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After beer and bread, the most important staple in the German diet is sausage.

Germans call it Wurst. It’s pronounced vurst.

In honor of the wonderful German tradition of Oktoberfest (yes, I know it’s still September…I’ll explain later), I thought we’d spend a few minutes chatting about the Wurst.

Germans serve up over 1500 kinds of sausage. The most popular variety is the curry wurst. Every year, Germans eat 800 million. There isn’t a German menu out there that doesn’t include sausage in some form or another.

With wurst being such an important part of the German lifestyle, it’s pretty much a given that sausages will have made their way into the culture’s expressions and sayings. I challenge you to sneak one of these into your next conversation:

Six Sausage Sayings

1. Das ist mir Wurst – That’s sausage to me (It’s all the same to me/I don’t care).

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Down on the Bayeux, in Normandy

Okay, maybe not the same bayou but work with me…

Bayeux is a wonderful village in the Normandy region of France.  It is located 7km from the English Channel or La Manche, as the French call it.  Bayeux’s history dates back to the 1st century where is was a Gallo-Roman settlement. The city was largely destroyed during the Viking raids of the 9th century, but was rebuilt again in the 10th century.  Through the next several hundred years the city continued with its destruction and rebuilding as the English and French fought over control of the area.

Bayeux was the first city of the Battle of Normandy, during World War II, to be liberated.  On June 16, 1944,  General Charles de Gualle gave a speech in Bayeux, where he made it clear, that France sided with the allies. The buildings in Bayeux were virtually untouched during the Battle of Normandy, since the German forces were fully involved in defending Caen from the Allies.

Bayeux is popular now as visitors come to see the Bayeux Tapestry (it is actually embroidered cloth) which tells of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror.  It is a site to be seen. The tapestry measures 70m (230ft) long.  You can listen to a recording as you stroll around the tapestry.  They also have recordings specifically for children (and in English).

The cathedral there is also a site to behold and was the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry.  The cathedral is known as the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Bayeux and was consecrated on July 14, 1077.

Bayeux is a must stop on any Normandy visit.

Normandy D-Day Beaches

I knew this was going to be an emotional day and tried to prepare myself and the kids as we headed out to the D-Day beaches. We chose to visit the beaches where the Americans had landed during the D-Day invasions, but you can also visit the beaches where the English and Canadians landed, as well.   Traveling in Europe, in itself, it such a good history lesson, but this part of Normandy has such a specific connection to all Americans that it is truly moving.  Spending time in this historic area gave me such an appreciation for the country that I am so proud to come from.  We watched The Longest Day before touring the area just to have a little more background.  There are many good books about this part of our history, and if you are planning on visiting the Normandy beaches, it is a good idea read a few (I didn’t but you should, so there).

One can spend days touring the area by visiting the museums, different allied beaches and the villages that were involved during the invasion.  We decided to keep it on the light side, but at some point it would be interesting to dig in a little deeper.  We all know that our world history can be rather gruesome, and there is certainly enough time for our 8 and 10 year old daughters to learn about all the troubles in the world.

It had been raining on our drive out to the area, but as soon as we parked at Omaha Beach, the sun showed up.  The beach is serenely beautiful.  It is hard to imagine the horrors and triumphs that took place on June 6, 1944.  It is certainly hallowed grounds.  There is a beautiful monument honoring all those who landed on the Normandy beaches that day.  There were over 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft used during the invasion.

We were able to climb up the bluffs and found German bunkers, very surreal!

Afterwards, we visited the American Cemetery.  There is a very nice museum with great information, but for those with young children, it is a little heavy.  As you leave the museum and head to the cemetery you hear, through the speakers, the names of all who perished being read and I couldn’t help thinking of 9/11.  Holding back tears, I tried to keep it together so my girls would be okay, but it was too much.  The cemetery is absolutely beautiful, an incredible tribute to our fallen soldiers.  You can walk on pathways that are on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and there is a walk down to the beach, as well.  When we finally reached the graves of the almost 10,000 soldiers, it began to rain again, truly appropriate for the moment. The rain forced us to run for cover and head back to the car.  Both of my girls had had enough by then, it was a little rough…

One amazing thing about having kids though, is that it brings you back to the present moment, no dwelling on the past for too long.  Time to continue on our journey!

Claude Monet’s House and Garden

Need some inspiration?  When Claude Monet first started painting, his work was not accepted by all.  He used too many colors and did not paint in the realistic fashion of the times.  It wasn’t until later in his career that he earned recognition for being the “father of Impressionistic painting.”

It was fascinating visiting his home and gardens.  Every room in his home is painted a different color and his gardens’ beds are filled with beautiful flowers, divided by either cool colors or warm colors.  The water-lily pond is magical.

Color filled his world and his painting.  To have walked where this amazing man painted and lived with his family, is just incredible and I am so excited that my daughters have had a chance to be inspired by traveling to this enchanting place.

We brought sketchbooks and pencils and studied the landscapes as Mr. Monet may have a hundred years ago.  Closely examining the dahlias, mums, clematis and sunflowers as we strolled.  We read “Linnea in Monet’s Garden” before visiting Giverny, which helped us have a wonderful introduction to Monet’s world.

I am feeling very lucky and this is just the beginning of our trip…

Honfleur, Normandie

Honfleur is not to be missed on a trip through Normandy.  Claude Monet spent a lot of time here painting it’s harbor and streets.  It is easy to see why, Honfleur is breathtaking!  I am so thankful to have visited, especially as we head to Giverny, Monet’s home, tomorrow.  Traveling, ahhhhh!  Good stuff!

Palace of Versailles

Driving up to the Palace of Versailles had us all wondering with excitement.  Would it at all be like Hearst Castle which we had visited earlier in the summer?  Well, not at all, the Palace of Versailles makes Hearst Castle look like a guest house, albeit an amazing guest house!  The grounds where the Palace of Versailles sits are enormous.  The formal French gardens were originally designed by Andre Le Notre and took forty years to complete.

Hard to imagine what life must have been like for the royal families who lived in the Palace before the French Revolution, but what a spectacle it must have been.  Complete opulence. 

Every turn of the corner brought another incredible priceless wonder.

What a treat to see this treasure of France!

Au revoir!

We made it!

Years and years of dreaming, months and months of planning and we are finally here!  Although we are in a time zone sort of fog, I think everyone is in agreement that it has been so worth the wait!

Since we are here for so long, we can relax and enjoy the moment without rushing to see all the sights, which is a whole different way to travel.  Arriving in Paris in the morning, after an overnight flight, we picked up our car for the next six months and headed to a hotel, getting lost but not really worrying about it.  Our little adventure helped us to really get going with trying to remember basic French and was a great introduction for the kids.

Unfortunately, once we found our hotel, we all fell asleep and woke up at 9pm…it took me awhile to realize that the sun was going down, not up…

The next morning we did a quick drive around Paris and saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.  We will be back to stay in Paris later in our trip, but had to at least drive by some sights and of course, grab a crepe before heading to Normandy.  We are all in agreement that Paris is a magical city, ahhhhh!

This is where we are staying for the next three weeks.

It is such a sweet cottage in a beautiful part of Normandy.  We have sheep as our neighbors and the only traffic is an occasional tractor going by.  The perfect place to adjust to the time, get started with homeschooling and visit all the amazing places in Normandy.  I feel as if I am dreaming!