Birthday weekend

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of France  ,
Friday, March 25, 2005

For Easter we decided to take the weekend and return to Normandy as well as explore some of Brittany. It was a wonderful weekend with great weather and beautiful scenery.

We started at Le Mont-St.-Michel, an abbey that was built on top of a rock on an island and has been a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. The view approaching the abbey from the flat plain along the coast is incredible.

The island itself was a bit touristy (ok, a lot touristy), but was beautiful and interesting and certainly a place that we were glad to have visited. We spent the night on the island, which was a great idea because it was not crowded at night and we could wander up and down the ramparts after dark in relative peace.

The next morning we took a scenic drive across the salt marsh polders and along the coast of Brittany. At low tide there were expansive mud flats where people would walk out to collect mussels and oysters. Melanie's birthday lunch was a picnic of French cheeses, fresh baguette and pear juice along the beach. After a long drive, we ended the day in Dinan, France.

Dinan is a well-preserved medieval town that is charming to walk around. Unfortunately, there were not many hotel rooms available, so we ended up in a funny room above a bar (on a Saturday night). The shower was in one corner of the room, the sink was along the wall and the toilet was in "the cave" in another corner of the room(see picture). After a day of sun and fresh air we slept really well though - and weren't even bothered by the noise from the bar below.

On Sunday we headed back to Normandy to visit Utah beach and the Arromanches, for the Musee du Debarquement. The Musee du Debarquement is amazing. It shows how the temporary harbor was built to allow supplies to be brought in to support the troops pushing forward after D-Day.

We did a lot of site-seeing that day, drove along the coast for several hours, headed back in the direction of Amsterdam, and at midnight admitted that we weren't going to find a hotel so pulled into a parking lot along the beach and slept in the car.

The next day we visited one of our favorite towns in that part of France, Honfleur, before driving back to Amsterdam. Between Honfleur and Amsterdam we found the large Vimy WWI Memorial Park. It's a huge park with lots of grass and trees and cratered land from the fighting. Due to the many unexploded explosives much of this beautiful area is off limits - with signs warning of the danger. There are lots of walking and biking paths around the edges of the park though, so it made for a very pleasant place to spend some time outdoors. The trenches have been preserved by lining them with concrete "sandbags". We walked through the trenches and really got to feel how close the enemy was during these battles There are also underground tunnels that run from the battlefield to the officers' location several kilometers away. We took an English tour of the battlefield portion of the tunnels - which included communications centers, sleeping rooms, supply rooms and the like. It was fascinating. There is also a large Canadian memorial, but it is being refurbished and was not completely visible.

All in all it was a great weekend, but we did learn that hotel reservations are definitely useful on Easter weekend as a lot of Europeans are also traveling at that time!

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