By Susan "Honey" Good
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that has been in existence since the end of the Civil War. American flags are lowered to half-mast until noon and then raised again for the remainder of the day. The half mast position honors the more than one million men and women lost in battle. The flag is then raised up to acknowledge our fight for liberty and justice.
I am reminded of our trip to France with our three-day adventure through Normandy with some of our ‘Grands.’
We left Paris early morning and drove to Versailles. For our grandchildren it was a lesson in French History. The Royalty of Versailles, The French Revolution, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVII, Napoleon, periods of French furniture, the gardens. The visual and educational history is fabulous.
Our next stop was Monet’s Garden that is located in Normandy. Our ‘Grands’ were captivated by the experience. Monet designed and actually planted his entire French garden with his famous Lily Pond. Exploring and seeing where he sat and painted, his lovely home and the story of life told by the guide made the experience very personal. Our ‘Grands’ left the gardens with a newfound knowledge of the art of painting, growing and designing a garden and a sense of the French way of life. And Monet himself!
Our next stop was Honfleur, Normandy. It is a small picturesque village on the Seine River. The ‘Grands” loved the small bed and breakfast, walking through the village and eating in charming restaurants on the Seine. They were exposed to the ‘old Europe’ compared to the ‘young America.’
To veer off the trip for a moment, I told the ‘Grands,’
“Please leave your cell phones at home and bring your iPads or laptops. We will all keep a daily journal of our experiences.”
The last night of our trip we sat together around dinner and each of us read our entries. What a wonderful evening we shared. At dinner I again reiterated how fortunate they were to have this opportunity to be exposed to world history and travel with their family. I stressed to them to be appreciative and grateful for all their good fortune, large and small.
“Add the word gratitude to your vocabulary, dear grandchildren of mine I repeated throughout our family trip.”
The next day we started our day at the Normandy Beaches. Our first stop was the Peace Museum where we learned the history of the Normandy Invasion. We saw a film and toured the Museum. A must.
The month was June but it felt like late fall. The wind blowing off the sea set the scene. We visited the beaches. They were code-named Juno, Gold, Omaha and Sword. It was hard to imagine our American troops disembarking into the cold sea with heavy backpacks with the Germans shooting from the cliffs.
We visited the large cemeteries: The American Cemetery where over 10,000 Americans are buried! The German Cemetery, 21,000 dead and the British with 4,648 of her soldiers buried along the beaches of Normandy.
We paid a visit to the American Cemetery.
I said to each of the ‘Grands’ before leaving for Europe…
“Please bring a candle from home to light in honor of our soldiers who gave their lives to protect your freedom and your country, the United States of America.”
The American Cemetery is owned by the USA and contains row after row of identical white crosses and Stars of David. Everything in the cemetery was shipped into Normandy from the United States, including the grass seed, all trees and all flowers! The ‘Grands’ lit their candles and said a prayer.
The weather is not predicable. It can be cold, windy and rainy. And it was! Bring an umbrella and layer your clothing.
The next day was very special. We saw the Bayeux Tapestry in the village of Bayeux. It has survived over nine centuries and it is in perfect tact! It’s nothing short of miraculous. Its length of over 200 feet, the exquisite workmanship and the harmony and freshness of color and the genius of telling a story as an art form is breathtaking!
We drove onto Mont Saint Michele. It has been the destination for travelers for centuries. The small community is an island perched on a rock. We climbed to the top of the old Abbey. The medieval town is not reconstructed. A must see.
Our itinerary -
Day 1: Versailles | Monet Garden | Honfleur
Day 2: Deauville |Caen/ Peace Museum | The Beaches | The Cemetaries
Day 3: Bayeux – The Tapestry | Mont Saint Michel – The Cathedral | Return to Paris.
My recommendation is to take a guide with you when you reach the beaches. You cannot reconstruct the history unless you are a history major!
When we arrived home I bought two movies for the ‘Grands’ who traveled with us and for those who stayed at home. The Longest Day and Private Ryan. I wrote a note with my gift.
Dear Grandchild of Mine,
God Bless America!
All my devoted love - forever
Do something GOOD today: Share our proud American history with your children and grandchildren.
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