Category Archives: Travel

Currently

I saw this series on a food blog I love, Iowa Girl Eats, and thought this would be a fun prompt for a Friday when my brain is mostly mush.

Time and place. 6:16AM, curled up with a blanket and coffee on our new living room chair, waiting for the sun to rise.

[EDIT: as I was typing this, my husband (who usually does not wake up until 7AM or later), stumbled out of the bedroom and demanded that I cuddle him on the couch. So now I’m sitting on the couch in our living room, scratching his back with one hand while I try to type the rest of this post with my other. Is this what it’s like to have children?!]

image

Barcelona (photo source)

Reading. Spain guidebooks. Although we originally planned to visit Spain and Portugal this fall, I finally looked at a map and realized that Spain is a freaking big country. In order to spend more time in each destination, we’re focusing just on Spain and will save Portugal for another trip (although I am trying to sneak in a few days in Paris at the beginning of the trip).

Cooking. At the moment, nothing. Usually, I cook eggs and some sort of leafy green for breakfast, but recently I’ve been turning to smoothies instead. We are having homemade pizza for dinner, though, which reminds me – I need to take the dough out of the freezer to defrost.

Awaiting. News of the winter storm that’s supposed to hit the East Coast this weekend. I originally planned to fly to Washington, DC for work on Sunday, but at the “strong recommendation” of the airline, I moved my flight to Monday. Here’s hoping they have everything sorted out by then and I can make it across the country without being stranded in any airports.

Experiencing. Warmth! After learning (the hard way – i.e. sky-high electric bills) that our house (built in the 60s) had minimal (as in, 1 – 3 inches, we’re supposed to have 18) insulation in the attic, we bit the bullet and paid over $2,000 to have the proper amount installed. That’s a lot of money, but I can already see a huge difference in the way our house holds temperature, and I know it’ll pay off in the long run. Owning a house is expensive, y’all.

honey-bee2

Isn’t he the cutest? (photo source)

Listening. To a “Hive Management” seminar from our local garden and agricultural club. That’s right, folks, we’re getting bees in our backyard this spring! Even though we’re in a neighborhood, our county has very relaxed rules on which animals you can raise in your backyard. We eventually plan to add ducks and maybe even a goat, but bees are the first step. In addition to feeling good about helping offset the declining bee population, we are thrilled to have fresh honey at our fingertips.

Craving. May. My work schedule is extremely hectic from February – April, and normal to slow the rest of the year. I’ll be traveling for work every week from now until the end of April, flying out on Sunday and back on Friday, with only 1 full day at home. Since I’m an independent contractor paid hourly, I make the bulk of my salary during the next few months, but that doesn’t make it much easier come March when I’ve seen too many airports to count and just want to sleep in my own bed.

Hating. The state of American politics. I’m just going to leave that there.

Loving. Agriturismo Cretaiole. As soon as we returned from our honeymoon, I informed Adam that, for our 5th anniversary, we would be renewing our vows in Italy. Since we’re about to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, obviously the time has come to make concrete plans (kidding). I recently stumbled upon this magnificent agriturismo in the middle of two of the most famous Tuscan wine regions, and it looks like a dream come true.

Anticipating. My next cup of coffee! (And maybe some leftover fried rice for breakfast, because there’s nothing better than cold leftovers in the morning, am I right?)

Let’s do the timewarp

Right now, I have no fewer than four posts, all about 95% complete, that have been sitting in my draft folder for the past week. They’re all perfectly mediocre, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to hit publish on any of them, and now it seems pointless to post about things I was experiencing or feeling almost a week ago.

But never fear, I’ll do it anyway. And just to keep things nice and confusing, let’s go in reverse chronological order, shall we?

9/04. Yesterday.

I spent most of the morning making my husband’s birthday cake, this German Chocolate beauty from Annie’s Eats (originally from David Lebovitz). It was my first experiment with high altitude baking, and although it required a fairly heavy amount of math first thing in the morning, this chart from King Arthur Flour made it pretty straightforward. I have a few pictures, but those will have to wait because I’m desperate to get this post (finally) published and I can’t bring myself to hunt for my iPhone right now.

9/03. Thursday.

Breakfast of champions – oatmeal with (slightly over) toasted pecans and coconut, and cherries, raspberries, and pomegranate.

