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Sirop and Sandwiches, Normandy, Loire and Paris with our grandsons

Sirop and Sandwiches, Normandy, Loire and Paris with our grandsons

Jul 28th, 2014, 10:21 AM
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Sirop and Sandwiches, Normandy, Loire and Paris with our grandsons

Our 3 generations trip to France in June was a great success, thanks in part to the suggestions and comments I received on Fodor's. Our itinerary was 3 nights in Bayeux, 1 night near Mont St. Michel, 3 nights near Montrichard in the Loire and 7 nights in Paris. Ron and I would remain another week staying near Senlis for our relaxing part of this trip!! We all arrived on June 14th and Nathan and Heather and boys would depart on June 28th, we were staying until July 5th

There were many small challenges we had to overcome in planning this trip, the largest one being one of our grandsons has a terrible fear of flying and up to a week ahead of our departure was willing to give his plane seat to any taker. With the promise of never having to fly again if he was miserable, Luke did get on the plane. After the flight when we met at CDG he did announce 8 hours was too long to be on a plane so any future trips would have to be 6 hours or less.

Advice from this forum about rental car/cars for a family of 7 helped us decide that two cars would be better than one large vehicle. Ron and I bought a new TomTom gps with European maps so along with our old Garmin 670, both cars had a gps which made traveling together easier.

Usually we take an older phone and don't use our iphones while in Europe. We don't have an unlocked iphone with AT&T since our plan is too recent, so we bought through AT&T 50 text messages which we thought sufficient for the two weeks we would be traveling together. As it turned out having the ability to text saved our trip from getting off to a terrible start by a rookie travel assumption that I, the seasoned travel planner, made.

Ron and I were flying from Baltimore to CDG on USAir, we have taken this route for over 20 years and have always flown into Terminal 1. Nathan, Heather and the boys were flying from Detroit to CDG. WE were to arrive within 10 minutes of each other and I imagined this wonderful reunion in the passport control lines upon our arrival. I was delighted that we would be arriving so close to each other that I FORGOT to look at what terminal Delta uses as CDG. Our plane was about 20 minutes late so I knew we wouldn't see them in the passport control lines but I did expect them to be at the Europcar rental counter.

When we couldn't find them, nor the listing of their plane on the monitor, I went into a minor panic. I never considered that Delta and USAir would come into different terminals at CDG--rookie mistake. If I had, our trip would have gotten off to a much better start. After numerous text messages that started out with I'm at the rental counter, where are you? I'm at the rental counter, and I don't see you!! I realized we were at Terminal 1 and they were at Terminal 2. Nathan, Heather and the boys, Drew (12), Luke (10) and Ryan (10) had been waiting over an hour for us by the time we met at the Europcar counter outside the doors at T2. Our rental with Europcar through Autoeurope did not go smoothly either. Nathan's car had to come from the garage, we were told it would be about 20 minutes, but ONE HOUR later I was ready to reach over the counter and grap the closest set of keys and get out of there. It finally arrived and we were off to our stay in Normandy, 3 nights in Bayeux.

Finding two rooms for a party of 7 within our budget, (we didn't really have a budget except in my head) was a challenge and I did lots of research to find memorable accommodations for our grandsons first trip to Europe. Nathan and Heather had been to only Paris so I was looking forward to showing them other regions of France as well. Ron was just hoping we would still be a happy family at the end of our trip!!

In Bayeux we stayed at Hotel Particulier Poppa. I would highly recommend this small B&B for anyone. Both rooms were spacious. Drew stayed with us and he slept in a single bed that was in a small room off our larger room. The twins slept with their parents in a huge room with a view of the Bayeux Cathedral. The twins beds were sofa chairs that converted into comfortable single beds. There was lots of room to walk around the room when the beds were out. Bathrooms were modern with great showers. Our hosts Sophia and Philippe were so very kind to the boys. There is a park across the street and on street parking, we could walk to most of the sights in Bayeux. The website is www.hotel-poppa.com. With different prices for 3 and 4 persons the total per night stay at Hotel Particulier Poppa was 330 for two rooms.

Ron and I had been to Bayeux twice before so we were not disappointed that we did not have time to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Traveling with 3 young boys we knew the focus of our sighteeing would need to appeal to them. Our grandsons play on travel ice hockey and baseball teams so we knew to concentrate on active sightseeing for them. It would be more about what they could climb on rather than sit on.

