Traveling: Last Day in Dublin

The last day of our trip in Dublin was spent mainly riding the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus. We didn’t take many pictures, mainly due to bad weather, but also do to what I call travel exhaustion.

I really don’t remember much about this day except that we were practically out of Euros, so this is just a picture post.

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We did board a plane to London that night. We stayed in a Nice section of Shepard’s Bush not too far from Earl’s Court.  The next day we took the train to Hampton Court so we could time travel to the time of Henry VIII.

Traveling: Trinity, The Book of Kells, and an Overview of Dublin

The Temple Bar in Dublin

The Temple Bar in Dublin

In a test of wills, our first lecture in Ireland was the morning after the Guinness brewery tour. After a quick breakfast at the local market, we made the trek to the university.  However, this was not just any university.  We were having class at Trinity University.

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Traveling: Normandy, Day 1

The next morning was an early morning and when we landed in Normandy, we landed at Sword Beach, where the British 101st Airborne launched their invasion on D-Day. Our first stop was to Pegasus Bridge, where, right after midnight on 6 June 1944, the British 6th Airborne Division, pulled in by gliders that basically crash-landed on specific targets, captured two important bridges. The bridge over the Caen Canal was renamed Pegasus Bridge in their honor (it was their insignia). The campaign, led by John Howard, was imperative in cutting off the Germans from supplies and for not letting them get more troops across the Orne River and it’s sister canal. The plan was successful, the bridges remained intact, and the Allies gained a strong foothold in Normandy.

Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal, Café Gondrée

The reconstructed Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal, with Café Gondrée in the background.

Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal

Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal

Not only did we get to see Pegasus Bridge, but we also saw Café Gondrée, where the Gondrée family acted as spies in the resistance against the Nazis. It’s still run by their daughter, a feisty lady still very proud of her family’s legacy, as she rightly should be.

At Pegasus Bridge, we picked up Martin Morgan, a D-Day aficionado. The knowledge he possesses is unreal, and I was somewhat dumbstruck just listening to the history he espoused. I yearn to be that knowledgeable on some subject. He was a real asset and treat for the remainder of the Normandy leg of the trip.

We then went to a small museum, where they housed the original Pegasus Bridge and sign (the bridge was replaced in 1994, the sign in 2002), in addition to the remains of an actual glider used on D-Day. Well worth it to see such an exciting piece of history. I’m so happy our professor assigned us the Pegasus Bridge book by Stephen Ambrose as one of our required readings, because after learning the history of Pegasus Bridge, it made the trip there even more exciting and poignant.

Pegasus Bridge

The original Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

The original Pegasus Bridge: You can see the bullet marks on the wall.

HORSA Glider

Part of a HORSA Glider used on D-Day. They were completely made of wood, with no engine of their own. Scary.

After a drive through Juno Beach, which is where the Canadians landed and was the second deadliest beach (Omaha was the first), we saw a circular cinema experience of D-Day called the Arromanches 360. It tells the story of the Battle for Normandy on 9 screens, without any narration. Thus, you become immersed in the experience, listening to Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, de Gaulle, and even Hitler, and the story is told through images, video, and radio recordings. I thought it was a powerful experience and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring a tear to my eye. The only thing, having it on 9 screens that encircle you, is you feel like you’re missing something on a screen opposite from where you’re looking (though they did pair similar images on all the screens). Definitely something new and different to see each time you view it, and if I ever go back, I will be viewing it again.

Arromanches 360 view of Gold Beach

Arromanches 360: view of Gold Beach from across the theater

Arromanches 360 view of Gold Beach and Mulberry harbor

Arromanches 360: view of Gold Beach and Mulberry harbor

Out in the water at Gold Beach, you could still see the remnants of the artificial, makeshift ports/piers/harbors called Mulberry Harbors. Basically, the Allies sunk heavy cement and then built a pier out to the ships, since the beaches were not conducive as ports for unloading ships.

Mulberry harbor at Gold Beach

Mulberry harbor at Gold Beach

Gold Beach

Gold Beach

After lunch, we found a shop selling dug up D-Day paraphernalia and bought an unopened Allied first aid kit and a Nazi playing card. We then went to explore old German bunkers and gun stations. Made almost entirely of cement, these fortifications still stand today, as do some of the big guns.