I crave oatmeal about 3 times a year – when I’m sick. In true my body hates me fashion, that usually happens around the holidays or on vacation. We have big plans for this holiday weekend, including a request by the birthday boy to hit up a lumberjack show and a wings & whiskey festival. I was hoping this big bowl of oatmeal and a full pot of coffee would kick my immune system into gear, and it mostly worked (hallelujah!). Because lord knows I’m not missing the opportunity to wear my flannel button-down in an appropriate setting.

9/02. Wednesday.

Overall, Wednesday pretty much sucked. I spent my morning waiting in line at the post office in an attempt to track down a package that was supposed to be delivered by 9/1, but wasn’t, because USPS. (They, of course, DID deliver another package that we didn’t pay to have overnighted). The package contained a power cord and water hose, which we needed for our washer/dryer that were getting delivered that morning. So, after waiting in line at the post office for 45 minutes, I was told that the package had already been sent out on a truck (despite their promises to Amazon that it would be there waiting for me to pick up in person) and that they had no idea when it would be delivered. That led to a very frantic run to Home Depot, which is not a place where you can find what you need quickly and escape. Despite the stressful morning, everything worked out and our 29-inch-wide dryer even fit through our 29.5 inch doorway. The helpful delivery people set everything up, turned it on to make sure it worked, and were out within 20 minutes. After hauling our laundry to the local laundromat (full of colorful characters, as you’d imagine) for the past month, I am THRILLED to have in-home washing and drying capabilities! Plus, I’m pretty sure these babies have more technology than my family’s first computer back in the 90’s.

I never thought I'd be so happy about doing laundry

I never thought I’d be so happy about doing laundry.

8/31. Monday.

The suckiness of Tuesday was balanced out by the awesomeness of Monday (how often does that happen?), and I accept that. A few months ago, I found out about the Film on the Rocks series at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The overall movie lineup is pretty good, but when I saw they were screening Guardians of the Galaxy, I knew I had to buy tickets. Hubby is a huge comic book nerd and GotG is one of his faves (I even bought him this bobble head Groot for his birthday, shh don’t tell!), and I’ll admit that GotG is not a typical comic book movie (as in – it’s actually good). The doors opened at 6:30 and the movie started around 8:30. Red Rocks lets you bring in your own food and drink (but no alcohol), so we packed a picnic dinner and for $15 a ticket, we got to see two awesome bands, a decent stand-up comedian, and a hit movie, all in an incredible setting. Seriously, photos do not do this place justice.

Movie at Red Rocks

Rocket Raccoon

8/30. Sunday.

Sunday is usually our get shit done around the house day, but we took a break from cleaning and organizing to visit a local distillery. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest whiskey drinker, but the tour at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey was a lot of fun and actually quite informative, so the nerd in me was happy, plus it was free, which is hard to beat. On our tour, we learned that Stranahan’s is made using scotch ingredients, rather than whiskey (malted barley, rather than corn), but aged like a bourbon, in a new charred oak barrel. We got a sizable taste at the end of the tour, and while it won’t be my go-to after-work drink, I understand why there

Mmmm whiskey

Mmmm whiskey

8/29. Saturday.

Being the responsible employee that I am (total sarcasm, you can read more on that below), I boycotted the mountain of work I have left (because there’s always Monday), and we went shopping for snowboards, boots, and bindings. After one season of skiing in Colorado, my husband is convinced that we’re proficient enough at that (he’s actually quite a good skier; I’m just happy I haven’t broken anything yet), and we’re ready for our next adventure. Which will basically be us eating shit for 3 days of snowboard lessons and then hopefully being able to make it down the mountain without dying.

Because we’re both snowboard n00bs, we opted for more simple, less in-your-face snowboards. But in the extremely unlikely event that I become a bad-ass snowboarder, here are some boards I have my eye on:

Capita Defenders of Awesome

DC Hell City

Oz Wonder Shred (“Best thing since sliced bread! Greatly paired with classic deli meats, epic jibs, huge airs and our special sauce!”)

8/28. Friday.

I’ve been in Chicago all week for work, and despite hauling my personal laptop along with me, I was so busy that it did nothing but sit on the hotel desk all week, untouched. After working 12 hour days crunching numbers, the last thing I wanted to do when I left the office was go back to my hotel and boot up another electronic device. Which means that I was “that person” in security with two laptops (work and personal), for pretty much no reason.

