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Chapter 15 - The First Wave

The last few weeks have been very busy for us. Dave and I flew to Paris (always a good idea) and took a river cruise, via the Seine, up to the Normandy D-Day Beaches and back. It was an experience I'll never forget and, of course, I need to go back because we didn't get a chance to see everything there is to see. Here are a few of the places I visited as well as a few books I've read that coordinate well with the locale .

Les Andelys was our first stop. This was a beautiful little town and the site of Richard I's (also known as Richard the Lionhearted) fortress. The Normandy region of France has been conquered by many other countries over the years and during Richard's time it was part of England. Richard, a crusader, was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a feisty woman in her own right. If you want to read something about the parents who also gave the world King John, a vile man whose reign prompted the Magna Carta, try When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman.

Next stop Rouen, the town with a glorious Gothic cathedral that Monet made famous with his paintings of the church in various light. The town is lovely with its old architecture blending with the new. There was a marketplace as well lots of shops and churches to explore. Rouen was also the town where Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was put to death. Legend has it that Joan, a young woman, heard voices telling her she was to lead the French against the English. Her story can be found in any number of books but one of the best is Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Kathleen Chen, a well researched historical novel.

Our third stop was Arromanches, the closest port town to the Normandy beaches and the event that turned the tide against the Germans in World War II. On our way to the beaches we stopped in Bayeux and saw the medieval tapestry which tells about the battle of Hastings.

I have long wanted to go and see the D-Day beaches and with the help of the book The First Wave by Alex Kershaw, I had a good understanding of Operation Overlord. Although the cruise line we used (Riviera Cruises) had a primarily British audience, there were 6 Americans onboard. They kindly carted us to Utah and Omaha beaches as well as the American Cemetery. The Brits were bussed to Sword Beach and to their cemetery. I will tell you that in all the films I've seen, I had no idea about the enormity of the length of the beaches from each other and the expansiveness of the mission.

I'll tell you more next week when I sort the rest of my pictures out! Have you ever done a river cruise, if so, which? I definitely want to go on another!


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