Europe Trip June 14th - June 30th 2008 Flowers Louvre Art Sampling
Fly from Detroit to Paris then four days on our own in Paris.
Join up with a Matterhorn World War II history tour in Paris then 10 days touring France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany.
Return home on flight from Berlin to Amsterdam to Detroit.
Paris June 15 - June 19
June 16th Walked to Notre Dame for a quick look on the way to to Louvre-saw 17th century Italian paintings and Holland paintings like Rembrandt. Went in Napoleons Room—lots of cups made of agate and stone and lots of beautiful small boxes. Lunch in the Louvre. Walked to St. Sulpice—towers were under construction. Before we ate, we went across the street to St. Nicolas another church from the 1600’s.
June 17th Took metro underground train to the Eiffel Tower exit. Admired the tower and photographed it---long lines, so not able to climb the tower. Walked from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc d’ Triumphe. Climbed up the Arc a really great view view of the city! Walked the Champs des Elysses heading back to Louvre and Notre Dame. Enjoyed the walk seeing wonderful architecture and fountains. Enjoyed the Jardin de Tulieres of the Louvre. Wonderful landscaping and fountains. Walked past Notre Dame on way back to hotel. Walked 10.64 miles today
June 18th Took RER train to Versailles, which is where King Louis XIV had moved the seat of government in 1682-1715. Enjoyed tour of Palace. Saw the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending WWI. Walked to the Trianon and Marie Antoniettes Hamlet with gardens. An interesting room was the Malachite room with vases and other art works made of malachite. Returned to Paris via RER. Walked 9 miles today
June 19th Took an early walk to Notre Dame to light candles for friends and family. Bought guide book and organ CD. Shuttle van pick up at 11:00 (had to beat the protestors that were congregating and marching through the streets.) Arrived at Holiday Inn to meet our Matterhorn group. Walked to town of Roissy from hotel. Spent time at St. Eloi church which had a memorial to WWI soldiers. Talked with the church organist and saw Chateau ruins on walk back to hotel.
Matterhorn Tour www.matterhorntravel.com
June 20 Tour bus drove from Paris to Caen.
Visited the Caen Memorial Museum and viewed a movie that simultaneously showed the Allies preparing for D-Day and the Germans during that same time frame. We left the Caen Museum for Pegasus Bridge Memorial Museum. We had a wonderful British guide that walked us through the grounds showing us the original bridge along with the Horsa glider. Three gliders landed very accurately and within close proximity to the bridge. This operation was led by the British Major Howard. With the help of the French resistance (owner of the Café Gondree), the British that landed in the gliders were able to find the explosives planted by the Germans on the bridge and take the bridge within a 10 minute time frame. It was imperative that the bridge be saved and not destroyed. Our British guide also stated that the views of the fields near the bridge are what we would have seen in 1944.
The daughter of the Café owner now runs the Café which has photos and memorabilia for viewing. Gordon Bitler, our WWII 29th Infantry veteran, received a medal at Pegasus Bridge. The hotel we stayed at in Caen was a German headquarters and later Eisenhower had resided there for a 3 week period.
Our first visit was to Brecourt Manor. We were honored to meet Michael DeValavielle, who runs and lives on the Manor. His Father was shot mistakenly by the Americans as the 101st Airborne destroyed 4 German gun batteries aimed at Utah Beach the morning of June 6, 1944 in the fields of Brecourt Manor. Mr. DeValavielle’s Father was taken to England for surgery and recuperation for 6 months. He recently put up a Memorial to the 101st Airborne on the corner of his property. (one week before we arrived).
Proceeded to Utah Beach—there was museum and several monuments near the beach. Then it was on to Ste. Mere Elise. The 82nd airborne landed in this town on D-Day, where Pvt. John Steele got hung up with his parachute on the church steeple. There is a memorial to this day of a parachute on the church roof along with a “dummy” hanging from it, in memory of that fateful day and Pvt. Steele. Red Buttons played Pvt. Steele in “The Longest Day”. There was a wonderful Airborne Museum to visit.
On the side of the road on our way to Pointe du Hoc, was Brigadier General Gavin’s Foxhole from the 82nd Airborne Division, which is near La Friere Bridge over the River Merderet. Onto Pointe du Hoc. Was not able to walk certain areas because of the cliffs that are deteriorating, so could not get near the memorial that was dedicated on the 40th anniversary by President Reagan. The terrain is typical of a multitude of bomb craters. Proceeded to Colleville ser Mer (Normandy cemetery). Theodore Roosevelt Jr. is buried here. He was a Medal of Honor reciepient and had died of a heart attack in July of 1944. His brother Quentin is buried next to him. From here to the assault beaches of Omaha Beach. Saw the pillboxes and the remains of a Mulberry. Gordon, who had landed on Omaha Beach had a hard time recognizing the area.
June 22 Left for Ste. Lo. This town was decimated during the war. We stopped off the highway to walk up a pathway to see a prime example of hedgerows—a problem the Americans didn’t foresee with the aerial photography taken beforehand. In Ste. Lo we saw the memorial of what was left of the prison that housed French and Jewish prisoners. We also took a quick walk to Notre Dame church, which was partially destroyed during the war. The stonework outside is highly damaged from shelling.
