It was the experience of a lifetime as I went “home” to Iowa this summer and joined more than 15,000 cyclists for the 42nd annual RAGBRAI…my first RAGBRAI.
RAGRAI is the somewhat awkward acronym for the Register’s (Des Moines) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa…the oldest, largest and longest recreational touring bicycle ride in the world.
Speaking of awkward, as a lifelong competitive swimmer, I quickly learned swimming and cycling aren’t even loosely related. But my lack of skill in the saddle didn’t really matter, because I wasn’t riding for me. I was riding to remember--my amazing Dad and legendary Iowa bicyclist--who went home to be with the Lord last year.
My step Mom, brother, three nephews and two grandchildren comprised “Team LeBeau,” a small but mighty family contingent hell-bent on pedaling across the Hawkeye State to honor an amazing husband, father, grandfather and 41-consecutive-year participant of the iconic biking event.
For those not familiar, RAGBRAI is an annual, seven-day, bike-riding party that begins in a selected community along Iowa’s western border and ends in a town along the state’s eastern border. This year’s route took us from the northwest city of Rock Valley—through 418 miles of lush northern Iowa farmland—to Guttenberg, a charming river town on the Mississippi.
It all began in 1973 when two Des Moines Register newspaper feature reporters decided to take a bicycle ride across Iowa, writing about their experiences. Of 300 riders starting the ride, 114 (including my Dad) completed the trek.
Dad was officially honored on Day 6 of this year’s ride…a 67-mile leg that started in Waverly (home of Wartburg College!) and ended in American flag-draped Independence, Iowa. The course was a blur of color that day…with more than 1,500 pairs of mismatched striped socks warn by riders honoring Dad. His signature attire, the vintage stockings were on sale through the RAGBRAI website…and completely sold out.
As my brother, Carter, and I rode together, we reminisced about the guy who made us clean our rooms and encouraged us in all our endeavors. I believe his impact on the cycling community rivals that of Lance Armstrong (who, by the way, rode RAGBRAI with his entourage. I was just too far behind to actually see him!) A great cyclist, Dad never cared about the race. He just wanted to encourage all levels of cyclists to get involved by socializing and having fun.
So from Rock Valley to Okoboji and Emmetsburg…through Forest City and Mason City…we made our way through northern Iowa’s beautiful countryside…celebrating Dad’s life and legacy with hills, heat, headwinds and a sense of purpose… all the way to the northeastern Iowa border town of Guttenberg. As the magnificent view of the Mississippi River appeared in the distance, my stepmom, Kaye, summed it up. “I feel like he’s still with me and encouraging me along the way.”
Me too, Kaye. Me too.
The dog days of summer are here. That means millions of Americans are on vacation… taking time away from their daily routines and hectic schedules to relax and enjoy life.
At least that’s the idea.
I don’t know about you, but vacations wear me out! Planning and preparing for a trip can be overwhelming. Travelling is fun, but can also be exhausting. When I get home, it can take days to “catch up.”
Hardly seems worth it!
Well, let me tell you about the summer getaway that has completely changed my “bah humbug” attitude about vacations.
I just spent three magical days in a vacation paradise. No, it wasn’t the south of France, Fiji or any other exotic travel destination halfway around the world. My three days of perfect rest and relaxation happened close to home on beautiful Santa Catalina Island.
Nine “gal-pals” from San Diego and Los Angeles converged Friday morning on the Long Beach ferry terminal and boarded the Catalina Express for the start of a girl’s weekend like no other… a getaway fit for a king! And I mean that literally!
We stayed at the historic Inn on Mt. Ada… a magnificent mansion (owned by the Wrigley family) that has played host to royalty, dignitaries and celebrities since the 1920’s. Fortunately, now anyone can reserve a room at the iconic Inn.
And oh! What a treat!
Once inside, I didn’t know where to look first! The Inn is perched high atop a hill overlooking the town and harbor of Avalon, Catalina Island’s only city. From it’s many windows, the Inn commands eye-popping views of the canyon, hills, town, ocean and harbor.