German guns in Normandy

German guns in Normandy

German Bunker in Normandy

German Bunker in Normandy

Just looking at the beautiful landscape, completely surrounded by gorgeous wildflowers, with the picturesque beach in the background, it was so hard to imagine that such atrocities and bloodshed occurred not even 70 years ago. My grandparents are older than 70…this occurred in their lifetime. My head sometimes has trouble wrapping around this fact…how different the world was. I cannot imagine a war breaking out in Europe today, with a maniacal dictator at the helm, hell bent on domination. I think that is why it is important for us to never forget…history is doomed to repeat itself if people become too complacent, too relaxed. They start to glorify war, romanticizing it, without truly understanding what war entails. It scares me to think, especially in this day and age with nuclear weapons, that another world war could occur, and that some people today clamor for it.

Picking me a wildflower

Picking me a wildflower

German outposts against a beautiful Norman field

German outposts against a beautiful Norman field

German outposts against a beautiful Norman field

How can such ugliness exist in such a beautiful world?

Sorry for the tangent, but seeing and experiencing Normandy, the beaches, the graveyards…it changes it you. It affects you profoundly. It makes you see things in different ways. I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to witness this in person. I’m tearing up just writing this…

Okay, back to the trip. After checking out the German remnants, we visited the German Military Cemetery for the Germans that died from 1939-1945, located in La Cambe. It was very enlightening to see the other side of the war. These young men that died, some of them had no choice but to join the Nazi regime. Above all else, they were people, and the decent thing to do is to bury them properly and respect the sanctity of a life lost, even if it was for the “wrong” side. In death, everyone is equal.

German War Cemetery at La Cambe

German War Cemetery at La Cambe

German War Cemetery at La Cambe

German War Cemetery at La Cambe

German War Cemetery at La Cambe

German War Cemetery at La Cambe

One famous Nazi, Michael Wittmann, is buried there (famous for his tank tactics).

Michael Wittmann buried at the German War Cemetery at La Cambe

Michael Wittmann buried at the German War Cemetery at La Cambe

I think I’ll split our Normandy days in two. It was emotionally taxing to write today, and tomorrow is another day full of raw emotion, pride, and awe.

 

Traveling: Portsmouth aka Peace and Safety

Our time in London, one of my favorite cities, draws to a close as the next leg on our adventure begins. Today we departed for Portsmouth to set sail across the English Channel on a ferry for Normandy. But first, we stopped at the Southwick House near Portsmouth. The Southwick House is the country house where, on 5 June 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower made the historic and risky decision to launch the  D-Day invasion. What makes the Southwick House awesome is that not only do you need a special appointment to even visit it, since it’s located on a Royal Military Police base, but it also still has the maps that Eisenhower used to plan the D-Day invasion.

Southwick House: Eisenhower's D-Day Headquarters

Southwick House: Eisenhower’s D-Day Headquarters

Southwick House: Eisenhower's Original Map

Southwick House: Eisenhower’s Original Map

Southwick House: Eisenhower's Original Map

Southwick House: Eisenhower’s Original Map and I’m standing right by the Normandy beaches, the planned invasion spot

Now here’s a cool story about the map. Eisenhower and his men needed a giant wall map of England and the French coast in order to plan the invasion. They needed something durable enough to withstand constantly moving pieces as they changed and replanned the invasion. They decided to use the type of material from which companies make games boards, so they hired two gamemakers into their service. In order to keep the details of the invasion a secret, the gamemakers had to make a giant map of all of Europe. Eisenhower kept the pieces he needed and discarded the rest, and the gamemakers were basically quarantined so they couldn’t talk. Talk about making a risky game…the decision to launch D-Day was extremely risky, and Eisenhower had no idea if it was the right decision…but thankfully, it all paid off in the end.

We then headed to Portsmouth. After eating lunch at The Ship Anson, which was just pub food, we went to the D-Day Museum with the Overlord Embroidery. The short film was well worth it, and the Embroidery of D-Day was awe-inspiring. Think of a modern day Bayeux Tapestry. Some of the panels were truly beautiful. The museum was more of the same as we’ve seen, not much different then our National World War II Museum in New Orleans. One big highlight was that there was a veteran in the museum, and we all sat down and listened to his first-hand story. He joined the war effort a bit later, around 1944 since that is when he turned 16, and worked as an electrician in the Navy. He was hilarious, completely flirting with the girls and giving them big hugs. He asked Kurt where we were from, and we said New Orleans where the food is good, and he pointed to my chest and said,”I can see!” and just laughed. These girls aren’t just from the food, but thanks for the compliment, I guess…?