I did make time to venture out into the city with my boss and his wife (who was also in town) to Kingston Mines, a famous blues club, and we were out until 2 in the morning. On a work night, which is at least 3 hours later than I’m ever up on a weeknight. Doesn’t that make me sound old, complaining about being up too late? To make matters worse, I also had to sneak to the bathroom multiple times in order to dump out half my drink because I couldn’t keep up with them, and “no thank you” isn’t an option when the boss’s wife insists we order another round (and another, and another). Pouring out free alcohol?! WHO AM I? But it turned out to be a good life decision, as I was exhausted, but not hungover, the following morning. My boss appears to be just as chipper as ever this morning, and he’s 30 years older than I am, so I need to learn his secret.

I also had the weirdest cab experience of my life, in which my cabbie blasted the Christian rock radio station for the duration of our trip, sang along with his favorites (at times, with both hands in the air – Jesus, take the wheel), asked if I wanted to read his Bible (kept on the armrest in a bedazzled leather case) aloud, and told me he would pray for my soul.

But hey, my flight landed safely and 30 minutes early, so I guess I shouldn’t complain about the extra prayers.

How to plan a trip to Europe – Part II

I interrupted this series to share our big news (we bought a house!), but now I’m back with Part II of How to Plan a Trip to Europe.

The first part of this series was all about getting together a vague outline, and we determined, generally, the who, where, when of the trip. This part is all about drilling down to specifics to end up with a moderately detailed daily itinerary.

Luxembourg garden, Paris.

Luxembourg garden, Paris.

Although first, I suppose I should convince you of why you need to go through all this effort in the first place? Couldn’t you just buy plane tickets, make some hotel reservations, show up, and figure it out once you get there? Well, sure. It’s your vacation, so you do you.

But consider this. In Florence, there are five sites that are widely considered “must-see” (the Duomo, its bell tower, and Baptistery; the Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David; the Uffizi Gallery, which displays countless Italian masterpieces, including works by Simone Martini, Fra Angelico, Sandro Botticelli, and the like; the Palazzo Vecchio; and the Ponte Vecchio bridge). Then you have the other blockbusters (the churches of Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, and San Marco, the Bargello museum, and Piazzale Michelangelo and nearby San Miniato church), and even more amazing museums, churches, markets, bridges, and shopping districts. Then consider that lines for the blockbuster sites can be hours long, even during the off-season, and that certain sites are open early, some stay open late, and they all close on various days of the week. How in the world would you keep that all straight? And wouldn’t it be a shame to spend all that money on a trip to Florence and not be able to enjoy as many of its amazing sites as reasonably possible?

Lines at major European sites can be hours long. Don’t waste precious time during your vacation standing in line behind a bunch of sweaty, smelly tourists. You’re better than that! (Image source here.)

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your- trust me. A little planning before your trip will make your vacation so. much. better.

Trip Planning – Part II

(Remember, steps 1 – 5 were covered in the Trip Planning – Part I post.)

6. Finalize travel dates, make a list of cities, and buy flights. Now that you’ve decided on a general destination, confirm travel dates with everyone in the group (plus or minus a few days to allow for savings on airfare). Make a list of cities that sound interesting, then do some more research, considering where you could fly into or out of. Go through and prioritize the cities you’ve written down – which deserve more time, which can be done as day trips, which can be cut? Keep in mind airfare costs, distance between cities, balancing busy cities with relaxed towns, and practicality of transportation. Booking airfare is my least favorite part, but it’s worthwhile to investigate several different options on multiple carriers and websites. Remember that it’s usually better to fly “open-jaw”, into and out of different cities; not only do you get to see more without having to return to a city you’ve already visited, it’s usually cheaper. I prefer to visit fewer cities for longer periods of time to cut down on moving between hotels; for a two week trip, I would do no more than 7 overnight cities, and even less than that if we were a larger group.  For our two week trip to Germany and Belgium this fall, here’s our plan:

Munich – 3 nights

Staufen – 2 nights

Baden-Baden – 1 night

Bacharach – 2 nights

Bruges – 3 nights

Brussels – 3 nights

Italian Monastery, Assisi.

Italian Monastery.

7. Lock down hotel reservations (maybe). If you’re traveling during a large festival or during peak season, make sure to book rooms as early as possible. For travel during the off-season, you can leave this step until later or even book as you go, depending on how comfortable you are with spontaneity. When it was just Adam and I traveling through Italy in the winter, we emailed hotels a few days in advance or our arrival and never had an issue. We were also able to save quite a bit of money. However, for our trip to Germany in September, I’ve already booked all hotel rooms for the entire trip, since we’ll be traveling during shoulder season and will need two rooms (one for us, one for my parents) in each hotel.

