Posts filed under "Normandy"

Normandy D-Day Beaches

Our last day in Normandy
was spent hauling buns around the coast
trying to take in all of the WWII history.

Obviously, this is impossible to do in one day.

We had watched Saving Private Ryan ahead of time,
which turned out to be a good move.

Walking out to those beaches and having fresh visuals
of what happened on the ground below us
is a heavy feeling that is hard to explain.

You'll have to go someday and it experience it for yourself...
but it's an odd cocktail of pride & sadness that can only be drank slowly.

Regardless of being in the middle of the French countryside
I was left feeling as patriotic as if I was atop float in a Fourth of July Parade.

Our D-Day Itinerary through Normandy started with a visit to Utah Beach.

Walking out to Utah Beach,
it looked exactly like I had always pictured it.

From Utah Beach, we headed to the Paratroopers Museum in town
and had a quick break to have, in my opinion the best tailgate ever.

No, I don't really enjoying eating out of the trunk of a car before football games,
but somehow when it is out of a Peugeot in a small French village it seems much... classier :)

We cruised on up the road another hour or so till we arrived at Omaha Beach.

Then we found ourselves up the hill at the American Cemetery...
which is both hauntingly beautiful.

All those crosses representing people who had their lives cut short
so that others enjoy the promise of a full, free life.

It's humbling, no?

In retrospect, we could have skipped driving to Omaha Beach,
and just headed to the American Cemetery 
where there is a path to the beach from there. 
It overlooks the beach as you can see in the picture below. 

Oh well.

Normandy is an amazing trip. 
Honestly, one I hope to do over several times,
as I can tell this is a special place that only gets better as you uncover it.

{But I will probably always return to this private home rental near Mont St Michel where we stayed.
It was completely perfect- location, cute owners, fabulous four course meal for dinner!}

Have you visited Normandy?
Do you know someone who fought there?

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy. 

Posted on April 13, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "travel".

Bucket List #31: Visit Mont St. Michel

You can't visit Normandy 
without a stop by Mont St. Michel...

I mean seriously, this place is striking in a way unlike any other.

{Editor's Note: Which is why we all have it pinned to our travel board on Pinterest.}

While I was driving, I glanced over and, unexpectedly, saw it on the horizon.

There it was with the sun sitting directly over it.

I completely flipped out.

It looked more like a fairy tale than anything I've ever seen.

I'm not being dramatic here,
I'm being factual.

As we passed the signs pointing us to the landmark,
I was acting like a child.

I was squealing and jumping up & down in my seat as I drove...
it was awkward and weird all at the same time.


As we reached the long drive up to the famous abbey,
the sun was setting and it seemed like a perfect moment in time.

I was flooded with the reminder that this world has SO many great things in it.

In every corners of the earth,
there are stunning things.

Some that are natural (like the Canary Islands),
some that are manmade (like Norway's Ice Hotel),
some that are iconic (like the Taj Mahal),
some that are overlooked (like Civita Di Bagnoregio)...

How lucky are we to live in a world with this many treasures!

*ps. we returned the next morning for a second look. hence, the second set of daylight pictures.
**all images original to Aspiring Kennedy. Please source accordingly.

Posted on April 10, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "travel".

Monday Moods: I feel... blurry.

As I mentioned on Saturday,
we went to Normandy this weekend.

The first stop on our trip was Claude Monet's house in Giverny.

We were rushed to catch the next train,
so we only had one hour there.

It really should be at least three...
but it was sunny, our guide was amazing
& it lived up to all I had thought it would be,

As we rushed around the estate
from the famous water garden...

{where I could happily spend hours 
sitting by the water garden
being bored & picking petals off the tiny flowers}

On through through the main garden
in front of his colorful house,
I was absolutely giddy.

When I was four or five, 
I became a bit obsessed with Monet's Water Lilies.

In my delusional mind, it felt like they were made especially for my enjoyment.

My parents bought me a replica (obviously) 
and hung it on the wall across from my bath tub.

This silent presence during my bath time
ultimately resulted in countless attempts 
of me trying to float like one of  Monet's lilies
on top of the water of my bath tub.

I never could stay a float for more than a few seconds
and it always left me wishing that I had stem 
that could, to my young self, given me the support needed
 to allow me to rest above the water.

As we sat on the train that chugged us deeper towards the French coast,
I couldn't help but find our moment in Giverny 
to be anything short of a beautiful, albeit blurry, place.

Just like Monet painted it.


If you want to visit Monet's house in Giverny...

Take a train from Paris St. Lazare to Vernon, it's approximately 50 minutes.
Take the bus outside the station. It will drive you to Monet's house for €4 round trip, per person.
If you would like to prebook a guide, I recommend Ariane. She is lovely.
The gardens close during winter on November 1, but reopen April 1.
Give yourself 2.5 hours to walk the property.

Posted on April 9, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "art".

La {Cote} Gauche: A Tasty Side of France

This weekend is the last full weekend I work in Paris.

I'll still be around for a bit longer, 
but this is the last weekend with my spring students...
and it somehow resulted in an impromptu trip to Normandy with 16 people.

Starting with Giverny 
to visit Monet's house...

... spending a night at a completely charming country house 
in the outskirts of Mont St. Michel...

... and filling a full day to explore the WWII Normandy Beaches.

Every stop along the way checks off lifetime dreams of mine.

One thing I need to say:

Normandy is a really well-kept secret.

It's got absolutely everything you could want out of a French town.

Amazing churches,
quiet squares decorated with fountains,
the smell of butter wafting through the streets...
and the food is amazing.


What Tuscany is to Italian cuisine,
so Normandy is to French cuisine.

Hearty dishes made from pure local ingredients.

Sitting down to a plate full of pork & cider stew
piled by a mound of gratin potatoes....

Or waking up to a fresh cake 
with homemade apple & cinnamon jam 
made from the apple tree outside...

Well friends, I have to say,
it doesn't get much better than that.

Don't worry...
this post isn't the only one you'll see about our trip.

You'll see pretty places & find out cool things to do.

This is just to whet your appetite...

*artwork original to Aspiring Kennedy
Posted on April 7, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "travel".