Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 8th:
We left Chicago to a wonderful farewell from staff, faculty, Cabinet members, Sisters of Providence, and students from SMWC. Thank you!

May 9th:
We arrived in Amsterdam after an 8+ hour flight on a plane which had wonderful food and service. Some slept well, others did not, which has now caught up to us the evening of May 9th! After arriving in Amsterdam, we had to go back through security and several ended up getting patted down by security, including the youngest traveler on the tour, who is 6-years-old! She was a trooper, though, and soon we were all on our way to Paris after a quick plane change. We arrived in Paris around 8:30 a.m. (Paris time) and met Victor and Etienne, both from the Tour Company. We loaded the bus and saw many sights on our way to Normandy Beaches, including a far off glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, a drive by the retired Concord plane, and the enormous Stadium de Saint-Denis (pictured).

We stopped for a quick lunch where we were all impressed with the patisserie (pastries and breads). 8 Euros bought two of us two bowls of fresh fruit, two rolls, and two bottles of water (roughly around $10.50 in U.S. dollars). We drove through so many small towns and our tour guide, Etienne, knows a wealth of historical facts! Our bus driver, Dominique, impressed us with his skillful driving as he moved slowly between a wall and a large construction site truck.

Everyone was exhausted and slept when they could on the bus, but enjoyed hearing about the upcoming sites from Etienne and seeing the beautiful floral countryside (pictured).  We headed to the town of Arromauches to see the Mulberries, a portable harbor built by the Allies in WWII as part of their offense when fighting the Germans. Strangely, there is a large, old-fashioned Carousel right next to old guns and war statues facing the beach. We went on to see 155mm canons still remaining at Longue Sur Mer before heading to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery.
Omaha Beach

Laura Kempton, overlooking Omaha Beach
Group looking around Omaha Beach

The sun was shining and while it was cool and breezy, the beauty of the place seemed in contradiction to the fact that over 9,000 U.S. soldiers (and four women who also perished) perished and are buried at the American Cemetery. To see the picturesque beauty of the beach, it is hard to imagine soldiers pushing against the shore, trying to scale the sand and the "shingle", all the while facing enemy fire. It was overwhelming at times and moving.
American Cemetery

We returned to the town of Bayeux, Normandy for the evening, where we checked into our hotel and ate a lovely dinner. We were all very quiet from exhaustion, but hopefully tonight will bring some needed sleep to energize us for tomorrow's adventures and our first performance of the trip at Mont-Saint-Michele.

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