June 2018
  • Day6

    Chateau de Chenonceau

    June 18, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 66 °F

    This portion of France is littered with Chateaus that we would might usually mistake as castles. Maybe it's just semantics, but these are places where kings would spend the summer or celebrate special events. Often times this is also where their royal extended family would live. The next one we visited was Chenonceau.
    It's design was different but just as impressive as Amboise, if not more. It is located away from the city in a heavily wooded area on the river Cher. Any other day, I would be itching to hike or canoe. The weather was beautiful. Who am I kidding I was itching to do so, but alas.
    The gravel drive leading up to the chateau was long and tree lined, which framed the building nicely as we approached.
    But first, was a sign for a maze that the kids and I couldn't resist to try. We each grabbed an entrance and began our way to the center. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had hoped, but once we made it, we took the time to take more pictures. It didn't help that the hedges were four feet tall.

    We had lunch on the grounds before the tour. The cafeteria was housed in what once was the carriage house and stables.
    The Chateaus bedrooms were furnished in period furniture and pictures of those that inhabited there. The kitchen's in the lower level had large fireplaces where the food was cooked and one room had a more recent, yet still old, massive wood burning stove. That part of the building was over the Cher river. There was a rope system devised to haul water and supplies from the river below via the window. A more updated system had a hole in the ground for the same purpose and a pump for water.
    The portion of this chateau that I liked the most is the gallery, and not the inside, but the outside. The view of the river running underneath it is beautful. It was built in 1577 upon an existing bridge that crossed the river on the backside. A hospital was set up here, and in much of the Chateau, during WWI by the owner, a politician and owner of a Chocolate factory. The Cher river was the dividing line of occupied and free France. The front door was occupied and the back side was free. That enabled the resistance to pass people to freedom. It's a miracle it was never bombed.
    The story of one of bed room is interesting. The widow of King Henri III, who was assassinated by a monk in 1589, had her room painted black with symbols of death and sorrow painted throughout. It was too dark in there to see much and was under some minor repair.
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  • Day6

    Chateau D'Amboise

    June 18, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 63 °F

    Today did not start off exactly as we had planned. The plan was to grab breakfast at a pattiserrie just across the street from the Chateau in Amboise. For some reason that we still don't know, nothing was open on this Monday morning.
    We found a little grocery store and bought some fresh bread, butter and jellies and ate right on the Loire river. An elderly couple walked by smiling and said bon appetite.
    We then walked up the hill to the Chateau D'Amboise. The "castle" that dominates the skyline of the town of Amboise. There is a picture is from the lobby of our hotel.
    Several generations of kings and their families either lived or visited here. In fact, King Charles VIII was born here in 1470 and most of the construction occurred here under his direction around 1491 - 1498. 75% of the Chateau that he built still survived today.
    One of the kings who ruled during this time was known as the salamander king. Not a very attractive I'd say.
    There are tapestries here that are older than the United States themselves.
    The most notable aspect of this place is that Leonardo Davinci is buried in the chapel.
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  • Day5

