sLOVEnia: a love story – and Itinerary

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National Flag of Slovenia. Bled Castle, Lake Bled, Slovenia. April 2019.

April 2019 marked Ryan and my first wedding anniversary and as a matter of fate – or an accidental misreading and scratching of my scratch map (Slovenia isn’t the same place as Switzerland, so bad to scratch it off prematurely!) – our amazing trip to beautiful Slovenia.

Also known as the ‘New Zealand of Europe’ because of it’s rich natural beauties, this country is larger than I expected when looking at my map. We took a 4 day weekend (but with a day of driving in and out from our home in Germany, it was really three days) and hit more than most would in that time, but we still barely scratched the surface.

So, why Slovenia, a love story?

Easy: we fell absolutely in love with the country.

We walked so much. We climbed so many mountains. It rained off and on as April really anywhere is want to do, so we were almost always damp. We ate so much. We took so many pictures and way too many lovey-dovey selfies. It was simply amazing and we were definitely not ready to come home at the end of the weekend.

But Slovenia also advertises the word sLOVEnia in every tourist shop and information center and brochure. It basically breaks down into Love in Slovenia or falling in Love in Slovenia. Some people think this is a terrible tagline for a country but for Ryan and me, Love in Slovenia is simply a matter of fact and a cute, quaint way of phrasing our own experience there.

Slovenia is nestled between Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia and the entire country is made up of mountain chains and valleys with rivers that flood towns regularly. Historically (and at times, even today), this made travel difficult so both linguistically and socially, the Solvenia you experience can be different depending on where you go inside of it. These differences are subtle, so subtle that only a local may realize it, but as it was explained to us, the closer you get to the border countries the more you will see and hear their cultural and linguistic influences.

Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down our trips in more detail, but for anyone looking for 3 or 4 days in the middle and northern parts of Slovenia, here’s our basic itinerary:

Day 1:  Leave Germany early, drive through Austria and into Slovenia. Get to Kamnik and stroll for a few hours for a late lunch. Head to Ljubljana and take a quick tour of the castle – be prepared for a hike!

Day 2: Viator half day tour to Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle. Explore more of Ljubljana.

Day 3: Any last bits of Ljubljana. Drive to Skofja Loka and explore trails and museum. Drive to Lake Bled for the castle and/or church on the lake.

Day 4: Finish Lake Bled (if open, you should definitely hit Vintgar Gorge but it was closed until May). Head home.

Would I make one or two changes? Maybe, if I’d known about the Gorge’s closure, but not enough to write it here. But maybe I’ll write an alternative itinerary after telling you our stories in this beautiful country.

This is Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

 

 

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sLOVEnia: a love story – and Itinerary

Half a Day in Wurzburg

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Wurzburg Palace and Gardens. January 2019.

Two friends and I really needed to hit an athletics store that would sell swimsuits year round (because of course we did) and, since the closest store is about an hour away, we decided to throw a little extra fun into the trip. This felt especially urgent to one of the companions who simply couldn’t understand how neither of us had ever visited this cute little stop in Germany. She had no choice but to correct this problem and I love that she did!

We didn’t have much time out because of school timing, but we decided that we could very easily accomplish The Wurzburg Palace to help make the trip worthwhile. And the palace was so worth it.

Parking at the palace is a little weird but the rates are really good. The weird part about the parking lot is that while it is within a city and therefore meant to house a lot of cars, it’s also a huge part of the square in front of the palace gates which has a statue at the top with no directional lines of how to drive through the square or really where to park. it was the weirdest thing having to avoid pedestrians and drive through the open center when the closest side was full.

If you are an English speaker, especially if you have a sense of humor, take the tour even if you have to wait a little while. In that time, you can wander around the gardens or the palace itself – you don’t need to do the tour in order to see the whole palace but it helps to get all the fun information.

