I have been back in Rome for a week now following my Paris trip (or I was when I initially wrote this post...it only took me 2 months to actually post it) and I'm still struggling to get beyond words such as: amazing, awesome, and fantastic to describe my time. I need words with more weight because the aforementioned adjectives don't even come close to describing a trip that really went beyond even my wildest imagination...this is probably going to take two posts...just sayin'.
After getting up to depart Rome at a time that can only be described as 'ungodly'---think 2:30 a.m., my friends and I arrived in Paris early enough that we had a whole day in front of us. So, we picked up our rental car and made our way into Normandy. Destination: the D-Day beaches and the American Cemetery. You study the D-Day invasion throughout your schooling, but the facts that you learn and even the films you watch do not prepare you for what you encounter in Normandy. I was stunned by the sheer beauty of the area: rolling green hills, long stretches of pristine beaches, and azure skies that were tempered by ominous gray clouds. Breathtaking really. And then you begin to imagine the men of the US, British, and Canadian armed forces storming those same hills, beaches, under the same sky and you can hardly reconcile yourself to what it must have been like on that day and those following. No doubt those same hills were littered with shell casings and bodies. The sand must have been soaked through with blood and the sky must have been filled with smoke following gun fire. To stand atop a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, trying to picture men running up the hill, guns firing, only to fall as they're hit by German bullets was hard to picture. Looking at the monuments with their names engraved made it a little more real, but what brought it home was the row upon row of clean, crisp white crosses and Star of David headstones. Those physical representations of the lives sacrificed for the freedom of others was sobering. What really got me, though, weren't necessarily the grave markers that contained the soldiers' names. Instead, it was the crosses that read: "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God." These were men who weren't identified and so the only one who could possibly ID them was their Creator who knows each of us so intimately that we are never out of His sight. Goosebumps and chills.
Though it was a somber day, it was tremendous all the same. To think that 70 years ago my countrymen set aside their lives for another's was an incredibly patriotic moment. I'm not going to lie, I had a strong desire to sing our national anthem, God Bless America, and other such songs. I refrained, but my heart sang just the same.
From there we popped into a small farm to sample some of the areas fare. What a peaceful and beautiful spot! I could see myself living there, enjoying the French life surrounded by family, friends, and chickens. We sampled some apple brandy that kicked my butt and some apple juice that was perfection in a bottle. Leaving that small piece of heaven, we made our way to our hotel for the night in Caen so that we could grab something to eat and hit the hay. We had a marvelous meal of galletes and crepes to top off an overall fantastic day.
We got back in the car the next day and headed for Mont Saint-Michel. Oh.My.Word!! I was not expecting what we discovered. Mt. Saint-Michel is essentially an abbey built upon an "island"that sits in the middle of water at high tide and mud flats during low tide. It was amazing! Yes, it was touristy, but it was so quaint and wonderful. I loved the abbey an the history behind it.
We hit the open road once more and made our way back to Paris. Next up? Giverny...