We’d booked five of the six spectacular rooms at the Inn. The peace was palpable as we settled in to our beautiful, restful bedrooms. We later gathered downstairs to experience the charm of the historic Inn and the comfortable elegance of a bygone era.
For the next three days, we practiced relaxing. In the den, on the sun porch, buried in over-stuffed chairs in the living room, swaying in wicker rockers on the picturesque terrace wrapped around the home… our home, for the next three fabulous days.
From a homey pantry, we could indulge in fresh fruit, mixed nuts, soft drinks, beers, wines, ice cream sundaes (!!!) popcorn, coffee, teas and cocoa. A hearty breakfast, lovely lunch and appetizers served by a hostess in the evening are all included in the price of your room.
We were pampered with comfy robes, hair dryers, movies, games and music. We even had our own golf carts to cruise around Avalon. Free to come and go, we shopped, hiked, zip-lined and even took in a movie in the beautifully restored old Casino Theater.
Ocean breezes lulled us to sleep. We awoke to the aroma of fresh coffee and hot homemade muffins just outside our bedroom doors. That’s right. Breakfast in bed in the “Windsor Room.” Turns out, the cozy corner room with wraparound views has hosted many famous guests, including Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding and yes, the Prince of Wales. In this case, it was only yours, truly and my dear friend, Janine!
But the Inn on Mt. Ada is more than fun, food and a place of peace. It is the perfect setting for lotsa laughs and fellowship with friends, old and new. No one wanted to break the spell by leaving our “island home,” but all good things must come to an end.
So, Sunday afternoon, we boarded the ferry, headed back to the mainland and back to reality - refreshed, rested, and ready-to-go!
Back from a vacation… in every sense of the word!
Every summer, my home state of Iowa hosts one of the premiere bicycling events in the country. July 20 marks the start of the 42nd annual RAGBRAI – an acronym for the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. It’s the granddaddy of all cross-state bike rides, drawing cyclists from around the world. This year, for the first time, I plan to be among the 10,000 riders pedaling 450 miles across the Hawkeye state.
I’ve been training several months for the ride…slowly increasing my mileage and the all-important “fanny time” every cyclist needs to prepare for seven days in the saddle!
Completely out of my comfort zone, I’m grateful for advice and encouragement from my biking pals, good health to keep up with the training and the best place on earth to ride a bike.
It’s true! San Diego is the center of the universe when it comes to cycling. Cyclists who come here to train know it as Bike City, USA. And you don’t have to be a competitor to enjoy the benefits. There are 510 existing miles in San Diego’s bicycle network – an additional 595 additional miles are proposed by 2030.
While I’ve enjoyed (more like survived!) fabulous rides both in north and east counties – my favorite training rides have been along the beautiful Bayshore Bikeway. And apparently, I’m not alone. The 24-mile bicycle route is rated tops by San Diego County Bicycle Coalition and is a bicycling destination for thousands of riders every day.
I just love the 13 miles of bike paths that make up the car-free bikeway. It’s safe, well maintained and great for an intense workout or relaxing ride. The rest of the route consists of on-street sections designated as either bicycle lanes or bicycle routes.
Whether you’re training for RAGBRAI or just want a ride with a view, this is an iconic, must-do cycling tour of San Diego’s bay shore. Starting downtown, hitch a ride (your bike, too!) with “Flagships’ Coronado Ferry” or “Water Taxi” across the Bay. Then start your ride after docking at the Coronado Ferry Landing. The Bikeway makes its way through Coronado along the Silver Strand through Imperial Beach and Chula Vista and back into downtown San Diego.
The route is mostly flat, but definitely lengthy, so bring plenty of water and snacks. Most of the opportunities to stop and eat are at either end of the course. And while the ocean breezes keep you cool, they can also kick up in the afternoon, causing strong head and crosswinds. Just allow enough time and stay fueled and hydrated and you’ll have a blast while getting a great workout.
