Owing to lack of internet access, the last post was written a couple days ago though only posted yesterday. Ah, the joys of the internet.
After a pleasant journey across the English Channel Saturday morning, our two days in London were packed with excitement. Saturday night in London is an overload for the senses. Picadilly Circus is indeed a circus–of people, smells, hustle and bustle. We wandered the streets of London, feasted on fish and chips, and enjoyed the atmosphere of the world’s most international city (300 languages spoken here!).
Sunday began with an outstanding tour of the city. Our tour guide, Nikki, was another excellent source of information and entertaining tidbits. We saw the changing of the guard, a ceremonial ritual carried out with precision and reverence. Our next stop was the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum. The latter transported us back to the war years as we strolled through the actual bunker location where Churchill, et al. conducted the war. The Churchill Museum provides a highly interactive biography, including artifacts (his cigar and satin sleepwear), high tech displays, vintage photos and recordings, and video of Churchill’s life.
Next stop, the Imperial War Museum, another great World War II experience. Actual tanks, planes, rockets, artillery, and every other munition of war were on display. The Holocaust exhibit provided an emotional coda to the trip. Some of the travelers peeled off to visit the Tower of London, where they viewed the Crown Jewels, torture instruments, medieval weaponry and armour, and other pleasant reminders of the Dark Ages.
We concluded our journey with an Indian dinner (very typical in London) and celebration of our time together. The group was fantastic to travel with and hopefully everyone will return with lifelong memories to share with you.
Owing to a hiccup in scheduling, we are in Caen one more night rather than taking the night ferry to Portsmouth. That means we will take the ferry tomorrow morning but it also means I have internet access tonight to provide a review of the day’s highlights.
We began the day at the Caen Memorial Museum, a fantastic interpretive overview of the war with special attention paid to its human cost. Although the History Channel may seem to have covered every known World War II film, the museum had some astounding footage from German archives, French resistance film, and Russian material. The combination of film, photographs, artifacts, and human stories was mounted in a compelling presentation.
The memorial’s closing film on the D-Day landing captured the artistry of the museum experience. It was a split screen film from both the German and Allied perspectives. On one side of the screen were American and British forces preparing for the invasion (along with French resistance film) while on the other side were scenes from the German defense preparations. The mounting intensity of the dual footage culminated with the landing after which the movie switched to a single film of the Germans strafing the landing beaches, thus combining the two sides into one. Then, suddenly, the film switched to a present day overflying of the same beaches today…in peace. Everyone was quite taken by the film technique.
We picked up our Normandy guide, Patricia, who let us through Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery, and the port city of Arromanches. Situated between the American landing beaches, Omaha and Utah, Pointe du Hoc
We are now in Paris after our overnight train excursion from Munich, an experience no one will ever forget! To bring readers up-to-date, however, I’ll back up to yesterday (Sunday). We began the day with a tour of Munich by bus with an expert local guide, Monika. She highlighted the World War II related sites with special focus on the White Rose resistance movement led by the 21-year old student, Sophie Scholl. It’s an amazing story of courage in the face of brutal repression by the Nazi regime, for which Scholl and her compatriots paid with their lives. (A fine movie that tells the story is Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.)
Our next stop was Neuschwanstein, the great castle of King Ludwig II after which the Disney castle is modeled. The castle rose out of the misty day from its spectacular hilltop setting. Everyone was impressed with its sheer size and the audacity of splendor that it emobodied, from running water to a phone system to the ornate woodwork of Ludwig’s bed for which a dozen plus woodcarvers were employed for over four years!
After returning from Neuschwanstein, our last stop in Germany was the famed beer hall, the Hofbrauhaus. We were entertained by a band while enjoying authentic German sausage, kraut, etc. washed down by those of age with a liter stein of the German “king of beers!”
We’re off to the Louvre and Notre Dame then a night Seine River cruise and Eiffel Tower visit. More tonight.
Having difficulty uploading photos…. Will keep working on, but limited internet access until tomorrow evening may prevent an update until our next hotel–Paris tomorrow evening (night train tonight). I’ll blog again as soon as I have access.
This update brought to you by one tired traveler! We’ve been up for 36 straight hours in order to orient our biological clocks to European time (7 hours ahead of Minnesota), but everyone has been real troopers . After our brief hotel stop this morning, we proceeded into Munich with Martin and our expert coach driver, Werner. We gathered on the Marienplatz in front of the Rathaus (city hall) with its impressive noon chimes and Glockenspiel, then everyone set off for lunch on their own. Some sampled traditional German lunch at the open air market (sun came out with temps in the low 50s) while others found restaurants to soak up the Bavarian atmosphere.
Our World War II focus for the day was a visit to the Dachau concentration camp. Everyone was affected by the experience in a personal and profound way, but all agreed that it is a sobering excursion that they will never forget.
We concluded the day with a delicious three-course meal at the Hacker-Pschorr Brauhaus. Potato soup, pork, dumplings, and sauerkraut finished off with a sour berry dessert. Those of age also sampled some of Munich’s most famous export.
I have pictures to upload, but I am bushed and so will tackle that task with fresh eyes in the morning. I bid you guten abend!
Day 2 preview: BMW museum, Munich city tour, Neuschwanstein (aka the Disney castle), and the Hofbrauhaus before boarding the night train for Paris.
This will be short as we at our hotel to unload and freshen up before heading into Munich. Flights were all on time and everything went smoothly. Our tour director, Martin, is a hoot! I’ll have more to report tonight after our return tonight (it’s about 10:45 a.m.).
Tonight we had our bon voyage party to review final departure details while sampling a variety of European fare representing the four countries we’ll be visiting.
- Germany: Homemade sausage and sauerkraut (courtesy of Paul)
- England: Scones with clotted cream “light” and real English marmalade (courtesy of Ruth)
- Belgium: Belgian chocolate (courtesy of Mr. B’s)
- France: A variety of French delights including oven baked flat bread, croissants,
open face baguette bites, macaroons, and sorbet (courtesy of Trader Joe’s!)
We’ll board our “charter”(!) bus with driver Al at the wheel on Friday at 7 a.m. Departure from MSP International Airport is scheduled for 12:34 p.m. on United Airlines flight # 3515. After a brief layover at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. we’ll board United flight # 902 at 5:31 p.m. with a scheduled arrival in Munich at 7:35 a.m. on Saturday. We’ll hook up with our tour director Martin and immediately begin our adventure!. More to come!