S: European Vacation 2008
FC: European Vacation June 2008
1: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. - Mark Twain | After months of planning, Mike, Christine, Tom, Barbara, and Michael departed for a sixteen day trek through five European countries. The memories that we created together will last a lifetime... | Dates: June 4-19, 2008 Countries visited: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg & Germany
2: After acclimating in Paris for a few days, we headed northeast to our rented farmhouse. | Along the way we stopped at Claude Monet's house and garden in Giverny. As it was June, the garden was in full bloom.
4: Meeting the neighbors
5: We rented a 17th century farmhouse outside the village of Forges-les-Eaux, in the north of France. Living like locals for a week, we visited local shops and markets and indulged in many memorable meals. We will never forget the fresh croissants every morning!
11: The weather was beautiful for most of the week, allowing us to eat (and work) outside. Michael had a ball exploring the grounds and gorging on the fresh bread.
12: Using the farmhouse as a base, we set off every day on a new adventure. Michael loved our rented Citroen.
13: Some day trips were local, others further out. Most of us spent the time soaking in the beautiful Normandy countryside. Some also found time to catch some zzzzz.
14: Reims Cathedral was absolutely stunning.
15: Gerberoy is was a medieval village that was once visited by William the Conqueror. Known as the "City of Roses", it has the official designation as one of France's prettiest villages. It did not disappoint.
16: Words cannot describe the beauty of Mont St. Michel.
18: At the base of Mont St. Michel, we tried and tried for a keepsake family photo. Unfortunately, the winds did not cooperate.
19: Navigating the shops and restaurants within the labyrinthine walking path was like taking a step back in time.
21: The Normandy waterfront is also known as the Alabaster Coast. Its white cliffs were a sight to see.
26: We spent many hours exploring the World War II battlefields in Normandy. The amazing thing was the number of decaying bunkers that dotted the coast. These were separate from any formal memorials, and they stood as silent reminders of the carnage that afflicted the region.
27: Normandy American Cemetery and Caen Memorial
29: One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Bruges, Belgium. The city had a Golden Age from the 12th through the 15th centuries, profiting from the cloth industry in Flanders. The canals that once teemed with commercial activity survive, providing its nickname: "The Venice of the North". It was truly charming.
30: After Bruges, we dashed across the border to the Netherlands and indulged in the very Dutch experiences of viewing windmills and eating Gouda cheese.
31: Trekking through Benelux, we stopped at Waterloo and Luxembourg on the way to Germany. Our destination was Kaiserslautern- the home of the Kleber Kaserne military instillation and where Tom was based in the 1960s.
32: The security at the military base was surprisingly light- passports were all that we needed to explore the base. By now we were missing U.S. cuisine and the traditional American breakfast we ate at the snack bar hit the spot.
33: Before returning to France, we stayed the night in the charming village of Gengenbach. Despite our innkeeper harboring a possible World War II era resentment towards Americans, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
35: One of our greatest memories was of dining in a creperie at the foot of the Strasbourg Cathedral. We had spent the day soaking in the sights, including viewing the gorgeous cathedral. Great views & great food.
36: On Michael's birthday, we held a surprise birthday party in our Metz hotel room. His smile tells it all.
37: We spent our last day catching up where we left off in Paris. Christine and Barbara went to the Louvre, Tom and Barbara to Notre Dame, and of course, everyone made it to the Eiffel Tower.