The Bayshore Bikeway is just one more reason San Diego is America’s Finest City. And from your bike, San Diego Bay never looked so good!
Do you have a favorite San Diego area restaurant just for special occasions? Chances are it’s one of an array of excellent eateries located in an upscale, seaside destination such as Coronado, La Jolla or Del Mar right?
How about Imperial Beach?
Before you dismiss that idea, you may just want to head to South Bay and check out what may just be the best-kept secret in waterfront dining. It’s not only “special,” it’s located just steps from the sand and minutes from Mexico.
SEA180 Coastal Tavern is located in the new Pier South resort in IB and I think this newest offering from the Cohn Restaurant Group is simply stunning.
My sweet husband, Tom, recently treated me to a delightful birthday dinner at the new, contemporary beachfront resort that’s changing both the landscape and attitude of the sleepy beach community most known for its annual sandcastle competition.
You may just want to add the new beachfront resort and restaurant to IB’s notable list. With sweeping 180 degree views of the Coronado Islands, South Bay and Mexico, the name SEA180 Coastal Tavern was a no-brainer! Expansive, breathtaking views are visible from every table.
But I think the (almost!) on-the-sand patio seating offers the best waterfront dining experience in town. Despite the evening chill, heaters kept us warm and toasty. (For added warmth, our server even offered to bring us cozy throws!) So we lingered over dinner until the sun dropped below the horizon. The perfect end to a perfect birthday.
Oh! Did I mention the food??!!
SEA180’s menu includes several fabulous entrées from their killer Wagyu Cheeseburger and creative charred vegetable wrap to Mary’s “Beer Can” Smoked Half Chicken and Miso Marinated Yellowtail.
But if you’re like me and enjoy trying a little of everything go for the “shares” menu. We chose several items. The seared sea scallops are to die for. (I gobbled the last one while Tom wasn’t looking!)
We also sampled the gingered pulled pork empanadas and one of the Cohn restaurants’ signature recipes…fire roasted Brussels sprouts. Ev
en if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, I challenge you to give these a try. Prepared with bits of ham and balsamic glaze, these veggies are better than candy!
Prepared with the freshest, organic, sustainable and local ingredients possible, enjoy Mexican shrimp ceviche, smoked salmon gringo sushi, ground lamb sliders and mushroom raviolis…nearly 30 yummy “shares” from which to choose.
These great eats are also available at great happy hour prices. SEA180’s beautiful bar with a million-dollar view is a perfect place to g
ather after a long day’s work.
There’s a lot going on in IB. SEA180 owner, David Cohn says he’s happy to be part of it. “We hope the restaurant will help revitalize the area by attracting a broader range of visitors who would otherwise never venture into this laid-back beach community,” says Cohn.
“Through this restaurant and adjoining boutique hotel, we look forward to putting Imperial Beach on the map – providing a top-notch destination that truly showcases the pristine, coastal location.”
Thanks, David. Tom and I so enjoyed our SEA180 experience, we returned again for Easter Sunday brunch and brought along our nephew, Ian and his girlfriend Katie. What could be better than brunch on the beach?!
It was the highlight of the weekend! (OK, maybe AFTER the Resurrection!)
Would you like to be part of something that’s fun, good for you…and good for others? Then join me Saturday morning, June 7 for a stimulating stroll or fast-paced run along the Embarcadero at the 2nd annual “Run For Independence.” It’s a 5 or 10-K (take your pick!) for an awesome organization called “TMI.” As you enjoy a great workout along San Diego’s gorgeous waterfront, you’ll also be supporting something big!
In this case, TMI doesn’t stand for “too much information!” In fact, we want to spread the word about what may just be the most important non-profit you’ve never heard of!
Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been giving people with disabilities the chance to live happy, fulfilling lives in our community for more than 30 years. I’ve been blessed to see first-hand the changed lives made possible because of the people and programs associated with TMI.
