Trip to France and Cruise of the British Isles --May 2013 Rita Requa, Linda Fitzgerald, Jo & Bruce Caldwell Slide Show of Photos with captions at end of trip information
Jo and Bruce Caldwell, Linda Fitzgerald and Rita Requa arrived in Paris in early May and luckily, Bruce likes to drive and was a fabulous chauffeur on French roads. We stayed in Arromanches, a small village on the Normandy Coast and the site of the British landing on June 6, 1944, then called Port Winston, aka Gold Beach. Today one can still see the remnants of the prefabricated breakwater at sea and part of a landing wharf is still on the shore. These were installed on June 8, 1944. There are two great museums in Arromanches, with scale models and dioramas of the causeways and wharves. We also visited Utah and Omaha beaches. Each site has a visitors center with paraphernalia, models and photographs. Omaha Beach with its modern beach scupture, Les Braves,, peaceful now, was important in the liberation of Europe. The highlight for all of us was Utah Beach. One walks a meandering path to the cliff above the beach, seeing many craters from allied bombs in preparation for landing, remains of German bunkers and we were reminded of the great sacrifices our soldiers made there. It was towards closing time and the attendant at the visitors center asked if we as Americans would like to participate in taking down the US flag. Yes, of course. Bruce lowered the flag, Jo, Linda and Rita folded the flag according to custom. We also visited the wonderful and extensive D-Day Museum in Caen. However, the Utah beach experience It was a moment none of us would forget and the highlight of our entire trip. On our way to Paris, we stopped at Giverney, Monet’s home with unbelievably beautiful gardens. The spring flowers were abundant and color coordinated. The ponds were full of LOUD frogs. Monet’s home is as it was when he lived there, except his studio is now a large gift shop. Normandy countryside was dotted with bright yellow fields of rape seed and a great contrast to other spring crops. On to Paris, which was cool, crowded, and elegant. We walked, toured, ate escargot and drank the wines of the region. A particular highlight of Paris for us was the Eiffel Tower and getting the courage to go to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. Although the day was cloudy, the view magnifique! After a sub-English Channel ride on Eurostar, a bus trip to Southhampton, we boarded the Caribbean Princess for our voyage around the British Isles with nine scheduled ports of call. The first was LaHarve, where we rented a car and spent the day in Rouen, the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. The cathedral, the town and the onion soup were highlights of the day. A day at sea and on to Edinburgh, Scotland. We took a tour of the British Royal Yacht, the Brittania, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite getaway. The yacht is splendid, homey and even the engine room is pristine. Then on to Edinburgh Castle in the rain. We walked up the Royal Mile Street to the castle while the tour guide told of the castle’s history, dating back to the 9th century. The castle has been the site of many battles, a home of Mary Queen of Scotts, arsenal, prison, and was last used as home by King Charles I in 1633. Of particular interest were the Honours of Scotland, (The Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword of State) and the Stone of Scone, used in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. Shakespeare referred to it in Macbeth: “We shall travel to be crowned at Scone”. Invergordon, Scotland was a lovely small town with many building murals. During WWII the deep water anchorage was used by ships and seaplanes of the “Home Fleet”, but only the fuel storage tanks remain to remind us of that time. On to Kirkwall, one of the windswept and chilly Orkney Islands, which had inhabitants as early as the 4 millennium BC. Viking sites, customs, and vocabulary are actually more important than Celtic in these islands. Our next stop was Glasgow, after a chilly on and on bus, we stopped at a great pub for lunch, sampled Guiness, very tasty in that part of the world. In Belfast we had a private taxi tour of a part of Northern Ireland. We viewed the unusual basalt columns, which myth claims the giant Finn McCool used the causeway as stepping-stones to travel from Ireland to Scotland Giant’s Causeway. In the city of Belfast there is still animosity between the Protestants and Catholics, although not bloody. Our next stop was Dublin, home of Trinity College and the Book of Kells, a sculpture of Molly Malone, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and a great lunch. We stopped at Cobh, which was unfortunately the last port for us and, also, the Titanic passengers. There is a great interactive Titanic museum there where your admission ticket is a copy of a boarding pass with a name of an original Titanic passenger. The voyage was recreated step by step, starting with a film of welcome by the captain, going into different “rooms” to view photos of 3rd class quarters to 1st class. Finally at the end, one was told whether the person identified on one’s boarding pass lived or was lost at sea. The last port of call was to be St. Peter Port on Guernsey Island (referred to in the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pell Pie Society). However, because of rough water and predicted 50 MPH winds and the danger in boarding a tender in those conditions, the captain cancelled that stop and we slowly went back across the Channel to Southampton where we started our trip. We all enjoyed this three-week trip and have many fond memories of all the places we visited.