D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

Everyone listening to the WWII veteran at the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

The WWII veteran at the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth. Unfortunately, I did not catch his name. He was a hoot, however. He made me retake his picture because he said he didn’t look good in the first one and his medals weren’t being shown off enough. 🙂

View of the water behind the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

View of the water behind the D-Day Museum at Portsmouth

We then went to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and went aboard the HMS Victory, a 250 year old ship, famous for, among other things, where Admiral Lord Nelson fell and died in 1805. It was very impressive to see the guts of the ship like that. I was surprised at how small some of the doorways/roofs were; Kurt even hit his head coming down the stairs! If ships or naval history entices you, then you cannot pass up the chance to go aboard this fabulous old ship.

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Inside the HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson in the HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson in the HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

After sneaking a kiss to King Henry VIII, and wishing we could have went to the new Mary Rose Museum since it houses many Tudor artifacts, we ventured to Gunwharf Quays, which was like an outdoor mall. It was nearing closing time, so we didn’t shop, though I did get the most delicious and cheap chocolate strawberries ever. The lot of us decided to go back to The Ship Anson to drink/have dinner. I chose an Aspall Cyder, which was delicious, though not as delicious as this apple juice tasting thing some others shared. I could not taste the alcohol…very dangerous for an ex-lush like me. Luckily, the Aspall was enough, and I paired it with Pancakes and Ice Cream…super yummy. Kurt ate a Steak and Ale Pie, which looked good as well, but was too heavy for me to eat. He also drank a Greene King IPA, which he enjoyed very much, but I don’t really care for IPAs.

King Henry VIII at Portsmouth Dockyard

Gazing lovingly at my favorite tyrant, King Henry VIII at Portsmouth Dockyard

Steak and Ale Pie at The Ship Anson

Steak and Ale Pie at The Ship Anson

Aspall Cyder

Extremely tasty Aspall Cyder

We then boarded the ferry, which was definitely more like a cruise ship. I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess along the lines of an overnight train, but this was way bigger and fancier. After exploring a bit, Kurt and I were pooped, so we hit the sheets early. Tomorrow begins our two days in Normandy, something I am looking very much forward to! Until then, peace and safety, everyone.

Ferry from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France

Our “ferry” aka cruise ship from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France

Ferry from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France

Aboard the ferry from Portsmouth, England to Normandy, France…goodbye, England! Until we meet again. 🙂

Traveling: London

As you may know, especially because of the lack of recent posts, Kurt and I are both enrolled in grad school. While Kurt is focusing on Educational Technology, I’m focusing on History. It’s been a bit crazy at times between teaching high school and taking two graduate classes a semester, but I’ve managed to retain a 4.0. When the opportunity arose for me to go on a study abroad trip to London, Normandy, and Paris this summer, and take two classes in the process, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Luckily, Kurt was able to come with me and instead of auditing the classes, he decided to get credit for them as well. Thus, we left on a week long adventure in England and France, chock full of history and adventure.

After a long flight and a six hour time difference, our study abroad group landed in London. With barely any sleep on the plane, we were all exhausted, but in order to beat jet lag, our professor thankfully forced us to stay awake. As soon as we got off the plane, we met our guide through Ambrose Tours, Mark, and our awesome Dutch bus driver, Hiei. They would remain with us throughout the rest of our trip.

Our first stop was England’s National Army Museum. Inside, we saw all the major British Campaigns throughout history. One major missing campaign was the American Revolution; we all thought it was funny that they left that one out. We got to see different uniforms, paraphernalia, and even the skeleton of Napoleon’s favorite horse. Though not one of the top things to view in England, it was interesting to see England’s history through it’s wars.

 

Napoleon's Favorite Horse: Marengo

Napoleon’s Favorite Horse: Marengo

 

We then went on a driving tour of London, viewing Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and some other various sights. We stopped to eat at Covent Garden, a little shopping district. Still feeling tired, I didn’t want anything heavy, so I opted for some hummus, goat cheese, olives, and pita bread. Yum yum! Covent Garden looked like a fun place, right on the fringe of West End, with plenty of cool shops, but since we only had a little bit of time there, I didn’t get to experience much. Oh well, something to save for our next London trip, right?