We all loved our guide. He was very sassy and made a lot of jokes at every countries expense – there were a whole lot of American jokes to be made thanks to the world fresco – but he was very tactful and read our group well enough to hit all the right notes. It can be difficult to do so I was impressed. He also wasn’t shy about sharing his knowledge beyond what was in the palace; our guide thought it was hilarious that he traveled all the way New York only to discover pieces from “his palace” sitting in the exhibits of the MET!

The art featured and that makes up this palace is magnificent. The stucco work is world class and I implore you to listen to everything your guide has to say about the White Room – I liked our guide’s suggestion that if you wanted to sit in that room for longer with kids, you should have them play Count the Dragons. There are so many interwoven all in beautiful white stucco and I could cry thinking about how the whole room was done by hand, each section had to be done very precisely but quickly to not let the stucco dry before you were done shaping the pieces.

The frescos are also amazing but you have to pay attention to all the details. Spoilers: skip to the next photograph if you don’t want to know: the ostrich, in particular, in the Americas’ fresco above the stairs is the scariest thing I have ever seen. The animals can be scary enough when angry so I would hate to see what they could do with the legs they have in the painting!

Every room and piece of art have so many tiny details from painting appearing to jump out of the frames and others that actually do. But there are also details like fabric drapings that aren’t even fabric! These designers and artisans were brilliant. As someone who has studied art, I was blown away completely.

The funniest pieces for our group to discuss were probably the chandeliers. You aren’t likely to see chandeliers like this in any period film – generally, you see gold and some glass but nothing like in Wurzburg. If you wanted to show your wealth in this time, you bought Venetian glass and for a little extra, colored glass that was blown and shaped. These were definitely of the time and we delighted ourselves debating which were the ugliest (by today’s standards of course) and which ones we thought would cost more – we were always very wrong.

Plus there’s a pretty cool fact: these chandeliers were moved across Germany in butter! Yes, butter from the kitchen because soft enough not to break the Venetian glass but sturdy enough that it can handle shaking when being transported across country roads without modern shock absorbers.

The end of the official tour isn’t the end of what you can see in the palace so don’t run off just because the guide leaves you! You can still walk through the women’s quarters and you absolutely should. When entering this wing, you should ask about the differences time has made on the wallpaper of the first room and the techniques they used. It is already beautiful aged but it would have been striking in its day – it was all of our favorite room.

There is also an art gallery which is included in the ticket price. it’s all pretty normal fare but I laughed at how many pieces I recognize.

This was right at the beginning of the new year, so we took a quick walk around the gardens which are free to see but I can only imagine how beautiful they would be now that it is Spring or later in the summer and the foliage fills out.


After the palace, we ended up finding an amazing vegan and vegetarian restaurant, Burgerheart Wurzburg (one of my companions is vegetarian so we were loooking for interesting food that she could have too) to grab a bite at and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Every this was amazing but definitely ask which burgers are made in house – there is at least one that isn’t and if you are hitting a trendy vegan place, why’d you want to buy something that was frozen and shipped?

Then we were off on our shopping trip.

If I had been able to spend the whole day, I would have loved to climb up to the fortress. Apparently, this is a fairly quick hike but it is cool and has great views.

Who knows, now that the garden should be in bloom and Ryan is getting more used to traveling with me, we can hit the palace again and add in the fortress. I will never knock second visits to truly magnificent places!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Half a Day in Wurzburg

Historic Fort Riley

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Fort Riley, Kansas. July 2017.

I will be honest, as much time as we spent at Fort Riley, I didn’t spend all that much time exploring. Since this is where Ryan lives, we ended up going to many more of his local haunts than exploring sites I can tell you all about. That said, there are cool things about army bases for history-loving folk which is worth getting a day pass if you are able.

I grew up on road trips with my family visiting old cemeteries, usually near old churches or battlegrounds, and my younger sister and I became obsessed with these visits. We would search for names that were funny or similar, the youngest or oldest person, or the coolest or oldest tombstones we could wander across. To some, graveyards are scary, but I have been to so many, so many places and so many kinds.

