Extended Layover in France…

In order to fly from Athens to Morocco, it was cheaper to have a layover in some European airline hub than to fly directly.  So I chose Paris in order to go to Normandy.  When I first was in Paris several years ago, a combination of poor planning and a French train strike resulted in an ill-fated attempt at seeing the famous WWII beaches.  Attempt number two was much more successful.

I took a two hour train from Paris to Caen, where the Caen Memorial Museum is located.  It is a spectacular museum!  I spent about five hours there and felt very rushed through parts of it in order to make my train back to Paris.  After visiting Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem), which focused on the human suffering side of WWII, just over a week before, it was interesting to learn more about the tactical and historical aspects.

I also took a tour of the actual beaches where the Allied Forces landed.  Omaha Beach is now a summer resort area, though in March it is pretty desolate subtracting out the Normandy tour groups.  I asked the guide what veterans of D-Day thought of kids playing where they witnessed so many of their comrades perish (4,850 GI’s died on D-Day on “Bloody Omaha”).  She said that their typical response is that they were fighting for freedom, so they are happy to see families enjoying the rewards of their sacrifices.

After 15 years of wanting to be a member of the “Irish family” of the University of Notre Dame, now that I finally am “Irish”, I couldn’t go to Paris and not revisit the Cathedral of Notre Dame (on St. Patrick’s Day coincidentally).  Though it has no official affiliation to the university, and was really only made famous because of Quasimodo and Victor Hugo, it doesn’t detract from the splendor of the cathedral.  I of course had to have my picture taken in front of it, wearing my newly acquired ND apparel…

Side note: after traveling through many developing countries, which inherently are more challenging, I had forgotten how easy and pleasant it is to travel through Europe.  There are street signs, people are far more considerate, and garbage cans line the sidewalks (which translates into far less rubbish strewn about)!  However, these “luxuries” don’t come without a price.  And that price is quite obviously the associated price tag.  A two hour train ride in France cost me over $45, while train going the same distance in Morocco costs less than $4…

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