8. Sketch a daily itinerary, but remember to be flexible. A daily itinerary is much more important for big cities with major sites (London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin) than it is for small towns. For each city on your list, determine which attractions you’d like to see, then go through and prioritize (sense a theme?). You likely won’t be able to see everything, so don’t even try. Tell yourself you will return. I’ve been to London, Paris, and Rome multiple times and haven’t even come close to crossing everything off on my list. Take advantage of sites that are open early or late, and buy advance tickets if possible, but don’t try to cram in too much! My general guideline is that we spend half the day doing planned sightseeing in museums, churches, etc. and the other half soaking up the local culture in parks, cafes, or wandering in back alleys. In Florence, for example, I wouldn’t plan to visit the Accademia, Uffizi, Bargello, and Duomo all in the same day. That leaves no time for enjoying la dolce vita! Rather, we’d visit the Accademia in the morning, have a relaxing picnic lunch, escape the afternoon heat by wandering through the Bargello museum, and finish the day by watching the sun set over the city at Piazzale Michelangelo. For major sites, definitely buy advance tickets unless you plan to buy a city pass that allows you to skip the lines. And don’t be afraid to switch things up once you arrive! Maybe the weather today isn’t ideal for wandering through the gardens of Versailles, or you just don’t feel like stepping foot in another museum. European vacations are about so much more than the sights – it’s about the experience, the food, the joy of the unknown and unfamiliar. I believe that the best travel recommendations come from people you know, so be open to changing your itinerary if a coworker, friend, or favorite blogger who has recently visited your destination tells you about a spot they particularly loved.

View over the Seine, Paris.

View over the Seine, Paris.

9. Read up on your destination and get excited! Your trip is mostly planned, so now you can move on to the fun part. I love reading books and watching movies about the cities or countries we’re visiting, whether they’re historical fiction or current documentaries. In my opinion, the more you know about a destination, the more interesting it is when you visit. Read the news and stay informed about national events. Most European citizens (especially in larger cities) speak at least some English and would love to discuss current events with you. There’s also a somewhat negative perception among Europeans that all Americans care about is their own country, so let’s all work to change that image. Most importantly, get excited for your vacation! Not only will you not be working (the best part about vacations, in my opinion), you’ll be broadening your world and expanding your horizons, and all that research will certainly pay off!

What do you think? Is my trip planning overkill? How do you go about picking a vacation spot? Have your favorite trips been planned or more spontaneous? Where should we travel next?

How to plan a trip to Europe – Part I

As I’ve probably mentioned before, travel is where Adam and I spent the bulk of our disposable income, and we save all year in order to afford it. Generally, once a year, we take two weeks off and head to Europe. In 2013, we spent a month in Italy while we were both between jobs. In 2014, we visited Iceland, London, Paris, and Normandy. For 2015, rather than receiving a Christmas gift from my parents, we’re heading with them to Germany and Belgium this September.

I’ve spoken to so many people who treat trip planning as the worst part about vacation, but for me, it’s one of the most exciting. It helps that I am almost too Type-A to function (name that movie), and that I read travel guides like some people read mystery novels. When a friend’s trip to Japan had to be postponed due to family issues, she and her husband decided to switch their plans and travel through Europe for 2 weeks instead. I practically begged her to let me plan their trip. Dazed and confused, she agreed, wondering why anyone would want to do all that work for a trip they weren’t taking. But for me, trip planning isn’t work, it’s fun. (I know, it’s a problem, send help.) It seems overwhelming at first, but it helps to break it down into multiple steps.

My strategy is to start with the big picture, and work down into the details, similar to starting with an outline for an essay and filling in the specifics later. I also start trip planning months in advance. This gives you lots of time to delve into it slowly and to adjust as the situation changes. I have been planning our Germany/Belgium trip for the fall of 2015 since Christmas of 2014. That’s not to say that a trip can’t be planned in less time – my point here is that it’s never too early to start. With that said, let’s get going!

Trip Planning – Part I

The initial phase of trip planning should be very, very vague, and is actually the most difficult. Ideally, this phase happens at least 4 months before your trip, though up to a year is not uncommon for me (see above). Just keep in mind that plans change, and remember to be flexible. This is your vacation – not an obligation – and it should be fun!