This is one reason, Ryan took me to the Graveyard at Fort Riley. While graveyards are fascinating in and of themselves, there was something different about being here. Military graves, like military lines, have clear formations – anyone who has driven past one of the larger ones can tell a military grave-site from a great distance for this reason. Despite this, there were clear sections and you could easily see when  time breaks happened. There were also much more variation in the stones which I hadn’t expected – I’m used to the sites where all the stones match except for the writing and symbols engraved on them.

It was also very different walking along the graves of soldiers with a soldier. We tried not to get morbid about it (and for the most part we succeeded), but he was able to tell me what some of the medallions and engravings stood for as well as some of the history of the base and area which explained some of the deaths.

After the graveyard, we drove down to the U.S. Calvary Museum. While we only toured the courtyard and looked at the vehicles on display there, I enjoyed this stop as well. One thing that killed us – I physically had to move Ryan out of the area – was a family who had their kids up in one of the army jeeps for photos. There are signs everywhere and you really do not want to get in trouble on an army base, so please, for the love of all that is holy, do not climb on the vehicles!

Army bases are old and full of changes that have shifted in look and style throughout time that you can see as you wander through an old base, and it really is an amazing thing to see. I really enjoyed my tour through the grounds and, if you get the chance, I suggest you wander as well.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Historic Fort Riley

London calling…

For a little bit longer.

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The Battle of Britain War Memorial. Capel-le-Ferne, Engalnd. June 2015.

So here comes the end of the June 2015 Travel Saga with the last few stops on our strange whirlwind World War II tour: London.

While we did the regular stops when passing through London—the theatre and strolling through the city—we had three final stops which we couldn’t pass up: The Battle of Britain War Memorial, Duxford with a stop in Cambridge and a day in Bletchley Park.

Each of these trips were scheduled as day trips and in panning your days, I would recommend taking the whole day to explore each of the sites as well as the surrounding areas—they each really have enough to do that and you’ll want the whole time!

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Our day out was exploring the Battle of Britain War Museum

If you are out this way and a fan of history, it is a stop you can’t miss. Besides the great views—you can see the Cliffs of Dover from the outcropping as well as visit them if you have the time—and WWII vehicles you can look at around the grounds, the new Interactive Wing, and Scramble Experience really makes the visit.

The cliffs from Memorial. Capel-le-Ferne, Engalnd. June 2015.
The cliffs from Memorial. Capel-le-Ferne, Engalnd. June 2015.

There are interactive games, activities, and read along screens around the room which makes this a great learning stop for all ages and plays a great show covering the battle. It’s recommended you watch this twice to get everything and they happen regularly enough that it’s not off putting. I’d recommend hanging out at the main table to get a great a real view of each side.

There’s also an area in the back where you can try on bomber jackets and officer coats—sneak in a few pictures—though this is really meant for children so sizes are pretty limited.

With everything you can watch/read/do within this building, it’s easy to lose track of time which is another reason I really recommend keeping the rest of your day free – you don’t want to miss out.

The one thing that made this stop difficult was getting here.

The train was simple enough, but we had a truly difficult time figuring out which bus—and which bus stop—would take us to the memorial. When you do get on the bus—and it’s a bit of a ride, so grab seats if you can!—the easiest thing is to talk to the driver. Ours was very nice and called back to us when we got to our stop so we couldn’t miss it.

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Day two had us out near Cambridge to explore the huge area which houses the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

Duxford airfield is absolutely huge and there were no audioguides when we visited. Things can get a little confusing if you go out of order and it’s not hard to get lost, so pay attention to where you are.

For us, this was a lot of review so if you want the overview of the war, I’d make this my first stop and then hit the Battle of Britain War Museum for something deeper.

Tilting Down the Cam. Cambridge, England. June 2015.
Punting Down the Cam. Cambridge, England. June 2015.

Still, there were interesting parts such as wandering an active air field and looking at retire planes of all types and sizes.

