Sunday, February 18, 2024

Jun 15, 2013
Day One

Evan & I are well and in Merry Old England tonight.
Tomorrow we are to tour all the highlights then Churchill's war room. Then on free time visit Abbey Road!
Great hotel. Great local Ales.
I hope to load pics if iPad and Internet will let me.
Cheers and Tally Ho!

Jun 16, 2013
Day 2 London

Evan & I saw lots of London. We achieved our Mecca to Abbey Road. Then back down to the Tower of London and touched a 2000 year old Roman wall. After a superb meal of Fish and Chips we did an evening walking tour pointing famous haunts of Jack the Ripper, the Bard and Harry Potter. Let's just say e sou side of the Thames looks the most fun.
We saw the changing of the guard and Buckingham Palace decorated for the Queen's birthday.
Then a most impressive tour of Churchill's war room bunker.
Today we are headed through the southern countryside to Portsmouth. There we embark on an overnight crossing of the channel and land in Normandy at dawn, thus getting a little ambiance of what it was like for those 40,000 troops for D-Day.
Goodbye Merry Old England. You earned that moniker.
I will load pics as able!

Jun 17, 2013
Bon Voyage England

A lovely meal for our departure from Portsmouth, England. Wonderful to see and touch where 150,000 allied troops were staged and trained for the allied invasion "Operation Overlord", June 6, 1944. The largest expeditionary force and ship armada the world has ever seen. Eight months later, Nazi Germany was conquered and Europe was liberated!
We hope to return to England some day, but if we do not, we are satisfied wither he brief touch of history we enjoyed.

Jun 18, 2013
We have landed!

A successful crossing across the channel and docking in Calvados, France outside of Caen. The troops are operating on a couple hours sleep or less but in generally good spirits.
We shall report more as we establish a beachhead and continue onto Caen!
Viva la France.

Jun 18, 2013
Hallowed Ground

The War History Tour is wiped out tonight. We had a 4:30am wake up call that yours truly slept through but I managed to make it to breakfast. Life note: careful partaking in Beck's on a boat on the English Channel. Especially when you meet a Londoner with family living in Lawson, Missouri! World getting smaller.
We disembarked and made it up the beach head from about Sword beach to the Pegasus Bridge @ Benouville, about 2 miles in. A surprise delight was to watch this amazing draw bridge accommodate a freighter moving to the channel.
Then onto Gold Beach and the town of Arromanches for lunch. Me and a few of the students had crepes and waffles and some strong Espresso.
Then onto Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery. We cried as we strolled through. We overlooked from the top of the cliffs. We went down and looked back across the beach from water's edge. My God it is truly a wonder the Allies got through that long stretch of beach. The Nazi bunkers and guns nearly invisible in the scrub brush and trees. The movie Longest Day gives some of the enormity but the film Saving Private Ryan describes the scene the best. But nothing can really bring it home like standing there on that most hallowed ground and trying to imagine what Hell on earth was like 69 years ago this past few days was like. We even had a cloud covered, windy, cool day with spitting rain to put a dramatic realism to our experience.
We finished up the day driving to Caen where we will spend tonight before proceeding to Rouen in the morning. William the Conqueror built a HUGE, I mean HUGE castle on one of the higher hills in Caen. You know him - his 1066 Norman Conquest into England and then built what became the Tower of London? Yep. Completely mind blowing to see and touch man built structures nearly 1,000 years old!
I must say, France is a beautiful countryside. The hamlets, villages, homes, farms, estates. I may have found the small, modern cottage I would like to build someday. Most of the new houses in the country side are small. But appear very efficient.
I will load pictures as able and I find an Apple accessory cable complete the task.
Well, I am going to have to remove the toothpicks holding my eyelids open after this long but great day. Hey to all stateside!

Rouen, France

Day 6

Jun 19, 2013
We have traveled to the medieval city of Rouen. Here is the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Rouen, rebuilt after the war and still being restored. It is the final resting place of many Cardinals and of Richard the Lionhearted.
It is also where Joan of Arc (St. Jeanne d'Arc) was burned at the stake in the town square. Stone ruins about the flower garden litter the site as well as a modern church to St. Joan of Arc.
We grabbed a nice little lunch from one of the many sidewalk, storefront vendors of a ham and cheese baguette and a panache chocolate croissant for desert.

Days 6 & 7

Jun 19, 2013
Ah, Paris!

After Rouen, we entered Paris. 11 million people. Traffic to confirm that. But Michel was an excellent driver and we were to our hotel and out on tour on time. We walked to THE Notre Dame and gloried about its internal treasures. Then over to a meal in the Latin Quarter, hanging out, out of the toad drowning rain at a little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. Here the likes of Hemmingway stayed while in Paris. Now aspiring authors gather in various rooms, work the store in exchange of sleeping on a couch but living the dream of being an author in Paris.
After dinner, we toured the Louvre. OMG!! New definition of the term opulence! It was Napoleon's palace as well as rulers before him. But since Napoleon, France created this priceless museum.
Yes, the Mona Lisa is worth a visit. But the masterpieces by the Masters on your stroll to see Da Vinci's girl are impressive. The building itself is an utter artful masterpiece and HUGE.
We tour Paris by bus and tour the Palace of Versailles. We expect to be awestruck and think of the Louvre as the Parisian cottage.

The village of Versailles is beautiful. Tha Palace of Versailles is extreme. Occupied through King Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette when the French Revolution sent them to the guillotine and Napoleon became Emporer.