1. First things first – who, when, how long, how much? Determine your trip length, timing, rough budget, and number of travelers, before you even start considering destinations. Two travelers have significantly more flexibility than a group of eight. Only have a week? Maybe you want to go somewhere with a shorter flight time – like London or Dublin. Tight budget? Travel during the off-season and avoid more expensive countries (England, Iceland, the Scandinavian countries). Keep in mind that Adam and I spent the same amount of money ($6,000) to travel to Italy for a month (that’s our total cost, including airfare, hotels, meals, etc., for both of us) in the winter as we did to travel to Iceland, London, and Paris for two weeks during the fall. I do my best to avoid Europe during the summer, as it’s generally more hot, more crowded, and more expensive, but if summer is the only time you can fit in a trip to Europe, it’s still doable. Just consider that planning will be more important that it would be for traveling during the off-season, as hotels, flights, etc. are going to book up more quickly.

Sunset in Assisi, Italy. January 2013.

Sunset in Assisi, Italy. January 2013.

2. Generally, where do you want to go? Consider the items discussed in 1, above, and keep in mind that this should be an extremely vague region or country – not a list of cities. (Patience, young grasshopper – we’ll get to that part!) I find it helpful to pull up a map of Europe so I have a better understanding of the layout. Due to geographical configuration, some countries may work better as their own destination (Italy), while others could be combined (Belgium/The Netherlands). For our upcoming trip, my husband knew he wanted to travel to Germany, so we used that as our starting point and worked from there. If you’re open to a variety of countries, check out Google Flights and do an open-ended search to Europe to compare flight prices to all sorts of destinations. Or visit your favorite airline’s website to see if they’re offering any deals. Lufthansa regularly has good deals during the off-season, and is by far my favorite international carrier.

London, England. October 2014

London, England. October 2014

3. What kind of traveler are you? Spend some time reflecting on the travel style and likes/dislikes of the individuals going on the trip. Are you traveling with kids, older adults, or a large group? Consider establishing a “home base” for most or all of the time and taking day trips from there. Is this your first time to Europe or abroad, or are you a group of fairly experienced travelers? For newbies, maybe it’s best to start somewhere familiar (London) and gradually work east as everyone becomes more comfortable.

For the upcoming trip, our group’s “travel profile” looks something like this: 4 able-bodied adults, experienced travelers, selective cultural highlights (not too many museums or churches), prefer a mix of big cities and small towns, need plenty of time to drink beer. 

My husband, the carnivore. Bolzano, Italy. January 2013

My husband, the carnivore. Bolzano, Italy. January 2013

4. Investigate logistics. Once you have a general idea of where you want to go, do some research to make sure it’s feasible for your group. Can you find flights within your budget? Are there any conferences or festivals that are going to make certain cities more crowded/expensive on certain dates (i.e. Oktoberfest)? (I find the Rick Steves website helpful for this purpose – from the homepage, click on Explore Europe, then your country of choice, then Plan. For each country, you can see a listing of upcoming holidays and festivals.) Remember that airline prices can change drastically from one day to the next, so I like to check several times over the course of a month to and from various destinations to get a general idea of flight costs. Once I’m mostly sure that flight prices are going to be reasonable, I move on to the next step.

5. Do some research! For me, this translates to – buy a guidebook! This is, far and away my favorite part (if you couldn’t already tell from the double exclamation marks). Of course, you could use all the wonderful free resources that are available, from the internet, your local library, and friends, coworkers, and acquaintences. But for me, buying a new guidebook is like getting an early Christmas present. Once I’m reasonably certain about our travel destination, I like to skim through the guidebook to make sure I’m not missing anything. Maybe I thought I wanted to visit Frankfurt but once I read more about it, I decide that it’s skippable. Either way, I’ll need my own guidebook eventually. I’m almost embarrassed to share this with the internet, but this is what my books look like when I’m done with them.

Guidebooks

Yes, those are color-coded sticky tabs and yes I did make my husband appropriate them from work. Just be glad you can’t see the inside pages which are full of highlights, underlines, and hand-written notes.

Now that you have a rough outline of the trip, the next stage is to fill in the details! Stay tuned for Part II of the series on how I work through the rest of the trip to come up with a detailed daily itinerary.

Europe 2014 – Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an abbey built up towards the heavens on an island off the coast of Normandy. It has been a pilgrimage site since 708 AD when the voice of Archangel Michael commanded the bishop of Avranches to build a church on the mount. Originally, pilgrims had to cross a mudflat, braving wild surging tides, disorienting fog, and quicksand. Today, it’s much easier to reach thanks to a paved causeway connecting the island to the nearby town and visitors center.

From Bayeux, it was an easy 75 minute drive. Our guidebook warned us that crowds were horrendous mid-day, so we planned to arrive early and leave shortly after lunch. After parking on the mainland, we boarded a free shuttle bus to take us across the causeway, and began the winding walk up to the abbey. Following our guidebook’s suggestion, we took a path to the left, avoiding both crowds and stairs, and happened upon some incredible views along the way.