One thing to mention is watch the eating times. Some of the cafes only serve hot foods at specific times and they do keep to that schedule; therefore, if you plan to eat, plan it out!

One of my favorite parts of this day trip was wandering through Cambridge after we left the airfield. If this is your plan—once again—I really recommend talking to the bus driver. Ours gave us an impromptu tour and told us which stop to get off at as well as which direction we’d want to head to get to campus.

We seemed to be there around graduation, so a lot of areas were closed for that, but we did go punting down the Cam which was absolutely beautiful. This whole area made me wish I’d looked a little longer before picking a grad school but, alas, this is one stop I’ll be hitting again before I wrap up my stay in December!

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Our last excursion had us cracking codes at Bletchley Park.

If you’ve seen The Imitation Game you will already know some of the history of the place and how important the work done here was. For me, it was fascinating learning about the amount of women working here as well as the way in which information moved—some buildings used chutes and brooms to pass work between them!

Wandering Bletchley. Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England. June 2015.
Wandering Bletchley. Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England. June 2015.

This is another great venue with interactive aspects—mostly in the main building—which teache you some of the coding and, before you leave, you should definitely stop in and see the explanation and demonstration with the Bombe—the code breaking machine shown in the film.

While they do have great audio guides, don’t fully depend on them or you will miss out on some gems. Throughout the green areas, hidden speakers play scenes which you might have witnessed when this was an active war site, from the sounds of children playing to a couple’s first date, which shows how alive this area was—it wasn’t all work!

Also, there is a walking tour which I recommend. The guides all seem great and we were lucky enough to find that ours was a writer on one of the period television shows my mom watches, so you are never sure what or who you will discover.

While we spent a good deal of the day here, we did not have enough time to see the whole thing, however, luckily the ticket allows you to visit for an entire year so that will be in the cards, along with another site nearby with other cryptography items.

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If you are looking to visit WWII themed historic stops while you are in London, there are so many places I haven’t mentioned, but you can find out more by looking through The Imperial War Museum website as well as doing any other basic search you would undertake in your travel prep.

And that was our WWII tours conclusion and the end of my mom and sister’s visit which of course means the hardest part of travel—getting back to reality.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

London calling…

It’s on to Salzburg

and we just keep flying through.

View from lower part of Eagle's Nest. Eagle's Nest, Germany.  June 2015.
View from lower part of Eagle’s Nest. Eagle’s Nest, Germany. June 2015.

While this trip both felt and really reads quickly as a whorlwind adventure, I will admit I’m glossing over some of our longer travel and slightly more restful days. Our first day reaching Salzburg was one of them.

We spent the day wandering the town, hitting some of the local sights from the famous fortress to the many horse statues to the shop and water spectacle-clad side streets.

Gherkins by Erwin Wurm. Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.
Gherkins by Erwin Wurm. Salzburg, Austria. June 2015.

This really is a great city and well worth a day to wander. Alas, I’ll cover some more of these sights next week when I talk about the hills and music—if you can’t guess where this is going, you’ll just have to tune in next week!

In your wanderings, don’t forget to take a selfie with whichever Gherkin most looks like you (this is an art exhibition by Erwin Wurm)

But moving on to another active day on the road.

Salzburg is an Austrian city closely bordering on Germany which means it is the hub for many tours between the two countries and, as our travels centered around World War II (another hint for next week!), this was one of the many reasons we stopped here.

Our big tour for this destination went through Salzburg Super Saver, which, throughout the course of one day, let us visit Eagle’s Nest, the Durrnberg Salt Mines, and the Bavarian Mountains.

Eagle’s nest

If you don’t know what Eagle’s Nest is, here’s a little back ground. This was one of Hitler’s bunkers which he apparently did not visit often as the man was afraid of heights. It’s located on the peak of a mountain, meaning that, on a clear day, you feel like you can see the whole world.

