Tag Archives: France

What they died for

There are over 9000 crosses at the American Cemetery in France. That’s only 2 out of 5 who gave up their lives on the beaches of France in 1944; the rest were brought home for burial by their families. Maybe you knew that. I didn’t.

I don’t know who this guy was.

I do know that he didn’t leave home that day wondering if he was going to meet his quota at work, or strong-arm his suppliers for a better margin, or battle it out with a competitor. He might have paid more attention to his shoes being shined and his shirt being tucked when he left his ship that day than an employee cares about the floor being swept. We worry about career choices and for most of us, a crap assignment is a bunch of

Someone asked a WWII veteran if it bothered him that people were now playing and drinking and swimming on the beach so many died on. He replied no, that’s exactly why we fought that battle. So that others could enjoy such things.
It makes sense; does a soldier fight believing that there’s no hope for peace, that the battle will be endless? Surely not. Soldiers aren’t looking to catch a bullet so that songs and plaques and statues will sing their praises once dead.

paperwork and if it’s a crappy enough assignment some will skip it entirely. This guy was likely drafted yet it may never have entered his mind that he could do anything but his best because others depended upon him. And for that he gave up his life. Along with the fight to keep us free and allow people to have fun swimming and playing Frisbee on a beach that once ran red with blood.

This is what goes through your mind when you visit the American Cemetery in France. The rest of the day’s details seem pretty insignificant-

  • 8:45am Train from Paris to head to Bayeux, where we tour the town a bit before our half-day (not nearly enough, do not do a half-day tour!!!)
  • 1:45pm Normandy Beach & American Cemetery tour
  • 7pm Get dropped off at a gas station in the middle of nowhere to pick up our rental car (who knew that would be a perfectly-logical thing?).
  • Drive to Pontorson by way of Mont Saint Michel (got to get a look at what we’re up to for the next morning)
  • 9pm check into our hotel,
  • 9:15pm Head to a friendly pizza place around the corner (friendly yet perhaps not totally honest, as she claimed they don’t take credit cards and yet there was a sign in French on their counter that said they don’t take credit cards for purchases under 10 euros, and ours was well above that!).
  • 10:20pm -Midnight Work on photos and update diary with this trip info!

Tomorrow morning it’s an early rush to Mont Saint Michel, before (hopefully!) the crowds hit. After that, a long-ish (4 hour) drive to Tours, with Thursday being spent seeing old houses, ok, big castles, Cheateuxs, whatever you want to call them. So far, the trip is executing according to plan. Not that I planned for so little sleep, but it is what I expected. Utlimately, my lack of sleep is of absurd insignificance compared to risking your life so that others may play frisbee on a beach.  –Mike–

The adventure starts before getting to the airport (thanks United!)

Once in a while you find a departure screen in need of a reboot. Rarely do you see one quite this messed up! Not even the final (SP3, not SP2) version of Windows XP. United’s IT (information technology) department is not putting its best-foot forward.

What, back in France, again?

The fun started with my first phone call from United, at 5:30am, telling me that my flight from SFO to Newark was delayed. 50 minute connection time between flight at Newark, and the flight was delayed (at first) 30 minutes. Not good. Another call says an hour delay. Itinerary now shot; won’t be able to make train connection in Brussels to Paris. So I call United to see what other flights can be had and, of course, while she’s trying to fix things up with a later flight, as soon as she puts me on hold the connection dies. I call back, get someone else who is having trouble dealing with the record because it’s “locked” (probably by the first person). But that gets dealt with, and it works out that we can fly through Chicago and directly from there on to Paris, killing the need for the extra train ride. That’s actually workable, allowing us to leave about an hour later than originally planned.

Too bad that I ended up losing an extra hour of sleep due to having to get up earlier, when the first phone call warning of the late flight came in!

Lunch in domestic first isn’t bad. Very nice salad, cold & crisp, with fruit bowl.
Dinner in international coach.Whatever the beef thing was, it wasn’t bad, but the salad was pretty sad.
“Breakfast” in international coach was pathetic. Not that I really cared that much (very little sleep). But a half-burned tiny roll, 4 small pieces of fruit and a cup of juice.

Thankfully, I was still able to use one of my remaining regional upgrades to sit up front (domestic first class, not that much to write home about, but better than coach) with my wife. She was originally booked in first all the way to Brussels, but the best we can do for her on the new itin is what United calls “BizFirst” which is basically a plane where “business” class is the highest level, not first. That’s fine, not so bad for her, and me, back in coach on that segment? Not too bad at all since it’s only 1/3rd full.

One of the flight attendants knew that Karen (my wife) was up front in business, and asked if I’d like any of the better wines offered to them. She was rather surprised when I declined (not much of a wine drinker). But Karen was nice enough to send me back a plate with two rolls and some butter. The FA told me she said I liked bread. Right. Just give me bread & water and I’ll do fine, while the aristocrats up front are dining on whatever my imagination will allow. 🙂

Landing at CDG we can see a United plane that’s a lot smaller than anything else at the international terminal, one of the 757s they fly across the pond. Yuck!
The infamous “gotta go up before you can go down” tubes inside CDG airport

Upon arrival at CDG (Paris airport) we got through passport control very quickly and, with carry-on luggage only, we were on the RER train to Paris in no time. About $8 each way, takes about 40 minutes, and drops you off at Gare Nord, from which you can take another train or metro to get to just about anyplace you want.

The Velib cheap city-owned rental bikes are everywhere in Paris! When we get back to Paris on Friday and Saturday, I may just be desperate enough to rent one of those clunky monsters and get some exercise.

Today we took another RER train to Gare Lazare, and then just a three-block walk to our hotel, the Bellvue, just opposite the SNCF station from which we leave tomorrow morning for our trip to Bayeux (D-Day beach tour). That eening we rent a car and drive to Mont St. Michel and then Wednesday morning drive to the Loirre Valley. What, no mention of any bike rides? I’m going to be in pretty sad shape by the time I get home next week!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this trip has nothing to do with cycling. It’s all about castles (“Chateuxs”) and touristy things and a trip to the D-Day beaches. In other words, this is my wife’s version of a vacation. But that’s cool; I’m seeing ares of France I’ve never been to (basically anything in the Normandy region, west of Paris). Should be fun. –Mike–