This anniversary was not a wedding anniversary nor a dating anniversary, it was the anniversary of when I first met my husband; the day I knew he was the one I would spend the rest of my life with. Yeah, it sounds cheesy but I'm a sucker for love as much I act like I'm not! Since we're living in Europe for a few more weeks, why not use this anniversary as an excuse to travel somewhere? Traveling is always a good idea. :)
Paris, the "City of Love", you can only imagine how romantic it must've been. ;) But to be quite honest, I wish we had more time in Normandy and probably skipped out on Paris. I had been to Paris a few times before so I had to show my husband the city for the first time. Paris is a very touristy and busy city that I could have easily dropped to make our schedule for Normandy much longer. Our reason for wanting to visit Normandy was to explore the land where so much history from WWII had taken place and of course visit the great Mont Saint-Michel.
We only had a few days for the whole trip to France and driving took up a good amount of the time. From where I live in Germany, driving to Paris is about 6 hours and from Paris to Normandy was about 3 hours. We had to make sure we stopped at Omaha Beach, the Memorial museum and drive a little more south for Le Mont Saint-Michel!
We originally intended to take a bus because the tolls and gas in France are no joke! I had been reading reviews online and from other bloggers that it's best to get a rental car to drive around Normandy since it is sort of spread out in terms of things to see and do. They were right, I did not see any trains although there might've been busses going around. It was just easier to drive while giving us the maximum amount of time to enjoy what we wanted to see.
We first arrived to the Musée Mémorial d'Omaha Beach and spent some time touring the museum. The small but powerful museum had me feeling as if we were there during the events that took place in Normandy. The museum lightly aired the sounds of what you would hear during battle. There were cased artifacts and weapons from the WWII era, defense plans posted on the display boards, and mannequins dressed in military uniforms.
At the end of our self guided tour through the museum, there was a movie being played on schedule for guests to watch in both English and in French. The 25 minute documentary took the viewers back into time with just days approaching June 6, 1944. This video was very moving as veterans from WWII spoke of the events during the time and what they could remember from those crucial moments.
After watching the video, we drove down to Omaha Beach which was only about 2 minutes down the road. I would suggest going to the museum first and then head over to the beach just as we did. As we approached the water, it wasn't hard to miss this large sculpture just sitting on the sands of the beach. I had never seen anything like this. I had read from the information display that this sculpture was called "Les Braves" by Anilore Banon. He created this sculpture in honor of those who were there on Omaha Beach to help liberate France. Could you imagine how it must've felt to be standing on this beach, the bloodiest beach, where over 3,000 people were killed, wounded, or missing? After watching the documentary, I had felt chills just being able to stand right where so much action took place.
The video in the museum had also featured Pointe du Hoc which is just west of Omaha Beach so we decided to take a short drive to see it. Pointe du Hoc was the highest point overlooking Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. While walking towards the coast, you can't miss the massive holes where grenades had fallen and covered the ground. Bunkers were accessible and it really made you feel like you were there in the moment. For such a hard time in history to relive in your mind, standing over the cliffs and overlooking the beach felt quite differently with such a picturesque view.
After spending time around the D-Day beaches, it was time for us to depart and head over to Le Mont Saint-Michel. The Mont Saint-Michel sits upon an island with its own miniature town inside. What was once a prison during the French Revolution is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's no wonder over 2 million people a year come to visit Le Mont Saint-Michel! There is even a schedule to witness the high tides at Mont Saint-Michel which is where the highest tides in continental Europe can be seen. Unfortunately, we did not see this schedule beforehand and therefore couldn't see this phenomenon of the rising tides.
While we were strolling through the small town looking through souvenir shops and smelling food nearby, I wanted to head up to what I really wanted to see: inside of the Abbey Church. We did a self guided tour around the Abbey church and was blown away by the Gothic architecture. There is also a guided tour that runs about an hour long, just about the same time as if you did it on your own. Maybe even longer if you really want to take in this one-of-a-kind site entirely. We learned that going just a few minutes before the Abbey church closed was when the least amount of tourists were there because Mont Saint-Michel can be very touristy.
After hanging out at Le Mont Saint-Michel, we got on the road to Paris. I was nervous because driving in Paris is the worst. Mopeds get to swerve in between cars, there's always traffic, and it seems that no one really follows the rules of road (what do I know, huh). Aside from that, we got to our hotel late at night while being welcomed into our room with rose pedals all throughout the bed. It was really cute! For me at least, the husband is not so much of the hopeless romantic and I'm ok with that! :) After checking into our room, we wanted to walk around 7th Arrondissement where the Eiffel Tower can be seen at the best time which is at night!
The 20 minute walk to La Tour Eiffel was pretty sweet! It was a chilly night but when we arrived to the Eiffel Tower, there was barely anyone there and it felt as if we had the Eiffel Tower all to ourselves. The other times I had been to Paris, this area and the lawn was flooded with tourists taking pictures, having picnics everywhere, and filled with people selling those 1 Euro Eiffel Tower keychains! My favorite part about seeing the Eiffel Tower at night is to see it sparkle every hour for just 5 minutes! I don't care how lame that sounds but for me it's just beautiful and it's all the reasons why I came to Paris. There's a lot to do in this city but I could watch this tower sparkle all night!
The next morning we had a large breakfast and were ready to take on Paris. But as soon as we walked out of the hotel, it was raining and the clouds were low. I could tell my husband was a bit saddened to not be able to see Paris how I saw Paris last year: sunshine, the leaves turning, and with the best photo opportunities. Nonetheless, we still had a great time roaming around the city checking out Musée de Louvre, Sacré-Cœur, Cathédrale Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Panthéon, and before leaving the city we had to see La Tour Eiffel one last time.
Although our time in Paris was short, cloudy, and rainy, I started to appreciate what I love most about this city. I love taking the metro and watching everyone read their newspaper, books, or some even grading student reports. Also, I love the French language and fashion. The language sounds so beautiful when spoken fluently and the fashion there is always très chic (even with depressing weather)! French couples were walking around tugging each other as the cold wind blew past them. Everyone was dressed in pea coats and leather boots with matching gloves. While walking through the small alleys, we could see people laughing, drinking wine, and smoking inside of a brasserie. Even the tourists seemed so happy to be there. For some, being in Paris is a life-long dream and to be able to fulfill that dream is something so special!
I'll always remember this "anniversary" being the most enjoyable of them all! I still couldn't believe that I had the opportunity to see Normandy and also to be in the Paris region for the fourth time! Where will we go for our next anniversary? ;)