But since this was a Gallagher girl adventure on a mountain, we got rain and fog. Still, this was a cool but very quick stop on our tour and, since it was first thing, there was no time for the gloom to burn off.

Since this is a major attraction, the bunker gets busy and everything is highly scheduled whether you are on your own or in a tour. You have to schedule leaving on the bus down the mountain before you head up into the bunker but they tell you you’ll need no more than two to two and a half hours. For us, the tour stop was quick but much easier than doing it on your own.

However, be aware when you are scheduling this tour: There is one tour which says you’ll go to the Eagle’s Nest and another says you’ll get a great view OF Eagle’s Nest—Huge difference. We met a couple who got confused by this so it’s very easy to do. You have been warned!

Slat mines:

This was a fabulous stop and there are a lot of different tours which will let you explore these once-working salt mines.

With lots of history, tools to look at, interactive areas, and slides and trains to get you down to the various levels, this was easily one of the highlights of the trip. We were shocked we didn’t have to stop my mother from licking the walls!

You are outfitted with a jumpsuit as you enter the main building and these women are magic—they never seem to get sizing wrong! It can get cold down in the mines but be careful of layers that night bunch up as you don’t want to spend your tour trying to readjust your outfit at every turn. There are also lockers in the main building to store your personal belongings—just don’t forget to get your money back from the locker once you are finished!

A warning must be issued: when you are given your jumpsuit and you are on a tour, don’t mess around! If you miss the train you are supposed to be on and end up on the next one, you will miss your bus and, therefore, miss out on some of the exploring you are paying for! Not to mention, you are wasting everyone’s time which ends with you being the people everyone glares at on the bus.

One other warning: Be ready to get up close and personal with strangers. This is mainly for the train ride in where you are in a single file train car, sitting by straddling a cushioned pole, sandwiched between your fellow adventurers. It’s a quick trip, so it’s really not much of a struggle and well worth it.

Bavarian Mountains:

Well worth the short hike. Bavarian Mountains, Germany. June 2015.
Well worth the short hike. Bavarian Mountains, Germany. June 2015.

This whole areas is breathtaking.

You are surrounded but mountains on all sides and faced with a huge serene lake which reflects the sun in an indescribable way—the whole view is really indescribable.

To get to where you can really appreciate this, however, you have to make it through the long row of tourist traps—ie. shops and stalls full of overpriced wares.

You can stay down by the lake’s edge and get a great view, but I highly recommend a short walk through the greenery to the left; at a mild walk, this will take about 15 minutes (you’ll pass a trail up to a building but keep going) where you’ll see some steps down to a quiet lookout point. We spent half an hour out there in the quiet and only a few people came by so it really is a great place to take a break and relax.

There are other tours to the mountains which give you other perks, such as a two hour trip on boat to middle of lake where they apparently blow a horn and let you hear the echoes from all the surrounding mountains (this could easily be something I do the next time around).

I love the tour my mother picked and I highly recommend it but, again, there are many to choose from so shopping around is a great option. This tour gave the perfect amount of time for us to explore, relax, and enjoy every minute. The tour guide was great, entertaining and helpful. So, if you haven’t guessed, this is another tour I would definitely recommend if you are anywhere in this region.

Next week, we’ll talk a little more about Salzburg and hill and music, but until then,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

It’s on to Salzburg

This can’t be real…

…and yet, somehow it is!

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“At last I see the light!” Mont Saint Michel, Normandy, France. June 2015.

The phrase “this isn’t real” seems to have become the catchphrase to this trip and for me this really started upon first setting eyes on the fairytale setting of Mont St. Michele.

This place looks so much like Disney’s Tangled’s kingdom of Corona that it almost stopped this fangirl’s heart—later my older sister explained that this was, in fact, the animators’ inspiration, so the comparison makes sense.

As I wrote last week, we took the Bayeux shuttle here thinking we’d get some historical and interesting information of the day’s sights. Instead, I got to nap in and out for an hour and forty-five minutes, give or take. Nice for me, but, for the amount of money we put in, this just didn’t seem worth it.