 

Cooking Paella at Covent Garden

Cooking Paella at Covent Garden

 

When we finally made it to the hotel, I forced myself to stay awake as long as possible; however, by 6pm (London time), I could not keep my eyes open. I slept until the next morning, where I was wide awake and free of jet lag.

The next morning was the Queen’s Official Birthday. Our destination was the Churchill War Rooms, which was right next to the horse yard where the Queen’s presentation and such was occurring. We were able to see the grand stands, the royal guards, and the long lines of people, though we didn’t catch a glimpse of any royalty.

 

Queen's Official Birthday

Queen’s Official Birthday: The Closest I’ll Ever Get to British Royalty

 

Churchill’s War Rooms were extremely interesting and well worth it. They were a secret underground headquarters for the British government throughout WWII. We were able to see the maps Churchill used, his bedroom, other official’s bedrooms, and many of Churchill’s personal effects in the Churchill Museum also located there. Extremely cool to see, it is highly recommended, especially if you love WWII or secret, underground headquarters that aren’t *quite* bombproof.

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Dining Room

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Conference Room

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Hitler Graffiti on the Map in the Conference Room

Churchill's War Rooms

Churchill’s War Rooms: Churchill’s Bedroom (he almost never slept there, except for his daily nap)

 

We then went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Kurt and I had done St. Paul’s when we came to London in 2010, so we didn’t climb the steps or do the catacombs again. Instead, we opted to take a quick tour of the church itself, then head to Westminster Abbey, which we did not go inside last time. As we’re about to enter, we see all these planes flying overhead, which included a Lancaster bomber and Typhoon fighter, and ended with the Red Arrows, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke across the sky. They were part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations.

Fly Past in honor of the Queen's Official Birthday

Fly Past in honor of the Queen’s Official Birthday

Fly Past in honor of the Queen's Official Birthday

Fly Past in honor of the Queen’s Official Birthday

 

We then enter the Abbey, final resting place of dozens of monarchs and British nobility. Highlights of the tour included the tombs of Edward Longshanks, Edward the Confessor, Henry V, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret Beaufort, Winston Churchill, Charles II, Mary I, and Henry VII, among others. They also had a poets corner which included Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, and Oscar Wilde, among others. I very much enjoyed seeing the final resting place of the old monarchs, since I love British history, even if I was not allowed to take pictures of their final resting places. There was even a small museum showcasing some crown jewels, Queen Mary II’s coronation chair, and the oldest surviving altarpiece in England. I would definitely recommend it if you love British monarchs.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey: Pyx Chamber

Westminster Abbey: Pyx Chamber, one of the oldest parts of the Abbey, built after the Norman Conquest in 1066

Westminster Retable: Oldest Altarpiece in London

Westminster Retable: Oldest Altarpiece in London

 

We finished with the Abbey in just enough time to make our 3pm appointment at Westminster Palace, otherwise known as where the House of Lords and House of Commons presides. Though most of the original palace burned down in 1834, it was still an impressive sight. The Lords and Commons are completely separated, and it’s hard to imagine conducting work in such an exquisitely beautiful complex. Once again, photography was not allowed, so I bought many postcards to remember and scrapbook it. One funny memory is that Kurt was tired of standing, so as we’re listening to the tour guide talk about the House of Lords and we’re standing in the pews the Lords sit in to debate and such, Kurt decides to sit down in the pew and rest. Well, another tour guide saw him and fussed him for sitting where the Lords sit. Not many people can say that they sat down in the House of Lords!

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace

Westminster Palace: It was a very cold and rainy day

 

After a brief jaunt to the hotel to drop off our wares, we then take a stroll around London. We made our way down Fleet Street, even finding a demonic barber, found Twinings, which sells some of the best tea, though it was unfortunately closed, walked across Black Friar’s bridge before eating at Doggett’s on the Thames River, walked to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, walked across the Millennium Bridge (remember Harry Potter?) toward St. Paul’s again, then made an impromptu decision to find Abbey Road. After attempting to invoke the Beatles, we went back to Westminster for some night shots. Since the sun doesn’t set until around 10:30pm, and we are always so tired after long days touring, we had never seen London at night. It was pretty all lit up, I must say. Finally, we headed back to the Regency Hotel for some sleep.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's Dome

Walking across Millennium Bridge with St. Paul’s dome in the background

Abbey Road

Abbey Road

London Eye at Night

London Eye at Night

 

Tomorrow, we leave London and go to Portsmouth before crossing the Channel on a ferry for Normandy. I can’t wait!