My son had warned me not to overplan so with that in mind I certainly had to shorten my must see list. Knowing our previous style of slow travel at the D-Day Landing beaches would not be enjoyed by our group, I arranged a private tour with Eric at D-Day Landing Tours. Eric seemed a good choice as he had a van that would hold all of us and he also had sons the same age as Drew, Luke and Ryan. Since we were taking the tour the day after our arrival to France I was concerned about how Nathan's family would handle jet lag. I thought if there was a major meltdown by anyone, Eric would take it in stride. The tour was a great decision. I would recommend D-Day Landings Tour, with our without children. www.ddaylandingtours.com

We have vacationed many times with Nathan and his family but always in the US. One of the questions I posted here was about beverage choices the boys would have with their meals while in France. I knew sodas were expensive and with an eye toward getting the most value for our dollar, the suggestions of sirop and water was great. Knowing about sirop gave the boys opportunities to try different flavors and methods of presentation at each meal. I think there were only one or two places during the two weeks that didn't have sirop available.

I had counted on the boys liking savory crepes as much as Ron and I did so imagine my surprise when all three boys said it was "one and done" for savory crepes for them. I thought of my long list of creperies for our time in Paris and guessed we wouldn't be going to any of them on this trip. There does not appear to be much variety in the "childrens menu" in the places we visited while in France. It usually included a chopped beef sandwich, ham and cheese sandwich and/or pizza. Since Luke does not eat beef he soon grew tired of the usual two choices. He also loves Ranch dressing with chicken tenders and I don't think Ranch dressing has arrived on the shores of France yet--much to his disappointment!! Luke also was hoping to find an eatery with BBQ pork on the menu but that wasn't to happen either. All three boys were encouraged to speak their menu requests using French and I was so pleased that all who waited on us were patient with our boys who spoke with quiet, hesitant voices---very unlike their usual voice volume.

With our first full day in Normandy spent on the tour, we started our second day with an open slate. We had agreed that our plans would be made after the tour was taken to either visit more of the beaches and battle sites or spend time in Bayeux. Having two cars would allow us to go in different directions if desired but we decided to stay together and see more of the beaches. At Arromaches Les Bains we walked along the beach but it was windy and cold so we didn't linger. Next to the car park was a playground with a basketball court that just called out to the boys--play here, play here. We bought a soccer ball from one of the souvenir shops, the owner did not have one on display but when I asked where we could buy one he brought one out of his back room and then inflated it to it's proper firmness.

With the promise of time at the basketball court with the soccer ball the boys willingly went to the Arromaches 360 movie. Seeing the movie and walking along the beach with the mulberries brought out lots of questions from the boys about the events that took place 70 years earlier. So many times while in Normandy I was able to watch our son Nathan with his sons around him drawing diagrams on the ground or pointing out features on machines he wanted his sons to see. Our trip was happening exactly as I had hoped. Maybe it was better that our days in Normandy were very cool and windy, not for our comfort but for the boys to understand how difficult the landing had been for those so very young soldiers.

Drew, Luke and Ryan were not interested in stopping for lunch since they were looking forward to the promised park time. It was sandwiches on a bench at the park for us--a scene that would be repeated several times on this trip--Next up--some local kids show no soccer mercy to tourists!!
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 10:47 AM
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I remember the earlier discussion about what the boys could drink. Great report so far.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 11:38 AM
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thanks Cathinjoetown, I remember the twists and turns that simple question took on this forum but the end result was very helpful. The sirop was a big hit throughout our stay. On our future travels we can bring back sirop as a souvenir for our grandsons, a reminder of our fun trip!! LOL
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 12:50 PM
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The Arromanches les Bains park provided a small fenced basketball court surface with soccer nets, perfect for Nathan and sons to get some exercise. Shortly after they started three older teens asked to join the fun. Wanting to be inclusive Nathan agreed and the teams became our 4 against two boys and a girl, when another girl joined as their goalie, I offered to be our goalie but Nathan declined. I would rather think that it wasn't that he had no confidence in my ability but that he didn't want me to be the target of the hard kicked soccer balls by the opponents. Honestly, if you are two healthy 18 year olds playing 10-12 year olds should you kick the ball like you are playing for the World Cup??!! After about 30 minutes of constant play, Nathan called the game and they were relieved to have played without injury LOL

The Battery at Longues-sur Mer was our next stop. A good opportunity for the boys to do some climbing and more running around. Having three boys so close in age makes even simple things a competition--there was a steep hill between the windy road down to the beach that the boys turned into a climbing contest. The battery with guns intact was impressive but they will probably remember their hill climbing competition as well.