    Mont-St-Michele

    June 17, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 61 °F

    Mont-St-Michele is going to be a great place to visit, but it will be even better because both of my kids will be with me for father's day for the first time in 4 years. Michelle and I always enjoy that, regardless of what day it is.
    Abbie got me a watch with a picture of the two of us after our sky diving event. She also had the back engraved with "You Are My Sunshine," our song together. Adam sent something to the house but it arrived the day after we left so father's day is going to stretch out for me.
    Mont-Saint-Michel is an Abbey built on a massive rock island just off of the coast into the English channel. Construction began in the early 10th century if not before. Some say it originated in the 1st century. By the 15th century, the Abbey and surrounding village had taken up every inch of the island.
    After the French revolution, when the religious community was dissolved, the Mont was used as a prison and it easily thwarted several military attacks, and once look at it, you can easily see why.
    It is the most amazing man made thing I have ever seen. This scene is the kind of place that theme. parks try to mimic. The main path up today is modern with restaurants and retail, but I can imagine how that same market place must have looked in past centuries.
    The walk to the top was quite physical, but well worth it. If Michelle and I are ever fortunate enough to return here, we will spend the night in one of the hotels beneath the Abbey so that we can experience it without the crowds. That would be my one complaint. The tour buses are flowing through here, but with good reason. If you stay overnight, after the busses leave, you are still able to tour the place, minus the Abbey, with more solitude. I will end this note like I started it. It was amazing.
    I'm amazed at how this edifice was made with no modern equipment. One of the coolest things about this place is the contraption that was built to move food and supplies up to the prisoners. It was basically a hamster wheel that people would walk in, and a mixture of wheels and pulleys would move a giant sled up and down the side of the Abbey wall.
    We left here in the late afternoon and drove several hours to a town called Amboise a little south of Paris. It seems every little town in France is just as cute as can be. We're checked into the Novatel, which appears to be fairly new and headed out for dinner. The city center is just off the Loire river and the architecture of the old buildings here are pretty cool.
    When I picture what it is like eating in France, this is it. Small restaurants lined up along a narrow road with people eating outside in conversation. We ate at L'Ambacia and we all had fish and chips except Adam. It may be the best meal I've had yet. After we stopped in for some gelato before we headed back to the hotel for some badly needed rest.
    Tomorrow...Chateaus!
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  • Day4

    D-Day

    June 16, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 55 °F

    This will probably be my favorite day. We are going to the beaches of Normandy, D-Day memorial and the American cemetary.
    But first, we stop for breakfast. It's McDonalds for convenience sake. We got our first look st the kiosks that will put teenage kids out of work in a few years. The problem is, they reduced the counter help and the ones preparing the food.
    We stopped first at the batteries in Lounges-sur-Mur. The 155mm guns had a range of12 miles and wreaked havoc on ships off of Omaha and Gold beaches. June 6, 1944 was their last day of operation since the British obtained the surrender of the guns the morning of June 7th.
    Next we went to, in my estimation, the most significant place in history, short of of Calvary. The American Cemetary and memorial overlooking Omaha beach. It was such a moving experience to stand on the same soil where so many men made the ultimate sacrifice. I was disappointed to find out that we were not able to go down to Omaha beach itself. I overheard that the steps have been closed off for about two years.
    The memorial itself was great. So many informative videos, timelines, and stories of different people.
    And the cemetery itself made it all worth the trip. I can't express it in words.
    We then headed to the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Hours before the main invasion on D-Day, over 13K paratroopers dropped in behind enemy lines. Many were dropped away from their intended drop zones and some of them were in Sainte-Mere-Eglise. German troops were waiting for them and many were killed before they ever hit the ground. One was John Steele, who's parachute was caught on the balusters of the church in the middle of the square. He hung there for several hours pretending to be dead. The church has a mannequin hanging from a parachute to assimilate what it was like.
    The stained glass in the church pays homage to the events of D-Day and to the paratroopers that helped liberate them from Nazi occupation. One of the windows shows Mary surrounded by paratroopers.
    The town itself is more commercialized than what we have seen so far. Lots of little shops selling military memorabilia.
    For lunch, I went into a patisserie and bought a baggett and butter and washed it down with
    water. Kroger's deli doesn't have anything on this place.
    Our last stop of the day was at Pointe du Hoc. A German battery built on high cliffs south of Omaha beach. It is most impressive because it has been more preserved than other sites. The craters from bombs dropped by planes and shells from battleships are deep and to numerous to count. You can tell where some of the heavily fortified bunkers had direct hits and huge blocks of concrete weighing tons were strewn about. It just happened that the battleship USS Texas participated in that attack. The USS Texas currently sits in a Houston ship channel next to the San Jacinto monument, which we visited with the kids and my sister several years ago.
    We had dinner in Bayeux again. I had a pizza. I'm getting better at ordering in French. It is here I am reminded of Europe's aversion to ice. I just don't get it.
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  • Day3

    Bayeux! Here we come.