Because of TMI, my entire perception of people with disabilities has changed. There’s a type of discrimination that exists… I believe rooted in fear… of someone who’s “different….” someone who looks different, speaks differently, walks differently…or maybe can’t walk at all.
Because of TMI, I no longer fear or avoid what I don’t understand. I love to engage the delightful young man who bags my groceries at Vons. He’s always cheerful, efficient and clearly loves his job. Anthony also happens to have a developmental disability and that makes him “different.” So what!
TMI’s mission is to provide what Anthony and all people with disabilities want to enjoy…a job, a home…full inclusion in society. For years, TMI has been looking beyond the differences and seeing the person made by the same Creator…with the same hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations as the rest of us.
I’ve spent time with the CEO David Piazza and the TMI team and seen their pure passion for people living with disabilities. They’ve been doing what I believe is God’s work in our community for decades…under the radar with virtually no recognition.
It’s time to shine the light on TMI. Would you think about joining me and hundreds of others in support of the proven programs of TMI as they continue to make dreams come true for people with disabilities?
They’re not so “different,” really. Just like you and me, people with disabilities need nothing less than love, acceptance and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Click on this link for a brief look at the fun you’ll have if you join us.
Don’t miss this year’s fun. See you June 7!
“The Bucket List,” one of my all-time favorite movies was an enormous hit at the box office despite its seemingly maudlin theme. The 2007 comedy-drama film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman followed two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they "kick the bucket."
But the film clearly hit a collective nerve. Alternately hilarious and touching, the film’s mega-stars took on the issue of their inevitable mortality by making the most of what time they had left.
Only 53 at the time, but motivated by the movie’s powerful message, I found myself working on my own bucket list as I left the theater. In the seven years since, I’ve swum the 2.4-mile Ironman course off Kona, Hawaii, snorkeled along the Great Barrier Reef and visited Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.
Above: Carol LeBeau with friends Hattie Kaufman and Maggie Watkins at National Prayer Breakfast
Now, newly 60, I checked one more dream off my bucket list last month after attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. The annual event steeped in history is held the first Thursday in February which also coincides with February “sweeps,” the all-important ratings period in television news. So for 35 years, this former news anchor waited…for retirement…and for the chance to get one of the hottest tickets in the nation’s capitol.
Months ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at a media dinner in Washington the night before the breakfast. The event organizer apologized profusely for not being able to pay me. “We can, however, provide you with a ticket to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast.”
In the early morning of February 6, I picked up my precious ticket at registration and made my way through security and into the biggest ballroom I have ever seen! Steeped in history, every president since Dwight Eisenhower has joined the gathering featuring prayer, Scripture reading and rare bipartisan unity in Washington.
On the expansive dais, President Barack Obama, Michele Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden joined senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle…for a time of prayer to Almighty God for strength and guidance in leading our country.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) read from the Hebrew Book of Ecclesiastes. Bethany Hamilton, the young, Christian surfer who lost her left arm to a shark, read the Good Samaritan passage from the Gospel of Luke and keynote speaker, Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator encouraged the room of 3,500 guests and foreign dignitaries to continue the fight against extreme poverty around the world.
As the President tied a bow around the morning with a heartfelt message about the need for bipartisanship and the importance of religious freedom worldwide, I couldn’t help but pray the moment of peace and harmony in that ballroom would last a little longer.
I believe someday, with God’s help, it will last forever.
“America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side.” - Ronald Reagan
Loren Nancarrow is gone. It’s still hard to believe. After bravely battling brain cancer, my friend and former TV colleague passed away last month at the age of 60.
We’ll never know, this side of eternity, why Loren was taken from his family, friends and thousands of fans in the prime of life. It’s just not fair. But from the moment Loren received his grim diagnosis, he decided not to waste a moment pondering “why me?”
“The doctors tell me I have between one and three years to live,” Loren wrote in his blog shortly after his diagnosis. “So, boo-hoo, poor me.”
