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Paris and Normandy: The Trip of a Lifetime
By Carol LeBeau
11/5/2013 3:37:32 PM


–FULL BIO
 

Our “trip of a lifetime” was supposed to happen nearly two years ago. Plans for our first-ever trip to Paris and Normandy were set.  Counting down the days, Tom and I were excited and ready to go.  Then came my cancer diagnosis and everything came to a screeching halt.  

Four surgeries and a clean bill of health later, we decided to give it another try.  As we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, I thanked God for a second chance to see the historic sites of Normandy, Paris and the Chateaux of France.

We’ve been home a few weeks now, but my head is still spinning as I continue to process all we saw and experienced in that beautiful country.   

With the aide of our gifted tour guide, we travelled to France’s Loire Valley, known for its architectural heritage and world-famous castles.  The largest castle, Chateau Chambord, also served as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIV and he clearly spared no expense. It was a show-stopper.

We travelled by bus to see one of the most impressive sights in all of France, Mont-Saint Michel.  Absolutely stunning, the 14th century abbey sits on an island, perched atop a rocky pinnacle overlooking the sea.  A surreal sight from a distance, it is truly one of the architectural wonders of the world.

As we made our way toward Paris, we visited the exquisite Versailles Palace with its impressive (and over-the top glitzy!) Hall of Mirrors.  Magnifique!

Next stop…the enchanting sights of romantic Paris, the “City of Light.”  Mouth agape for days I could barely take it all in –Champs Elysees Boulevard, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.  Breathtaking!  Our trip to the Louvre, the world’s largest museum, put us literally face-to-face with DaVinci’s Mona Lisa.  (I swear she was looking right at me!)  

Enjoying crepes and cappuccinos, we people-watched for hours at colorful sidewalk cafes and took a romantic cruise down the river Seine.  

But the highlight of our French adventure actually took place outside the hustle and bustle of Paris in Normandy...home of the historic D-Day sites.  It’s also the site of our trip’s biggest disappointment, as the American Cemetery was closed to tourists due to the U.S. government shutdown.

Putting that aside, we were moved to tears as our guide took us through the British Commonwealth cemetery where so many of our friends and allies…also D-Day casualties have been laid to rest.

But for this military family, tears became sobs as we stood and reflected…in a cold, blustery driving rainstorm along Omaha and Utah Beaches…the same conditions under which thousands of young American men braved both the angry sea and the determined enemy to take the German fortifications…ultimately liberating France from Hitler’s occupation.

Never have I been prouder of our military men and women or more grateful for the freedoms I enjoy as an American.  It was a thrilling experience.

Truly, the trip of a lifetime!