    June 15, 2018 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    We had breakfast in the inn. Fresh juices, bread, and cheeses. The view from the window there was nice as well.
    It's back to Spangdahlem to pick up Adam and we are going west and south.
    Currently we are in Liege, Belgium, my third country in three days. You wouldn't know you changed countries if it weren't for the road signs. The topography and vegetation are the same.
    Road trips have always been fun with the kids. We all love music and they perform much of the way.
    We stopped for gas and lunch shortly after we crossed into France. Michelle and I shared a jambon and cheese sandwich and Adam chose a hot dog because it had bacon on it. When he was about to take a bite, he noticed it had a different casing than the type we are accustomed to in the states. He asked if it was supposed to be orange like that? I got a good chuckle out of that. It was odd looking and would have caught me off guard too.
    Our first real tourist stop was the Notre Dame church in Neufchatel-en-Bray. It was originally built around 1128 -1130 AD and heavily damaged multiple times, once in 1562 by protestants and then again in WWII.
    We then proceeded across the street to a Chocolotier and Patisserie. So of course we had to go in and increase our sugar levels. I got a couple of lait Rocheres, milk chocolate candies, and a tropical thing that I don't know the actual name of. Asking the question and guessing drew a lot of critical response from some in the vehicle.
    The primary purpose for leaving the highway in the first place was for a 15th century Chateau that was advertised on a sign. It was called Chateau de Mesnieres en Bray.
    spend the next two nights. The hotel has freakishly small rooms and Michelle and I will be sleeping in beds like Ricky and Lucy or Rob and Laura Petry.
    We changed clothes and went to Bayeux for dinner. It's an medieval town with many of it's original walls still visible and integrated in today's daily life.
    The Cathedral here was substantially larger but a few hundred years newer than the first one we visited. Unfortunately it was closing immediately after we walked in.
    We had dinner a few blocks away in a neat restaurant, although I did not enjoy my chicken dish. All the restaurants that we have seen so far are very small and would likely violate fire codes for seating in the states.
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  • Day3

    Belgium

    June 15, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 61 °F

    Basically, this footprint is to just give me credit for Belgium. We drove through Belgium on our way to France. I have been through as many as 5 states in one day back home. Today, I hit 3 different countries in about 3 hours.

  • Day2

    To Adam!

    June 14, 2018 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 61 °F

    We touch down in Frankfurt at 7AM. We exit the plane down stairs to the runway, as opposed to a normal jetway. We have only done that once and it was on the big island In Hawaii in '97. We shuttle back to the terminal where we received our first ever stamp to our passports. Yes were newbies. The customs agent asks us normal questions like "why are you here and how long will you be staying", but I felt caught off guard and intimidated none the less.
    We then head to baggage claim for the luggage and decide just to wait there because Abbie and Michelle's parents would be arriving in two hours. Somehow, just 15 minutes prior to them arriving, I manage to walk away from my cell phone. Simply leaving it on the charging station while rolling up the cord and safely keeping that in my possession. When I realize that it is missing, Michelle heads for the info desk in baggage claim and I go to another desk where I have no idea what they do, other than forward all questions to the AA desk. Anyway, no one knows anything about a lost phone and we're told that we need to go to the main information desk at the main terminal. When I question the man at the main desk, he seems confused why I was asking. Maybe it was the language barrier, but it seemed he was annoyed by the other group passing the buck. Michelle followed him back to the bagged claim people where he asked about the phone and, voila, catastrophe averted. We continue to wonder why they didn't give Michelle the phone when she asked the first time.
    We jump into our 9 passenger Ford Tourneo van, there will be 6 of us, and head west for I'll Spangdahlem and Adam. Once we get out of Frankfurt, the countryside is beautiful. There are lots of hills and multiple types of green with cute little burgs dotted throughout and an old church in every one.
    Spangdahlem Air Base is now in sight. We get through the gate, up to the street, and their was Adam sitting on a trash can and a smile in his face. Hugs all around. We eat lunch with him. Abbie and I had Subway and Michelle and Adam had Charley's. Regular military base fare.
    Lunch is done and we head to Dudeldorf where we will be spending the night in a quaint little inn, Hotel Zum Alten Brauhaus.
    Our room was small with two twin beds, which Michelle likes better than a double. Abbie has her own little twin bed under the window, which has a nice view.
    Dudeldorf is an old town, as all towns in Germany are obviously. Arches to the town center are still used, although the gates are gone.
    We eat dinner in a small bistro just steps away from the inn called Burg Bistro Bella Vista. I had pasta with gorgonzola cheese. Yum!
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  • Day1