Then, with grace, class and his signature sense of humor, Loren showed the rest of us how to live to the max and die with dignity…living each day with a grateful heart and a hopeful spirit.
Loren only got 10 more months but he filled his final days with fun, family and a sense of purpose – using his health challenges and high profile to help others with cancer and inspire thousands through his touching blogs.
Nowhere was that inspiration more evident than at Loren’s celebration of life service at Cardiff Beach. More than a thousand of us laughed, cried and comforted one another as paddlers formed a circle beyond the breakers and floated flowers in Loren’s honor. Many believe it was Loren himself who ordered the spectacular sunset that signaled his final goodbye.
As the crowd dispersed, my media pals and I remained on the darkening beach. The memorial was over, but we weren’t ready to leave. That’s when Jody Hammond, former News 8 reporter and friend to Loren got an idea. She invited any of us who could to an impromptu gathering at her home to talk about and toast our TV colleague.
For hours, 15 of us…all Loren’s co-workers over the years reminisced about our dear friend. We represented several local TV stations…Jim Laslavic from 7/39, Liz Purcell from News 8, photojournalist Mike Ineman, producer Janine Nakama and yours truly were part of the 10 News contingent.
But that night – standing around Jody’s kitchen island we may as well have been from the same station. No matter where he had worked, or with whom, Loren was loved. Through laughter and tears, we shared countless touching and hilarious remembrances about the guy who transformed his home into a “ranch,” from which he would report on every fruit, vegetable, herb and critter know to man…a guy completely unafraid to dig deep into a heap of compost or a heap of political controversy …the guy who insisted on calling me “Clara Bow,” despite years of protestations.
When the night ended, Loren was still gone, but thanks to Jody’s warmth and hospitality, we’d been given the gift of a little more time together to mourn and celebrate our friend providing closure for the gaping hole in our collective hearts.
Please keep Loren’s remarkable family in your thoughts and prayers. Those of us who knew and loved Loren have lost a friend…but Susie, Hannah, Graham and Britta have lost their husband, dad and hero.
May God richly bless them and give them comfort in their grief.
It was Janine’s idea. My friend and high-energy walking buddy suggested that we shake up our routine a bit. Sure, Mission Bay, Coronado, Lake Miramar and Batiquitos Lagoon are great venues for our monthly “talk and treks.” But how about a change?
Janine’s plan was to bump it up a notch in the New Year – move from the flats to something a bit more challenging. So last week we headed for the hills (or at least the cliffs!) at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Two hours later – sweaty, spent, with quadriceps on fire, we hobbled back to our cars congratulating one another with “high-fives,” for conquering the sometimes steep and winding trails overlooking Torrey Pines State Beach. Then came the, “I should have had a V-8” moment. Why, we wondered, had we never considered one of the most spectacular places to walk, jog or hike in southern California for our monthly walking workout?
I’m afraid I’d lumped Torrey Pines in with other local attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, Cabrillo Monument, USS Midway Museum and Belmont Park as destinations meant only for out-of-town guests. Come to think of it, the last time I trekked Torrey Pines, it was with my nephews from Iowa five years ago. “Auntie Carol” spent several days visiting the attractions I typically enjoyed only as tour guide.
Well, no more! We live in paradise and I intend to start taking advantage of it with or without out-of-town guests!
Did you know Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located within San Diego city limits,
yet remains one of the wildest stretches of land on our Southern California coast? The 2,000 awesome acres of land are as they were before San Diego was developed…including the chaparral plant community, the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, miles of unspoiled beaches and a lagoon vital to migrating seabirds.
Travelers and locals (like Janine and me!) take a break at the stunning overlooks, walk peaceful trails or exercise in a clean, beautiful environment. There’s a trail for everyone or you can combine several to intensify your workout. Here’s a trail list to get you started:
Guy Fleming Trail - 0.7 mile loop. Easiest, relatively level, forested, nature markers. Diverse scenery, ocean vistas, sandstone formations, spring wildflowers, drinking water, parking.