Since we wanted to see the mulberry at Arromanches at low tide we had extra time so we went on to Port en Bessin-Huppain for dinner. It was too early to eat so after walking around we found ourselves down by the beach. I didn't realize that there were so many scallop shells to be found there. With Ron and Heather sheltered from the wind, Nathan and I and the boys scrambled over the rocky beach picking up beautiful huge scallop shells. If I had been thinking I would have kept some for myself to use as table decorations. When the scallops became too many to easily carry Ryan switched to collecting sea glass to give to a family friend. It was not a beach day but a good day at the beach nevertheless.

After dinner we went back to Arromanches so we could walk out to the Mulberry. How different they look at high and low tide.

Back at Bayeux, the boys and Ron stayed at the B&B while about 11 pm Nathan, Heather and I went to the special 70th Anniversary son et lumiere show that was shown on the Liberty tree by the Cathedral. It reminded me of the fantastic light show on the Arc de Triomphe at last years 100th anniversary of the Tour de France. With the music and photographs it was a very moving spectacle. There were several special events relating to the 70th Anniversary of the Landings still happening in mid June. It was an added bonus for us to be there for them.

On to Mont Saint-Michel...
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 01:01 PM
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Great report. What particularly fascinates me as a child of the generation that lived through the war is that the next generation has already lost most knowledge or interest in it. My brother and I craved every scrap of information that we could get about the war.
kerouac is online now  
Jul 28th, 2014, 01:19 PM
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Lovely report! I imagine your grandsons will be talking about this trip for years to come!
progol is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 02:08 PM
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thanks progol, that is my hope.

kerouac, while in Normandy this trip we saw so many school groups and families with children at the battle sites. I dont think they were all there because this is the 70th anniversary year but that there is a real interest in what took place and what should be remembered about those few days in early June. Our tour guide Eric wishes he could tour with more people who are willing to get away from the beach landing emphasis and explore the interior battles that took place around Normandy.

I think even in the short time we were in Normandy, Drew, Luke and Ryan learned so much about a war that had interested their father since he was their age. Ron and I wanted to be along for that discovery, not just hear about it later. It was so rewarding for me to have Luke say "this really interests me, I think I'll read more about it". This is a boy who would rather have a hockey stick in his hand than a book!! Deborah
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 04:56 PM
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I am fascinated with your report and the reactions of your grandsons. Looking forward to more. Thanks for sharing!
irishface is offline  
Jul 28th, 2014, 05:53 PM
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I went to look for your previous post about "sirop" as I don't have a clue what it is! I did find your post about possibly doing the Ocean Princess cruise in Oct/Nov. Did you decide to do it? We are doing the first week of that cruise and then doing a week in Italy, meeting back up with our friends in Venice that are staying on the cruise.
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Jul 28th, 2014, 07:23 PM
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irishface, thanks for your interest in my trip report. One of the aspect of traveling with our grandsons that impacted me the most was how uncomfortable they were not understanding what people were saying around them. I've always considered language a fun challenge when traveling but they were very intimidated by it. I think it kept them from reaching out to other kids their age when I expected, because they are normally so very outgoing, that language would not be a barrier for them.

Kathie, yes, we are going on the Princess cruise. Ron and I arrive in Athens 5 days before the Ocean Princess cruise on Oct 26th and disembark in Venice on Nov 9th. Will we be shipmates for a week?? Deborah
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 29th, 2014, 05:08 AM
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good report
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Jul 29th, 2014, 08:23 AM
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Before I continue with our trip I wanted to include some dining prices for our family. Of course I had my long list of possibilities for Bayeux but in the end, it came down to what looked good on the menu to the adults and the kids and was a reasonable cost.

In Bayeux we ate at La Fringale on rue St. Jean, 3 of us had le menu at 19 euros, 2 had fish and chips, 2 enfant menus, a liter of wine and one beer our total was 160 dollars (119 euros)

We also ate at Pomme Cannelle, near the Cathedral and our B&B, for the 7 of us the meal totaled $106. That was the same day we toured with Eric when we ate at Le Roosevelt for a cost of $129.

When we were at Port en Bessin-Huppain we ate at the Creperie du Port, the boys had the enfant menu and we had crepes. I remember the servers being very nice to our large group and at a cost of $135, it was more reasonable than most of the restaurants nearby.

