touristy things but we are tourists and we really enjoy it. Last but not least, just before beginning the long walk to our car, we all had some ice cream to try to keep cool in the terrible heat.

We had another incident free drive back to Sully (even though Janine sent us down some very rural roads) and as we turned in the gate, A said she still had a smile on her face. We went for a swim and for the first time all day, we weren’t hot (but that was short-lived). After swimming, we drove to Bayeux for dinner. We had hoped to get back from MSM early enough to see the Tapestry and the Cathedral but the heat was too much so we chose to swim instead. We walked around in Bayeux for a while and B took one of our prettiest pictures of the trip. I’m not even sure what it was but it looked like a small canal with some stone walls, stone houses and very pretty flowers on the sides of the water. Really pretty! We found a restaurant and ate inside in air conditioned comfort.

We went back to our room and started the packing process in preparation for leaving in the morning – and it was HOT! It was so hot that A soaked some bath cloths in cold water and we wrapped them around our necks as we packed to try to stay cool. It worked somewhat but it was still hot. We left the windows open but it did not cool off as quickly as it did the night before. We went to bed exhausted. An excellent HOT third day in Sully!
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Old Aug 26th, 2011, 10:29 PM
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Just curious, John. What day was this? It wouldn't happen to have been the 27th of June, would it? I just posted about our trip that day and it was, as I put it, "hotter than Hades" in the Dordogne. I wonder if it wasn't a countrywide heatwave that very Monday (the previous weekend was pretty bad, too, but then it cooled down considerably by Tuesday).
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Old Aug 27th, 2011, 04:56 AM
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John:
To tell you the truth:
I wish this report never ends!!!We all like to do tourist things!!!More please!
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Old Aug 27th, 2011, 05:54 AM
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lantana - thanks again for the kind words. It was quite a shock to both B and I when A told us about her desire to paint and how it came about.

sap - I finally read some of your trip reports and they are fantastic. I wish I had the time and talent to write like you do. Great reports. I think you saying you are a history buff is an understatement! What a trooper your son must be to keep up the pace you all were doing. Yes, it was Monday June 27th that it was so hot and thankfully Tuesday was much cooler. I read in your report that the heat changed your plans, it changed ours too. I am so thankful our time in Paris was not in the terrible heat - we could deal with light rain and cool days much easier than the heat.

jelopez - thanks - I wish it would have never ended too. It just seems a lot of travelers try to avoid the touristy things and look for other more "authentic" experiences. Maybe if I'm fortunate enough to get back to some of the same places a second or third time I can do that but we really like seeing the famous sites.
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Old Aug 27th, 2011, 10:26 AM
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nice report, well planed trip.

i loved the comments about shrimps and the confusion with waiters, it's s good thing to walk away
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Old Aug 28th, 2011, 10:58 AM
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Tue (Day 13 – Longues-sur-Mer, cider farm, drive to Amboise)

Up early, finished packing and had breakfast at the hotel. As we packed our luggage in the car, we could not believe the change in the weather. It was actually chilly and foggy. It was very weird to have gone to bed the night before with the temperature unbelievably hot and wake up to a chilly morning where we had to wear light jackets. We then drove to Longues-sur-Mer to see the four 150 mm guns at the battery. This is the only battery in the region that has kept its guns and they have been preserved very well. The cement bunkers they are housed in are also well-preserved. As is the case at most of these D-Day sites here in this part of Normandy, the beauty of the nearby area is just spectacular. Huge green fields between the battery and the sea make it a very scenic area.

We then stopped at a cider farm and tasted some apple juice, sparkling cider and Calvados. We ended up buying some of each and actually smuggled the Calvados in our checked luggage and brought it home. We walked around the grounds of the cider farm looking at the ancient farm buildings and the orchards. Everywhere we went, we could not escape the smell of the cow poop. Luckily our pictures didn’t capture the smell, they only captured the images of a very beautiful setting. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Normandy but it was time to start the trip to Amboise.

Janine sent us down a few rural roads to start with but quickly put us on a big highway. We stopped for a bathroom break at one of the rest areas and a bathroom was really all that was there. But that was all we needed so we were quickly back on the road. After a while we stopped at another rest area that had a restaurant and had some pretty good sandwiches and desserts. Again we were back on the road pretty quickly and had an easy drive to Amboise. Janine directed us right to the hotel (there was a tricky turn through what looked like a parking lot but we found it without a problem).

We arrived at about 3:30 and it turned out our room was not quite ready (they said another 20 minutes) so we walked around the hotel a bit. We loved the grounds and pool area as well as all the common areas inside. We took a ton of pictures and when they finished cleaning our room and we walked in – we loved it immediately. We had the Catherine de Medici room in Le Manoir Saint Thomas. http://www.manoir-saint-thomas.com/ Of the three hotels we stayed in on our trip, this was our favorite room. We liked the view from our balcony in Etretat and the setting at Sully but the room in Amboise was the nicest. One of the best features was an excellent air conditioning system that we really appreciated after being so hot the day before. Even though it was not a super hot day, we cranked the temperature down and enjoyed a nice cool room. The bathroom was nice too.

As B and A were unpacking, I drove to E Leclerc to try to buy a converter that would work with B’s curling iron. So far, every place we stayed had supplied converters that worked fine but the ones we brought from home were not powerful enough for the curling iron. E Leclerc is a mall-like place that has a bunch of different stores (we also went to one in Bayeux) that have most of the things that a Walmart or Target might have. Unfortunately they did not have a converter so I had to buy a curling iron that would work without a converter.

We went for a swim then went back to the room to get ready for dinner. While we were dressing, a monster thunderstorm popped up but it moved through pretty quickly. We tried to go to Anne de Bretogne but they had no tables left so we walked around exploring the town and we found a little Italian place that was not good. As we walked back to the hotel, I stopped in at a little bar that had several different types of local wine for sale. I asked the bartender for a red wine recommendation and he said a bottle of Felix would be good – and it was – for under 10 Euros a bottle.

When we got back to our nice, cold room, the beds had been turned down and the shutters had been closed and locked. They also left a newsletter on our bed that gave the next day’s weather forecast and some info about various local happenings. We had a couple of glasses of Felix and went to bed. An excellent first day in Amboise!
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