Perry Grove Trail - 0.5 mile loop. Secluded, not too difficult, but steep entry/exit (100 steps) Drought and Bark Beetle infestation have devastated this grove, but it is recovering. Whitaker native plant garden at trailhead.
Razor Point Trail - 0.7 mile to point. Dramatic views of gorge, badlands, spring wildflowers, fewer but more picturesque trees. Trail splits from Beach Trail 200 yards below restroom trailhead and follows the Canyon of the Swifts toward the bluffs.
Broken Hill Trail - Access to beach via north fork 1.2 Miles (my fave!) Longest trail…chaparral, few trees, scenic overlook of the “broken” hill. (Combine this trail with Razor Point Beach Trails for a 3-mile loop.)
Beach Trail - ¾ mile to Flat Rock and beach. Popular beach access. Least scenic trail, few trees, steep. (If you plan to hike down and then walk back to the lower parking area along the beach, remember to check the tides or you may find yourself swimming back to your car!)
If you’d like to join Janine and me as we enjoy the tourist attraction right here at home, go to www.torreypine.org
where you’ll find maps and much more about one of San Diego’s natural wonders.
See you on the trails!
I’m not a great traveler. Friends make it look easy, but for me, it’s a struggle. I don’t mean to whine, but planning and packing are a pain. I hate turbulence and I miss my bed!
But the worst part is the airport. It’s just so chaotic! Hustling to get bags checked…frantically navigating the crowds, security lines and crowded bathrooms only to finally arrive at the gate just in time for the battle to board!
Well, no more! The newly expanded Terminal 2 at Lindbergh Field is actually making traveling in and out of San Diego fun! In fact, I may just get there early for my next trip…relax and enjoy the amenities of the new, state-of-the-art expansion that’s put a fresh face on our aging airport.
The additions to the gorgeous, new 445,000-square-foot terminal include 10 new gates, a dual-level roadway for arriving and departing passengers (reminds me of the “Jetsons!”) fabulous new eating and shopping options and lots of space!
Thella Bowens, president and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, says the expansion takes Lindbergh Field to “a new level.”
I think that’s an understatement.
The gates are furnished with outlet-equipped seating, free water-bottle refilling stations and clean, contemporary terrazzo flooring. There’s new artwork to enjoy, six new gates, comfortable, new seating and other amenities…including the airport’s first post-security animal relief area complete with fire hydrant!
The terrazzo flooring makes the trip to baggage claim like a walk on the beach. Lay in geometric bands in shades of ocean blue, gray, green and sand, it’s also integrated with a matrix of marbles, shells and glass. You can almost feel the sand between your toes!
The heart of the terminal aptly called “Sunset Cove,” a dining area that provides a stunning, panoramic view of the airport. The lighting is breathtaking. Called “The Journey,” art lights sparkle throughout the corridor. A stunning Swarovski crystal fixture is the “Cove’s” centerpiece.
Returning from a recent trip, it was hard to believe I was in an airport let alone Lindbergh Field!
And then there’s the food! Restaurants in Sunset Cove include Saffron, Bubbles Seafood Wine Bar, Seaside Stack Shack, Qdoba, Red Mango and Tommy V’s Pizzeria. San Diego favorites Stone Brewing Company and Phil’s BBQ are also there just to make you feel at home.
Finally, be sure to allow yourself some time for a little shopping. You can browse the books at Warwick’s, check out the cool stuff at Brookstone or sample a new shade of lipstick at Clinique. While husband, Tom, was distracted at the PGA Tour Shop, I was trolling Brighton Collectibles for a gift and we still made it to our flight on time!
Years in the making, the beautiful build-out is finally complete. I think you’ll find it was well worth the wait.
By the way, the expansion project…dubbed “The Green Build,” by airport officials is not only beautiful, it’s receiving much-deserved accolades and awards for energy efficiency.
Bravo Airport Authority! (I can’t wait for my next trip.)
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!