At the tippy top of the mountain is the abbey, the idea being that the closer to heaven and the more removed from society and its temptations, the better. Because there wasn’t enough level ground to support a church of a decent size, the abbey actually sits on four large crypts which were built to hold up the wings of the church. This plan worked until 1421 when one of the wings collapsed. We were assured that the remaining and rebuilt wings were architecturally sound and that we would be perfectly safe exploring the abbey and the crypts below 🙂

The picture below was taken in the Hall of the Grand Pillars, which is the crypt that collapsed in the 15th century. Those columns are 15 feet around; the architects rebuilding this wing certainly didn’t want history to repeat itself.

After our tour of the abbey, we walked down the main street and were amazed at how crowded it had become. It truly was wall-to-wall people hiking up the mountain. We stopped at the Restaurant le St. Michel for huge, tasty platters of mussels and were thankful we’d gotten to the island early.

We drove back to Bayeux, picked up a bottle of wine, and spent the rest of the afternoon watching the world go by from our hotel room balcony. It was our last day of our Europe 2014 vacation, and I wouldn’t have spent it any other way.

Europe 2014 – D-Day Beaches

Our D-Day itinerary included a full day of sites, beaches, and memorials. Armed with a map and some snacks, we set out from Bayeux early that morning. Our first stop was Arromanches, about a 10 minute drive to the north.

Arromanches was the launching point for the Allied invasion. Overnight, 17 ships sailed across the English Channel to the coast of Arromanches. Once in place, their crews sank the ships, bow to stern, to form a sea barrier. Adding to the barrier were 500 tugboats and 115 “Mulberries” – floating cement blocks the size of football fields – which were also sunk. All this created a 4-mile long sea wall about 1.5 miles off-shore. Once the sea wall was established, the Allies could bring in floating steel “pierheads”, from which they extended floating roads (made of concrete pontoons) all the way to the shore. The operation was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, and so the harbor was dubbed Port Winston. Over just 6 days, the Allies brought 54,000 vehicles, 326,000 troops, and 110,000 tons of supplies across the English Channel in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The harbor was designed to be temporary, but various pieces still remain scattered around the beach.

We spent time at the D-day Landing Museum, which did an amazing job explaining how the harbor was constructed and allowing us to appreciate the sacrifice of so many soldiers who left their lives on the beach below. It was chilling to imagine such a site, and footage of the invasion left us pretty emotional.

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Europe 2014 – Bayeux

From Paris, we took a train to Bayeux, a small town famous for a certain tapestry. After the hustle and bustle of two major cities (London and Paris), we were ready for some small-town ambience and relaxation. Bayeux would also serve as a great home base for exploring the nearby D-Day beaches.

We arrived in Bayeux, dropped our bags off at our wonderful bed & breakfast, and set out to explore the town. After a quick stroll, we arrived at the cathedral, the heart of Bayeux.

Bayeux is only 6 miles from the D-Day beaches, but incredibly, the city (and its magnificent cathedral) was spared destruction during WWII because a local chaplain made sure the Allied forces knew that Bayeux was not a German headquarters. The cathedral, dating back to 1077, is as large as Notre Dame in Paris, and absolutely dominates the city. Historians believe the Bayeux Tapestry originally hung in the nave, which is decorated with Norman geometric carvings.

Bayeux was the first city liberated after the D-Day landings, and there are memorial plaques all around the city to commemorate the victory and give thanks for the American and British troops.

We watched the sun set behind the cathedral, then headed to a cafe for onion soup, crepes, and wine. It was an incredible, relaxing day.

For more information on our Europe 2014 trip, check out these other blog posts:

  • 2 nights in Reykjavik  Hallgrimskirkja church, yummy food, and gorgeous scenery
  • London Part I – arrival in London, fish & chips, a snazzy pub, and the British Library
  • London Part II – walking tour of London highlights, Westminster Abbey, and an Irish pub
  • London Part III – St. Paul’s, Borough Market, and an incredible WWI memorial at the Tower of London
  • Paris Part Ia walk through Luxembourg gardens and sunset at the Eiffel Tower
  • Paris Part IIthree blockbuster sites: Notre Dame, Versailles, and Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Part III – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Auguste Rodin museum
  • D-Day Beaches – paying tribute to the Greatest Generation
  • Mont Saint-Michel – an abbey on an island