Walking along the Costa Brava

Gorgeous, breathtaking, moving and complete awe for this beautiful planet we live on gives you a sense of what we felt as we walked along the coast of Spain’s Costa Brava.  We are heading out for another hike today, but wanted to share a few photos of yesterdays tour.  Hard to capture it’s true beauty. Reminded me of parts of California’s coastline, which we will be back to soon! Again feeling very lucky!

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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…

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!

Do you believe in signs?

My husband and I have talked about taking off and traveling with our children for years. It was just a matter of figuring it all out. What would be the best age for our girls to go, what about taking them out of school, would they miss out too much, what about homeschooling, what about our family, friends, finances, house, the list goes on and on and on. We had spent years casually talking about a trip around the world or part of it, anyway, and then all of a sudden it really seemed to just take shape. Timing was a big part, my husband had been uninspired with his job for a while, I was still trying to get something going, the economy tanking, we knew we needed a change.

We had been living in the Los Angeles area for two years and found ourselves in a place where we could really consider making this dream happen. One day, when I was cleaning out some storage boxes I found a scarf from when my husband and I had traveled to the South of France with some friends, years before we had our children. I remember seeing this stylish French woman with a beautiful scarf tied in her hair and suddenly I was on a quest to find one, I did, and had stored it away at some point. To find that scarf, as we were seriously considering our dream trip, solidified that this was what we were supposed to do. There were so many reasons not to go but that scarf was such a sign to me that we had to make it happen. We bought one-way tickets to Paris so that was it, we were committed, we were going.

I have definitely had my questions on whether this adventure of our is completely insane but I keep going back to that scarf, that is my sign and I think of it when the doubts creep in. I am about to depart on what I know will be a life changing adventure for myself and my family, life here I come!