    Tampa to Frankfurt

    June 13, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 75 °F

    The alarm clock went off and Michelle walked into the room at 7 AM. She obviously had already gotten up but I was still sleeping hard; dreaming according to my Fitbit. That came to a screeching halt with Tucker pouncing on me expecting to be petted.
    So into the shower, then shave and breakfast. We need to hurry out the door because I forgot to set the away message on my voicemail at the office and I can't turn it on from my cell. It's possible mind you, I just don't know what I'm doing. It is the first time I've needed to do it though.
    It's 8 30 and we're loading the luggage in the truck. I let Tucker out front to sniff around the yard because I feel sorry for him, and truth be known, I'm going to miss him, that is until he just wants to jump in the truck and go with us. He doesn't always take the word no for an answer.
    So after he spazzes around the yard for a minute, he is back in the house and we are off... to the office. Luckily it's on the way and I'm not in there 5 minutes before we're back on ther road.
    As we cross the HF bridge from St. Pete to Tampa, Michelle says she saw a dolphin, or a shark, she's not sure exactly which. She finally comes to the determination that it's a dolphin, which she says is more exciting than seeing a gator. I don't buy it.
    As we pull into long term parking at the airport, the sign says all levels are full except 5. That is crowded. There is an associate pointing me down an aisle to another associate that says "park right there." Its not really a parking space. Is more like an open space next to maintenance closet, which happens to be right next to the tram that we have to take. Score one for us. He said there was construction on parts of the parking areas which was causing them to be closed.
    It's into the terminal where we check two bags. We carry on one which is just stuff that we are taking to Adam. He left some BTUs that he didn't think he would be able to wear at his new station and we are going to reunite them.
    The flight to Charlotte was pleasantly uneventful. Michelle and I couldn't get our act together boarding though. Michelle left the $5 bottle of smart water in the terminal that were just bought. We sat on the bulkhead so the carry on and my backpack had to go above, but they were full and I had to go 5 more rows down to find a spot for the carry on. That caused angst among some passengers as I had to fight my way back upstream to get to my seat. The backpack was small enough to go above us but I forgot to get our headphones, ipod, and peanuts out. The lady next to us was kind enough to retrieve them for us because Michelle said she was too short to put the back pack back up.
    Our layover in Charlotte was two hours and we grabbed a bite at, where else, Chick-fil-A. We're each had a #1 with sweet tea in non styrofoam cups. Then we headed back to gate D11 way sooner than we needed to because Michelle is worried sick that the gate may change or the flight will leave early and she does not want to run across an airport on a full stomach.
    So now we're on the plane which took off 10 minutes late but that's ok. According to the captain and the display, we have a 18 mph tailwind and we will arrive right on time. We are flying at 559 mph at 39k feet up the eastern seaboard, just east of Boston and then all the way up to the southern tip of New Foundland. Not exactly a straight line. The flight continued over Ireland, split the soccer rivalry of Manchester and Liverpool, and then going tight over Nottingham. The display is also showing the locations of various shipwrecks. Some of which I've heard, Titanic and the Andrea Doria, but also many others which I haven't. Like the CSS Alabama which was unseemingly in a battle with a Union ship in the English Channel in 1862.
    Currently the display says we will arrive at 7 AM, which will be 1 AM EST and we will still have a full day ahead of us. Michelle says that's nothing since we've done youth lock- ins, camp, mission trips. I seem to remember how dead tired we were during and after those events and we're another year older.
    Dinner on the flight was great. I don't know if premium economy allowed for us a better meal than the planes in the back, but we had salad with an olive and vinegar dressing. The Burrata ravioli was very tasty, the cold bread and the even colder butter wasn't terrible, but the swiss cheese was lit on the crackers. Finally, the tiramisu cheesecake was a nice finish.
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