June 2016 – Visitors and a lot of Normandy

June 2016 was the month for visitors and much time spent in Normandy! This was also the month for many strikes/manifestations and the Seine flooded! Check out these pictures of the river!

Our first visitors were Gem & Peter and they brought along two of their friends (Anela & Antonio).  I had previously met Anela & Antonio while we lived in California and it was fun getting to know them better. On their first night in town we had dinner at Frame. I could tell that Peter had really missed Andrew’s cooking.

11-dinner

After dinner, Andrew went home and I started to walk everyone back to their apartment. We stopped for a photo in front of the Tour Eiffel and also Anela & I stuck our feet into the flooded Seine.

The next day, I hung out with Anela & Antonio while Peter & Gem explored Disneyland. One thing I want to mention is that it was fairly cold in Paris at this time. The weather here really doesn’t get warm or sunny until July. Despite that, it is still a beautiful city to visit no matter the time of year! We took a walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg, had lattes at DOSE – Dealer de café, had tasty meringue at Aux Merveilleux de Fred, walked by the Bataclan (one of the sites of the November shootings), walked through Place des Vosges (the oldest planned square in Paris and one of the finest in the city, located in the Marais district), visited Place de la République (a square in Paris popular for public gatherings/protests), took in some culture at Musée Rodin, saw the overcompensating tomb of Napoleon I, took a look at France’s military history in Musée de l’Armée, saw Palais Garnier Opera House, and got some fresh crêpes! We walked over 18 miles if I remember correctly! Anotonio was stoked and I think I broke Anela a little bit (she seemed pretty tired afterwards, but still in good spirit).

On Saturday, we were all able to hang out together! Peter, Gem, & Antonio went up the Eiffel Tower and we took Anela for a walk.

36-going up

Anela, Andrew, and I checked out how the flooded Seine was looking and picked up some macarons for later.

We met at Frame Truck later for some lunch and to also enjoy our macarons.

Eiffel Tower group pictures!

We took the metro to go see the Catacombs. If you take line 6 you can see the Eiffel Tower on your journey!  Well, at least if you start on the right bank…

47-metro to catacombs

The line for the Catacombs was very long so we played charades to occupy our time. It was fun and made people wonder what we were doing!

Catacombs! The whole visit (along with waiting in line) took us just under 3 hours without audio guides!

After the Catacombs, we went to She’s Cake for some treats (sweet and savory).

After we were satisfied, we headed to Montmartre. We were able to see Sacré-Cœur, a Wallace Fountain, the Moulin Rouge, and we also ate some snails. Then we made our way down to Arc de Triomphe. Here we are in front of Sacré-Cœur (thank you for the picture, Andrew).

56-montmartre

On Sunday, we took them to the market near our place. It’s no Borough Market in London, but it is still nice 🙂

We also picked up some French pastries at the boulangerie down the street from us. This was the result of our efforts and it was absolutely delicious. Gemma was ready to dig in!

After the market, we took them to Notre Dame too! The pictures are of our journey there. Peter on the metro (he didn’t get stuck in the door this time…that was the day before!) and Andrew biking with Antonio! Go velib system!

Next stop that day was at the Louvre. The first two pictures on the top left were of us crossing the street to the Louvre – Andrew was too fast for us! They weren’t able to go inside the museum due to the flood, but we had a good time seeing the outside. I really miss Gem! They also had a temporary art exhibit by street artist, JR, hiding the iconic pyramid from the front view showing what the courtyard in front of the building looked like before the pyramid’s installation in 1989.

Andrew took Peter, Gem, and Antonio over to see the Statue of Liberty since they had missed it the day before while Anela and I got a table at Frame for dinner. The flood is receding!

We really enjoyed seeing our friends again and cannot wait until the next time! I took a creepy picture of them getting their RER tickets to the airport…always watching… Our fun wasn’t over yet though, I had to prepare for our next visitors within the week!

76-leaving paris for now

Claudia and Megan arrived at the airport that next Saturday. I surprised them at the airport! Click here to watch the video. Our bus ride from the airport to the city center was filled with Northern Ireland football fans. They pretty much sang the entire ride! Don’t believe me? Click here to see for yourself (I apologize for the shoddy camera work and shortness of the video).

The cousins are in Paris! Andrew’s friend was able to get us all into Musée d’Orsay. Claudia had a tumble while in the museum, but she seemed to recover pretty quickly. I’m sure that I would have been out of commission for the rest of the day. She’s one tough cookie. After the museum, we took them to see the Eiffel Tower and to have lunch at Frame Truck. That night we picked up some treats and played Settlers of Catan at our place! It was such a nice evening.

