Saturday, June 26, 2010

Finally! The perfect Moules Marinieres!

The perfect bowl of moules mariniere! They were not available in the South, but I was finally able to find them at this little cafe in Paris. Delectable, tiny, wonderful garlicky sauce--quite possibly the best meal we had.

And even the dried fruits look delicious!

The Normandy Beaches

I posted some pictures from the Normandy beaches, but didn’t write anything about it. Tom and I drove through the Loire Valley, Brittany and Normandy years ago—I think that was the year 12-year-old Eric was with us—and one of the highlights of that trip, and of all my memories in fact, was the American Cemetery on Omaha Beach. When we visited before, as I remember, there were very few people, the day was serene—sunny, not somber—and I remember looking out over the thousands of rows of perfectly symmetrical crosses and some Stars of David, each presiding over the grave of one of our brave World War II warriors—and being so awe-struck I could hardly breathe. It has always been among my most treasured memories. The prospect of seeing it again was a major motivation for going on the cruise, and the cemetery itself did not disappoint.

We set off on buses for the two and a half hour journey from where the boat was docked. As we approached the area where the Normandy invasions occurred, we passed here and there some plaques, monuments, tanks and other memorabilia commemorating the war. The weather had been cloudy and cool during our entire trip—not a problem for my money because you get far less tired in cool, cloudy weather—but that day was particularly threatening with dark clouds and a strong wind. But yet again the weather held and while it was not exactly a nice day, it didn’t rain! Merci, sacre Dieu!

First, we went to the WWII museum at Arromanches, very well done but it would take you two days to see it properly and we had less than an hour. Then we went to Omaha Beach. Our guide told us a lot about those terrible days leading up to D-Day, about the horrible weather which postponed the actual landing, the lack of communication among the various generals as to who was where, and about the thousands and thousands who died. One quote from I-forget-which General stuck with me: “Everybody here is either dead or about to die, so let’s get the hell out of here.”

It is unquestionably most hallowed ground. The spectacular semi-circular monument at the entrance to the site is engraved “To These We Owe The High Resolve That The Cause For Which They Died Shall Live.” After that there is a beautiful reflecting pool which, on a calm day, reflects the huge bronze statue at the front.

Then you walk out into the sea of crosses. You begin by reading a few of the names—Robert W. Rigg, James D. Boone, David G. Dean, James W. Winstead, and occasionally, a Comrade in Arms Known Only to God. It blows me away to think that these were real people with lives and dreams and hopes for the future that would never be realized.

And then you stop reading the names because there are too many, and you just walk and walk. It seems to go on forever. There are more than 9,000 graves at Omaha Beach. We didn’t have the cemetery all to ourselves the way we did the first time, but it was still an awesome sight. After walking around the cemetery we went through the extensive museum, again giving it short shrift for lack of time, and then met the bus for the next leg of the tour which was the actual battleground at Utah Beach, left just as it was with deep craters where bombs were dropped and vestiges of bunkers where the soldiers tried to take cover. It’s all very sad and depressing, but at the same time, majestic, powerful,and necessary to see.

It gives one a new appreciation for how lucky we are to be Americans.

The Church of St. Germain des Pres

This Church gets very little press but if you look closely, the murals and pillars all have the original decorations and paintings. The Cathedral at Albi, which is better preserved, is the only one I have seen that has these original paintings in such good condition. We couldn't believe our good fortune having come across it by chance. Be sure and click so you can see how beautiful they are.

Paris: The City of Lovers

The Garden of Tuileries with the Louvre in two of the pictures and another famous landmark in the other

Montmartre--again not in the right order

The magnificent Sacre Coeur--we could see this landmark from our hotel room although it is a long distance away. I'll show you that picture later.

The street scene: unfortunately way, way too many people.

This used to be a green park with artists all along the periphery. They've turned it into a giant cafe with shoulder to shoulder tables. Hideous...

More Paris Pictures, captions not necessarily in the right order...

A spooky view of Pere La Chaise Cemetery where many famous people including Chopin, Honore de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Maria Callas (ashes only), Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and last but not least, Jim Morrison, are buried. We walked and walked and almost didn't find our way out...

A pretty view of one of the many bridges over the Seine.

A lovely little shop tucked into a corner.