The French border was only a little more than an hour's drive north from our house in Vitoria, Spain. Trips across the border to Biarritz were frequent and rewarding since the town is such a jewel and has fantastic ocean beaches. Crossing the border was a cinch. Long gone are the stops for passport checks and customs inspections. Only the big trucks are inspected now. It's a good thing since Lana and Ann didn't have valid Spanish visas for most of the time we spent in Spain thanks to a lot of wishful thinking and a few lies on the part of Greg's contract firm. But as you will see in our photos we didn't let a little thing like lack of visas stop our travels.

France is a big country by EU standards. We only made a small dent during our travels. Naturally, Paris was number one on the list of places to visit. In fact we managed to make two trips there in less than six months. The first was dedicated just to seeing Paris while the second trip included the annual international air show at Le Bourget, Flanders, Normandy and part of Brittany On the first trip to Paris we managed to see the more well known sights including the Eiffel tower, Church at Mon Marte, The Louver, Place de Concorde, Left Bank of the Seine, Notre Dame, and the Moulin Rouge where we were fortunate to see one of the last performances before it went out of business. For more on Paris see the following link:

The second trip was primarily to see the air show at Le Bourget and then continue north to Flanders and then south along the Atlantic coast through Normandy and Brittany back to Spain. Flanders proved to be a disappointment in that it is essentially flat farmland with little of interest in the towns and villages. Most likely this is a result of the near total destruction occurring in both world wars wherein Flanders was in the midst of some of the worst fighting. We did manage to visit the beach at Dunkirk where there are memorials to the British who died trying in vain to prevent the Germans from gaining a total victory, but aside from the war memorials there isn't much of interest. The interesting and scenic part of the trip began as we approached the area in Normandy, which is now well known for the events that happened there in June 1944. Before reaching the heart of what is now known as the D-Day area we visited the Benedictine Abbey in Fecamp, which has an extensive museum of medieval art and artifacts as well as the famous distillery, where the world-renowned B&B and Benedictine liquors are created. Many of the photos in our collection show the exterior and interior of this interesting spot. If you are going to Normandy it should be on the list of places to visit.

Our hotel that evening was in the Best Western hotel in Bayeux, which is located between Caen and St. Lo. A big discovery we made while in France was the great value of Best Western hotels in that country. In other countries they can be expensive, but in France they are hard to match for price, interest and frequently great meals. In many places the American chain has purchased quaint, smaller hotels with a high character in good repair. The staff is always friendly and helpful and English is always spoken. This was the case in Bayeux as we had a lovely late afternoon dinner on the open-air terrace that must have taken a couple hours to enjoy. The next day we visited the WWII memorial at Omaha Beach and the D-Day museum at Arrowmanches. The memorial with its ten thousand crosses each marking a fallen US serviceman or woman casts a spell. There is some kind of presence there, something which cannot be adequately described as if the collective souls of the fallen have created an eternal aura. Omaha Beach lies just beneath the bluff upon which the American memorial is situated. There on June 20, 1944 my dad came ashore. The beach looks no different from beaches anywhere, but what happened there will long be remembered as the beginning of the end of WWII.

That evening we stayed in a 17th Century hotel near Mont St. Michele. Another Best Western it was perhaps the best deal of our trip not only from the price but also the incredible ambience of the spiral the original wooden staircase, our provincially decorated and scrupulously clean room to the magnificent dinner including delicacies such as truffles served with roast wild boar. The total price for the hotel and dinner for three was less than $100. The next day we visited the famous landmark that sits on its own island and rises above the surrounding lowlands like fairy castle on a cloud. The history of the abbey and other interesting information as well as WWII lore can be found on the following link:

Before heading south towards Bordeaux and home, we visited Cape Frehel and St. Malo in Brittany. The cape is one of the most scenic locations on the Brittany coast and sports an ancient lighthouse atop sheer cliffs. Not much else there but the view is well worth the drive along back roads. St. Malo is an old coastal city inside an impressive fortress. Now a major tourist haunt, it once was a bastion of defense for pirates and other adventurers. Check the following link for more photos and information on this interesting city.

No one sees very much of France in a week or two. We only tasted a little and plan more trips to experience the Cote d' Azure along France's Mediterranean coast as well as the French Alps. If we ever have work in Toulouse these will be among the first places. But until more time and money are available we will just have to dream and plan for these adventures.

Two years have passed since the foregoing was written.  During the past two years we have managed some trips to the south coast of France known  as the Azure Coast, in French the Cote d' Azure.  Last Fall we also visited Corsica, the French island and the birth city of  Napoleon Bonaparte.  Both are spectacular in natural beauty and full of interesting places to visit not to mention the multitude of good places to eat and drink.  No wonder they both are primary targets of most travelers coming to Europe.  In our rather meager collection of photos we hope you can get some of the flavor of these locales.

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