On Sunday, we took them to the open air market. I loved that it was decked out with all the flags for the Euro 2016 Soccer tournament!

After the market, we had lunch (including snails) at Café Primrose and spotted the cutest little kid obsessed with the police officers!

Then we went to the American Church in Paris for their afternoon service. Claudia & I walked way too fast! This was the first time I had been to a church service in years. I didn’t burst into flames, so that was a good sign.

The hunchback…

19-hunchback

After service, we went to Palais Garnier Opera House to tour the inside. We didn’t purchase the audio guides so I tried my best to tell them all that I had learned about the opera house. The opera house was still has beautiful as it was the last time I had visited.

We headed to the Montmartre area! On our way we spotted a naked protester (I couldn’t understand what he was yelling so I’m not sure what he was upset about).

27-protester

CJ & Megan picked up bread & a croissant at a boulangerie because seeing a naked man makes them hungry 🙂

28-boulangerie

We headed up the steps to visit Sacré-Cœur and were able to hear part of a church service inside.

Here we are at the Abbesses metro station. It is the deepest station in the Paris Metro and has an Art Nouveau canopy (one of three in the city). This metro station has also been featured in many movies!

32-metro station

We had our picture taken at the Love Wall.  This one turned out better than the one we took 1 ½ years ago (our guide wasn’t a good photographer ha ha). Thanks, CJ!

At Moulin Rouge! Taking pictures in the rain. I think we have Megan covered!

That night we had dinner near the girls’ flat at Loup. The food was pretty good!

On Monday, Andrew had to go back to work so I hung out with the girls. In the morning, they headed to the Louvre while I went to class. That afternoon we had crepes for lunch and visited the inside of Notre Dame. We also saw St. Denis holding his decapitated head.

I finally learned how to discreetly warn tourists about the gypsies. I asked the tourist to take my picture and whispered to her that it was a scam. Plus I ended up with a fairly nice picture. Parfait!

45-fooling gypsies

Inside the elevator at their flat!

46-elevator

We visited the Arc de Triomphe before our dinner reservation at Frame. There was a ceremony going on that day (maybe in regards to WW2, but I’m not sure). Then we took line 6 (with the Eiffel Tower view) across the river to Frame!

The girls enjoyed dinner at Frame. They made sure that they were hungry this time. We also surprised them by taking them up to the 10th floor to see the awesome view of the Eiffel Tower! I think they liked it!

The next day, we got up early to get in line for the Towers of Notre Dame. It was really cool!

We took the metro over to the Catacombs. As we were having breakfast, I noticed that the line was wrapped all the way around the building…meaning that the wait would be much longer than usual. They decided that they would save that activity for another time. We also saw several police vans drive by as we were eating. I remembered that today was a National Strike Day, but assumed that all the activity would be taking place around République.

66-breakfast

After breakfast I took them through the Cimetière du Montparnasse so they would be able to see a graveyard of some sort. Several graves were of people who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp 😦

We made our way towards Montparnasse and soon discovered that the protesters would be marching through this area. We decided that we would stick around to see what it would be like. It was a little intense, but I never felt like we were in any real danger (however, I could see how some might turn out that way). We had trouble leaving the area due to the police blockades on the side streets so we had to wait around for a bit longer than we intended to. I talked to one of the police officers and she indicated that it may be lasting all day. I also talked to one of the protesters because I wanted to better understand the situation.  She provided me with some literature to read. We eventually were able to exit via one of the side streets down the opposite direction of the march. We actually tried to head somewhere later that night and were unable to make it to our destination because of the march. Someone had wrote “Traitres/Traitors” on the ground in front of Assemblée nationale.

You can watch videos of the manifestation here: Video 1Video 2Video 3Video 4

The next day we headed to Bayeux in the Normandy region via train. That afternoon we took the tour to the D-Day beaches (Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery). It was a humbling experience. It seemed like so many things went wrong and were going against the ally troops during the D-Day landings. From the terrible weather, the untested equipment/tactics, landing in the wrong location, the German guns that could shoot 13 miles in one direction (which luckily weren’t in use during the invasion due to a ventilation problem with the casemates), the obstacles on the beach, etc. it was a chance that anything worked out at all. In reference to Omaha Beach, one quote that stuck with me was, “There are two kinds of people on this beach. Those that are dead and those that are going to be dead.” My heart goes out to the service people that sacrificed so much for this mission and this world.

These are the photos at Pointe du Hoc. The big guns that could shoot 13 miles, an example of a casemate with bad ventilation that was intended for one of the big guns, craters created from the bombs dropped in the area, inside and looking out of the observation deck, the ranger monument, and a gun pit where the operator could swivel around and shoot at all angles.