Drove to Bayeaux, which was not destroyed during the war. We saw the Cathedral of Notre Dame built in 1142 (20 years before the Notre Dame in Paris). Proceeded to the Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie in Bayeaux. Drove to Rouen and saw the Cathedral of Rheims which was built in 1211 after a fire had destroyed an earlier church. St. Joan of Arc was executed in Rouen in 1431.
Rouen is also the locale of the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945
June 23 Went to Belleau Wood—U.S. Marines had fought here during WWI
Proceeded to Aisne-Marne Cemetery at Belleau. Visited the Pennsylvania Monument and saw the Missouri monument from afar. Visited the American Memorial at Montfaucon which commemorates the American victory in Meuse-Argonne Offensive of WWI. There is an observation platform overlooking the battlefield. Behind this memorial on the hill are the remains of an ancient village. Proceeded to the Douamont Ossuary cemetery. There is the remains of 130,000 French and Germans that fought during the Battle of Verdun during WWI. Viewing windows allow visitors to see the bones. Next stop was at Fort de Vaux. This was the 2nd fort to fall in Verdun. Major Reynal had sent for help via carrier pigeons. The fort was taken by the Germans and then recaptured by the French in 1916.
June 24 First stop was at American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg where General George Patton is buried. Visited the Diekirch Military Museum, one of the most complete museums. Visited Bastogne and saw the plaque for Nurse Rene Lemarie where she had worked at her aide station.
Proceeded to Mardasson Memorial which is a memorial built by the Belgians in honor of the Americans who fought to free Europe. It is in the shape of a star with the states listed on the monument. The Belgian army and dignitaries have ceremonies 3 times a year commemorating their gratefulness to the Americans. The time we were there, a ceremony was about to begin. Our Gordon Bitler was honored once again to process with the Mayor of Bastogne to lay flowers at the memorial. Proceeded to see the site of the Malmedy massacre by Josef Pieper killing about 80 American soldiers. On to meet Berndt Hinkelman, our German historian to study the Hurgten forest battle. He met us at the dragon teeth and then we proceeded to our hotel for the evening.
June 25 Studied with Berndt, the Hurtgen Forst battle. Started at a cemetery of Germans, Poles and other nationalities. We saw Walter Model’s grave. He was a German General and later Field Marshall during WWII. Model was considered to have fought an outstanding battle at Operation Market Garden and the Hurtgen Forest but was defeated at the Battle of the Bulge and the bridge at Remagen. He commited suicide in April of 1945. We proceeded to the Remagen Bridge and museum. The bridge was taken by the 9th Armored Division in March of 1945. This bridge was the last standing bridge over the Rhine. The bridge was intentionally not destroyed by the Germans. Strategic importance of the bridge is debated. It collapsed a few weeks after capture. Proceeded to Rudesheim for dinner and watched the outdoor Glockenspiel.
June 26 Drove to Weimar, which was voted the cultural center of Germany in 1999. We walked to St. Peter and Paul Church and later had a guided walking tour of the city. Carl Zeiss had lived there along with Marlena Dietrich. Walked through the park and saw Goethe’s house along with sculptures of Shakespeare and Puschkin. We saw the Elephant Hotel and it’s balcony that was the scene of famous speeches by various people which included several from Hitler. The town’s library is partially underground which houses importance documents and original musical scores of Beethoven and Bach. Saw several street musicians performing throughout the city. It has been rebuilt recently.
June 27 Visited Buchenwald. It was not an extermination camp, but rather a labor camp. There were approximately 250,000 people incarcerated here and approximately 56,000 people died here. Liberation occurred in April of 1945. Proceeded to Torgau. Had a wonderful tour. Torgau is the city in which the Americans coming from the West met up with the Soviet Union army coming from the East. The Hartenfels castle is main attraction. The chapel was built in 1544 and consecrated by Martin Luther. Brown bears still in the moat. During the Reformation citizens destroyed paintings and statues in the church and stormed the Franciscan monastery. There is a monument near the river that commemorates the meeting of west and east American and Soviet allies.
June 28 Bus tour of Berlin with Martina. Saw the new U.S. Embassy, which was dedicated a week after our visit by President George H.W. Bush. We saw places like the Holocaust memorial, Reichstag, the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. We also walked to St. Hedwig Catholic Church.
June 29 Drove to Potsdam, an area of lakes, palaces and estates. Visited the Cecilenhof Palace where the Potsdam treaty was signed after WWII in July, 1945. In attendance was Churchill, Truman, and Stalin. It was later attended by Clement Attlee who was voted into power taking Churchill’s place. The palace was built in 1917 for the Crown Princess Cecilie. Proceeded to Sans Souci Palace which was the summer residence of Frederick the Great of Prussia. The gardens are quite extensive. Visited the Wannsee Conference where Hitler and his men discussed and formulated the Final Solution. On drive back crossed the “spy bridge” where people were “delivered”.