Nathan and Heather encouraged their sons to try new foods and most of the time we were all happy diners.

After Bayeux we were staying one night close enough to visit Mont Saint Michel but not staying on the mont. In an effort to give the boys as many firsts as I could, through the gites website I found a B&B on a sheep farm 12km from MSM. Domaine du Pre Sale in Roz-sur-Couesnon had five family rooms with sleeping lofts for the boys, perfect for our family. Our rooms were 80 euros and 70 euros and included breakfast. We all enjoyed our stay and we got to walk through the sheep barns the next morning.

We stopped in Villedieu-les-Poeles between Bayeux and Roz-sur-Couesnon to visit the Fonderie des Cloches--suggested to Nathan by Philippe at our Bayeux B&B. Since my family didn't get moving as early as I would have liked we managed to arrive just before the foundry closed for lunch. What to do for 1 1/2 hours??? No problem, it was market day, another first experience for everyone except Ron and me. We explored the market, bought lunch food from the vendors including deliciously fresh french fries, picked up beverages at a small Carrefour and sat at a park along the river La Sienne. It was as serene as can be with 3 at times very rambunctious boys!!

The tour of the foundry was interesting for all of us and the boys loved ringing the bells on display. The tour did delay our arrival to the B&B and pushed back the time we got to MSM. This visit was on Luke's must see list for our trip. Luke was so funny about what he wanted to see. Later while in Paris and talking about visiting Sacre-Coeur, he said "I don't think anyone is going to ask me if I saw a white church on a hill in Paris"--so Sacre-Coeur never made it to the must see list!!

For some reason I thought the Abbaye MSM was open later in mid-June so with all our delays, I thought by arriving by 6 we would still have time to visit the Abbaye. Nathan was the most disappointed that we were too late but we took in as many viewpoints as possible. We also got to watch repeated runs by a helicopter bringing supplies up to the top of the Mont--the boys that that was really cool to see.

One of the draws for Nathan to MSM was walking on the baie at low tide. He had read that with certain conditions present you can jump on the sand and it gives enough to feel like a trampoline. Nathan and sons eagerly ventured out to discover if they could get the bounce on the sand. Pants rolled up, all shoes stowed safely in his backpack, they set off while Ron, Heather and I tried to keep them in sight on the ramparts.

I think they were out there over an hour and unfortunately they took so long most of places on MSM were closed but most important for us, the water to rinse off their mud coated feet was turned off!! Tourist Information was closed, the toilets were locked, MSM was closed for the evening after 8pm--no water for rinsing feet to be found. This wasn't mud that could be easily brushed off when it dried--we needed water. The only place we could find water running was at a fountain inside the ramparts--I was hoping it didn't have any religious importance--like a baptismal font--but it was the only place we could find to rinse off 4 pair of dirty feet. I admit we tried to be very surreptitious in case we were commiting a mortal sin but we really were desperate by that time.

Feet cleaned, shoes and socks in place we took the shuttle off the Mont and stopped on the way back to our B&B in Beauvoir for dinner at La Fermette on route du Mont Saint Michel. It was there that Drew showed all of us that he was not afraid to try new foods when he selected Raie for his plat. Andrew quickly got into the delight of ordering Le Menu--his growing body just loved three course dining. The total cost of our family dinner was $219. I certainly recommend this restaurant based on our experience there.

We took advantage of having two cars, Ron and I took the boys back to the B&B and Nathan and Heather went back to see MSM at night and with the tide coming in---Everybody was happy!!

Next up---Wednesday, June 18th---BEST DAY EVER--per the boys
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 30th, 2014, 05:15 PM
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Sometimes it takes just a little extra research and a lot of luck to give someone a Best Day Ever experience

On the drive between MSM and our stay near Montrichard in the Loire, it was our plan to visit the 24 Hour of Le Mans museum. While doing my research I discovered there is a major karting race course that is available for drop in riding a few hours a week. It was our good luck that it was open from 2-4pm on June 18th.

Nathan, Heather and the boys all have motorcycles and have a riding trail on their property so I knew this would be something they would really enjoy. The karts are professional quality 270cc engines and adults and children are given full suits, gloves and helmuts so everyone looks like a professional driver. It was so cute to see Luke and Ryan decked out like Formula 1 race car drivers.