To reiterate, nice driver, but shop around for sure.

But, back to the beautiful world that is Mont St. Michele.

It’s easy to see how Disney animator’s would be inspired by this place. Between the winding streets, panoramic views and castle like features that make up the abbey, you’ll be singing a happy tune and thinking about braiding flowers into your hair as well.

This isn’t to say that only us Disney-philes will fall in love with this floating city. The abbey is rich with local history, religious iconography and sights any enthusiast would die for. And for any hiker or exercise lovers out there, climbing around the keep will definitely help meet you calorie burn quotas!

Truly a place for all types of travelers.

land out there...for now. Mont St Michel, Normandy, France.  June 2015.
land out there…for now. Mont St Michel, Normandy, France. June 2015.

But getting down to a few more details:

When you get past the parking lots you’ll have two choices: a cramped bus with two stops including getting to the final destination, or a thirty to forty-five minute brisk walk with tons of varied sites (we did the walk on the way back to the bus and it really was lovely!).

Mont St. Michele really doesn’t seem that big of a place—you can do a quick run through in probably two hours if you really push it and if you don’t want to do anything extra. We were there for two and a half hours and were able to wander the town a little, walk the ramparts, and tour the abbey with the audio guides.

So, what is it that we didn’t get to do?

There was no time to sit and eat a meal, we moved from one place to another for that whole period and we did not get to wander around the mountain city (If you can call it that) and that is actually one of the activities available.

When I get back here (and trust me, a full day is definitely in my future), I’ll be using both the walking options.

This abbey and city/town/whatever you wish to call it, it situated on a mountain surrounded by water at high tide. Throughout a good chunk of the day, however, it sits amid various streams, puddles, and sand which you are able to walk on. The “easy” walk is around the base of the mountain which is 960 meters/3.150 feet around and you don’t need any tour guide for this. however, you have to be very aware of the tides and it’s best to still check in with information just to find out the specific rules. You will need a guide if you choose to venture further out on the sands like older pilgrims (as well as more recent one’s) have, as there are some treacherous areas and features to watch out for, including quicksand.

In my next visit, I’d love to stay nearer this site (or take the train instead of a tour with a time limit) if only to see the water rise at high tide. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring a lantern and sing a little song! What can I say? I’m a Disney girl through and through. Trust me, there will be more to come!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

This can’t be real…

Americans in Bayeux…

…(Normandy) Again.

Point du Loc, France. June 2015.
Point du Hoc, France. June 2015.

Unlike in history, this time our American visit was all for fun (though, for some, there were a few tears as well!)

My mom and sister—as stated in my last post—are traveling through the EU starting in Paris, but as luck would have it, I was able to catch up with them traveling down to Bayeux. This is technically my youngest sister’s trip (as she never did a People2People program during middle school) which means that she selected the main theme of our tour: World War II.

Our first few days were spent running around and getting the lay of the land in Bayeux and Caen—we ended up just wandering around the castle which was awesome and getting lunch after failing at finding our way to the WWII memorial and museum (which was expensive!)— which was a lovely way to start our trip. Every museum we visited was well worth it and getting the three stop museum ticket really is paid off.

The third day in the Normandy area was a long but rewarding one.

We booked an American D-Day Tour with Bayeux shuttle which takes you through various important historical locations with commentary through both the very nice and knowledgeable tour guide and an automated multimedia guide called Mike.

This tour takes you through six scheduled stops (a seventh location is added in if your group keeps to the schedule!) with commentary and free time along the way. Being the American tour, all of these locations and history discussed involved the role that the Americans played in WWII, especially on D-Day.

The first stop takes you to La Cambe German War Cemetery. While this is a very short stop, all the information you get from why this is set up the way it is to information on bodies still being found across Europe, makes this really interesting—though for time and space I won’t go too deep into any details!