This is an example of an artificial port that was built in Great Britain and brought to Normandy. We will see another example at Omaha Beach.

96-artificial port

Here we are at Omaha Beach. The first is a soldier statue memorial, obstacles the soldiers encountered, the “floating tanks” that didn’t quite go as planned, artificial port/on the beach, and in the last two pictures you can see a hole in the hill where a sniper would have been placed.

At the American Cemetery we walked by the wall that has the names of the 1,557 Americans who lost their lives in the Normandy battle, but could not be located and/or identified. Once a soldier is identified, they place a marker next to the name. We were also able to watch the flag ceremony at the end of the day. You can watch the ceremony here.

That evening, Andrew and I walked around Bayeux together while the girls did laundry. Creepy gargoyles…

The next day we had a great breakfast at the flat. Our host mainly spoke French with us so it was a good opportunity to practice!

122-breakfast

Then we took the shuttle to Mont Saint-Michel. It was a beautiful, simple abbey. If I remember right, the island is completely surrounded by water due to the tides around 10 times per year. I found online that on March 21, 2015, there was a super-tide that completely submerged the new bridge that connects the island to the mainland. That would have been something to see! There were kids taking field trips out into the water. I wonder what they were looking for and learning about. There were also sheep in land around/near Mont St Michel.

CJ, Andrew, and I explored the Bayeux Cathedral once we were back in town. Sacrificial altar???

Welcome to Our Liberators – a poster in Bayeux.

That evening, CJ, Andrew, and I had dinner at L’Assiette Normande. We thought it was neat how they cut their bread up!

The next day we took the train back to Paris. The girls and I took RER E to Gare du Nord for them to catch their train to Brussels. RER E is a colorful line to ride!

178-RER E

Claudia’s bruise was shaping up quite nicely.

179-bruise

I think the girls had a good time in France, despite for Megan feeling sick at the end of it. It was really good to have them visit!

180-tired and sick but happy

Two days later, Andrew and I were on the train again. This time we were on our way to Étretat which is also on the coast of Normandy.

As soon as we arrived, we took the kayaks out to paddle near the cliffs. It had been my dream to kayak through the cliffs ever since I saw it painted by Monet and Courbet at Musée d’Orsay.

That evening we had dinner at the #1 restaurant in town at the time which happened to be an Italian/pizza place (Le Romain d’Etretat).

Monday, was Andrew’s 32nd birthday! I woke up early and got breakfast at the boulangerie down the street. We had quiche and a calvados dessert. Yes, I said dessert!

24-breakfast

Since it was raining, we ended up mainly relaxing at the apartment. We did get out for a quick walk in the rain later that morning. Andrew liked the brick stove.

We had takeout lunch from the restaurant we had visited the night before along with cider from our host (which turned out not being that tasty, but we promised ourselves we would find a good one). I also introduced Andrew to the 80s movie, Silver Bullet.

That afternoon, we walked up to the church on the cliff. There were beautiful vantage points from up there! Also very windy!

For dinner, we went to La Flotille. Dinner was just okay, but they did have a nice grill!

The next day, I lazed around the apartment for a bit since it was still raining, but Andrew got out and did a little exploring. He took a picture of the bunker. Étretat was along the Atlantic Wall set up by the Germans during WW2 which means that during that time this beach was littered with obstacles.

I eventually got my butt out of the apartment and we walked up to the top of the cliff that we had kayaked through a couple days before. In one of the photos there was a little cave and it turns out that it is supposedly haunted! It is known as La Chambre des Demoiselles. You can read about the story here.

We went back to town to take a break. The last picture is of the old market (vieux marche) which is now filled with gift shops. It also served as a military hospital during the World Wars.

After the tide had gone down a bit, we headed back to the cliffs to explore down below. We found an old oyster farm and were able to walk through a tunnel in the cliff to the other side (we really liked the tunnel). Andrew also found a small cave that we crawled into to watch the water moving back and forth against the cliff.

That evening we enjoyed some good cider and there was a beautiful sunset.

Étretat was a lovely town! On our way back we had a long layover in Le Havre (not recommended in my opinion unless you have more time). Plus we were tired and just ready to be home. All in all we enjoyed our June filled with friends, family, and Normandy!

 

 

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One thought on “June 2016 – Visitors and a lot of Normandy

  1. This was an awesome post! All the pictures were amazing! Glad you guys got to kayak it was so beautiful there! I think you showed all your visitors a good time! such beautiful beaches and so sad to think of all the lives lost there! Those gargoyles are creepy! they sure have some unusual stuff over there!Looking forward to your next post!

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