Ron and I enjoyed watching them compete for the best times on each lap. This was certainly more upscale than any go kart track I remember from my childhood. The course is very professionally run with excellent karts and safety gear. www.lemans-karting.com

The boys begged for more time karting so Ron and I drove on to the B&B with Nathan and family arriving late at night after an enjoyable dinner in Amboise.

I chose Les Saisons de Trainefeuilles, www.trainefeuilles.fr in Thenay, 10km from Montricard because along with having large enough rooms for a family of 4 and 3 there was a swimming pool, a large amount of property with ponds, a bridge and an island. Lots of activities three energetic boys would enjoy plus an added bonus that we didn't know about until breakfast the next morning; two huge cherry trees that the boys were given permission to climb with adult supervision. It was music to their ears!!

Next----Cherry picking beats out Chateaux with these boys
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 05:06 PM
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Looking forward to more! When I was traveling with nephews at various times (same age group as your grandsons) we bought soccer sized ball (cheap) at a grocery store and they could kick it around when the need for action called. Often in picnic areas they would also engage other boys their ages in games. Often no common language needed.
irishface is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 12:04 PM
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irishface, your nephews sound very out-going and most likely provided you with some wonderful travel memories. Lucky boys to have an aunt willing to share her love of travel with them. Deborah
DeborahAnn is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:33 AM
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Thursday, June 19---We had been traveling long enough with Drew, Luke and Ryan that by now it didn't surprise me when climbing a cherry tree and picking fruit would be just as much "a must do" as touring a chateau, even one as famous as Chambord.

Fortified by a quick picnic of yummy sandwiches, the boys explored Chambord from bottom to top. They thought rooms with mounted animal bodies and heads just plain creepy and the double staircase gave us plenty of photo ops with the three of them. They especially seemed to like being on the different roof levels with the chimneys and great views.

During our trip planning I had promised Heather there would be time for wine tasting with Nathan so Ron and I took the boys back for swimming and they spent time visiting wineries around Cheverny.

That evening we went into Montrichard and the boys were surprised when the first two restaurants we stopped at would not seat us.

The first one was quite very rude about it, all but closing the door in my face and locking it-when I was only trying to read the menu--I wondering if she thought we would try to storm the place en mass LOL

The second one I'm guessing didn't want to bother with a party of seven including children because there was no offer to move tables which were clearly available.

Luckily Les Tuffeaux with outdoor seating on the square welcomed our family. Along with dinner we were able to watch a World Cup soccer match on a TV set up outside. The boys loved it. Dinner at Les Tuffeaux cost $190 for all of us.

Friday, June 20--As a thank you for the picked cherries, our hostess made Cherry Clafoutis for breakfast. Luke's favorite at this B&B was the homemade yogurt served each morning. He was happy to eat his portion and any available extra.

Since chateaux didn't seem a big attraction the Royal City of Loches with it's Donjon became today's destination. First we stopped at the weekly food market in Montrichard where the boys got to see what fish looks like before it arrives on their dinner plate. They came up with an impromptu most ugly fish contest and they certainly had many candidates!!

Lunch was again a picnic with tasty sandwiches, this time in a park just outside the medieval rampart gate. We visited the church, the medieval gardens but the highlight was the Donjon. By the end of the Donjon visit my legs felt like we had climbed every stairs available from the underground passages to the highest floor of the keep.

The boys voted to go back for playtime at the B&B so Nathan and Heather went on to Chenonceau and more wine tasting and we got to spend time with our grandsons. Since we had been to Chenonceau twice on previous trips we were certainly happy to have the boys to ourselves--greedy grandparents that we are!!

Next A Week in Paris including a day at Disneyland
DeborahAnn is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:36 AM
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bmk for later
annhig is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 12:29 PM
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Still reading along and enjoying.
irishface is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 02:17 PM
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DeborahAnn - i was keen to read about your travels as I too remember your planning thread and the controversy your worries about the boys' holiday drinks created.

It sounds as if you solved that and many other problems with aplomb - and lots of careful planning.

looking forward to Paris!
annhig is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 02:54 PM
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The scallops in Normandy were delish, wish I had brought some of those shells back myself. We did brings vials of sand from each beach and shells. I gave some to a Vet that had to clean the beach after the landing. Many people died from the mines during the clean up of the beaches and he loved having it. We had one of our best meals at La Fringale, the Crème brulee was so good. did you get any good pictures of the cathedral lit up at night? I tried but just couldn't capture the beauty.
I would love the carting. That will be something they will always remember and history has come alive for them. I am so thankful my parents took us to historical places growing up.
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