Bastogne, Belgium

Day 8

Jun 21, 2013
Tonight we are in Liege, Belgium, an or so north of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne along with Patton's tank division defeated the Nazis and liberated Bastogne. And now EZ Company is famous here.
We were guided by Henri, who as a 10 year old boy lived through the Nazi occupation. Bring up a picture in the woods I took of the foxholes and how dense the forest was during the war. Now imagine hearing the story we heard from Henri of how they lived a few miles outside of town but had German Wermacht troops sleeping in their homes hallways but how they were conscripted and were kind to the point they could be. Warning the family about the SS troops and their horrors. Then, the German troops left their property and he watched as his father went out to start cleaning up after and a shell fell and exploded very near him, killing the father. Then an SS soldier found them hiding but their mother convinced him to leave without harm. More shelling and American troops rescued them after searching for German soldiers among them. The American troops rescued them because the house was in flames above them. They lost much due to the war. He could not go to school for a year due to the fighting.
My God, this brought a very tangible reach to this history for me, standing there where so many were brave and paid dearly for it. These first hand accounts are not going to be with us much longer. This was a very special opportunity to meet and talk with this man, proud of his heritage and of the Allies who brought freedom back to Europe.
Tomorrow we travel to Cologne, Germany then by train, perhaps a high speed train, to Berlin, our final city on this rockin' tour of WWII in Europe.
Now to have a Stella Artois in Belgium, on the sidewalk, as I promised myself I have to do while here. I need it as I contemplate just what I witnessed today. I hope someday these students can comprehend just how special it was. Many have. We are proud of them. A few are actually WWII history appreciators. They get it.
God Bless the U.S.A. Let's hope we continue to be the standard of Freedom the world looks too. I have gotten that impression from here that generally the world does. Let us never, in any form, allow the oppressive reactionary extreme right wing of fascism or the enslavement of socialism to overtake us as it has over and over again on this continent. History keeps us from repeating mistakes if we will only allow it to do so! Education and constant vigilance.
Now for that beer!

Andrennes, France

Day 8

Cologne, Germany was good. Our hotel was great and we had a wonderful breakfast this morning. The pubs are wonderful and the weather cooperated to have drinks on the sidewalk and watch another part of this big blue ball stroll by!
The pictures pretty well say it all in what we visited earlier today.
I think I found the father of a brother knight buried here but will work on confirming that. Several Polish troops are here also as aiding the Americans. Though Poland was routed and defeated by the Germans, Poland has a strong and honorable place in WWII history even though sadly they endured nearly 45 years of oppression and the Cold War with rule under Russia.
Our stay in Cologne ended with some drama. While waiting for our bus to come back so we could retrieve our bags for our high speed train travel to Berlin, a major anti-government Turkish protest and march took place and shut down downtown Cologne. Our bus was caught on the wrong side so we had to take what we had and get on our train.
We saw several hundred protesters throughout downtown Cologne with flags, signs and handing out pamphlets. They evidently all met up for one huge march through the center of Cologne. As my son commented - some come to see history but its not often you get to witness history.
All can relax because as you see, we were a good block or two from it all so all kids are safely sleeping tonight!
Till Berlin!

Berlin, Germany

Days 9 & 10

Jun 23, 2013
It seems like we took as long as the Allied forces to get to Berlin but alas, we are here.
Our high speed train only reached 180 km/h. I was told 250!!
We were an hour late getting into our Berlin Station due to power construction on the line. But our hotel is walking distance to trains. A wonderful thing!@
We have our bags back tonight and the world is whole! Antonio, our driver from Cologne, drove straight through to deliver our bags to us and has now deservedly crashed. We had all our bags by 1:30am.
Our wake up is later but for our last day of touring, we'll see WWII and Cold War Berlin.
Good night all. Till next post....
We had an excellent guide, Kevin Kennedy, for Berlin and Potsdam. Berlin is still recovering from the cold war and is a very industrial looking city. But it has a vibe and the young people of Europe love it. After supper, we rode the train out to Potsdam where Kevin our guide hit some highlights of the palaces in and around Potsdam of the former Prussian Kings like Fredric the Great. This is a beautiful town. The mosquitos were annoying. But what a great way to finish up our touring of Europe in such a place!

Fly home, Airplane

Day 11

Jun 24, 2013
We made it back safe and sound and all baggage with us! We all must say that it is amazing how difficult it is for USA citizens to return to their own country! Politics, gotta love it! And 22 hours of traveling does not make for great attitudes! But we survived.
We all look forward to returning some day. I hope we do. Europe has some good ideas we should embrace and others we need to heed so as not to end up with some of their societal ills now facing them. I do envy their train travel and the ability to not have to drive while over there! And if only we could be offered the selection of automobiles they enjoy! Until our government gets out of the way and allows these cars to be offered here, then all the rhetoric of "more energy efficient cars" is utter political crap.
It is evident that some of the hard decisions to curb the pollution are working in Europe as the evidence of pollution is everywhere on the older buildings. We would do very well to rationally decide what should be privatized and what needs to remain under public/government control. It seems no nation is without ill-conceived notions and plans with regard to the public and private entities.
All in all, it was wonderful to feel that there is freedom and liberty in Europe. Many of us remember all to well the recent history. Time changes much. History repeats itself far to often. And we touched and lived a bit of history in June of 2013.

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