Sainte-Mere-Englis, France. June 2015
Sainte-Mere-Englis, France. June 2015

Next, we hit Sainte-Mere-Englis which many people know from the film The Longest Day starring big names such as John Wayne. There was a lot of history and sites to see in this little square. For me, a few ‘must not miss’ sites are: the gate across the square from the church which still has clear bullet indents from the historic, badly aimed paratrooper drop which can be seen in the very unique stain glass windows inside the church (yes, another must see). Finally, look up the clock tower of the church and you’ll see a dummy paratrooper hanging from one corner—fun fact: this is from the film mentioned above, but also happened in real life, except this soldier—John Steele—actually attached to the opposite side of the steeple. The more you know!

Utah Beach, France. June 2015.
Utah Beach, France. June 2015.

The third stop took us to the Normandy coast starting with Utah Beach. We learned at this site—as well as many others—through many lucky breaks and happenstances, really played their part in Allied successes. In this case, the fact that they landed on the wrong beach—which was far less fortified and led to one of the main access roads—and led to the great quote by Teddy Roosevelt Jr. “We’ll start the war from right here!” Quite the pragmatist.

Because we were all on time, here’s where we added in the bonus stop: Angoville-Au-Plain. Whether you are doing this specific tour or are off exploring on your own, this is a great and quick stop with an inspiring story attached. The story tells of two Doctors who risked their lives for their patients—both allies and German soldiers alike. The whole story can be read in Angeles of Mercy by Paul Woodadge and a percentage of the profit from each purchase goes to the church’s upkeep, a huge help for such a tiny community.

Back to the original schedule, we hit Pointe du Hoc and then on to Omaha Beach.

Omaha Beach, France. June  2015.
Omaha Beach, France. June 2015.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Pointe du Hoc was a major strategic point that the Allies had to capture. And on top of all the things that just happened to go right for the Americans here—and some wrong things too—there are a few pretty funny things to note. One, when building strongholds for your big guns, double check your measurements to make sure the guns fit in later. Second, don’t send all your highest officers off on the same night for a birthday party—this is how the allies found and destroyed the big guns that wouldn’t fit in their new strongholds.

Omaha Beach was one of the bloodiest encounters for American forces in this whole war. There are a lot of factors from all sides that attributed to this, but it wasn’t until we were standing there on the sand and exploring, that we really understood the enormity of what these boys faced. We were there at low tide and the distance to cross without running for your life from beach to cover was hard enough—it really is indescribable. It felt very surreal—it’s a beautiful place but there is a dark history in its details which are hard to shake.

Omaha Beach from above. the Nprmandy American Cemetery and Memorial, France. June 2015/
Omaha Beach from above. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, France. June 2015.

Our final stop brought us to the Normandy American cemetery and memorial. This place is absolutely huge and I think having the guided cheat sheet our tour gave us really helped us navigate around and see everything we wanted to. One last thing of interest, if you walk along the edge closest to the beach, you are looking down at parts of Omaha Beach as the Germans stationed there would have—again, a surreal experience.

This tour lasted 9 hours— including travel and lunch, picking up at 8:30 and dropping us off at 5:30—but was absolutely worth the time, energy, and expense. Everyone we were traveling with would recommend it or its counterparts—they have and England-sentric version which we would have done if there was more time.

However, we went to Mont St Michele—I’ll be covering this next week!—the next day with this same touring company and the ride at least was nowhere near as informative despite the cost. Our suggestion: great option for tours like the D-day ones and all the people are very nice, but, to go to Mont St. Michele, you should shop around.

Anyway, as you can see, this was a very long day, but again, I would recommend it to anyone. If you are spending a while covering just this area, however, I would say to either start with this tour or get a really detailed guide book. You can easily spend days exploring these sites. We spent the day out there, learned a lot, and still barely scratched the surface.

If you are interested, more live pics can be found on my Instagram—just search gallatay and look for Taylor.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Americans in Bayeux…