On July 1st the EU opened back up to most other EU nations. This meant it was time for us to plan a trip. In mid-July, after an intense few work weeks for me and a long-awaited decision on whether or not Cody’s contract in Germany would be extended (it was), we set off for a Bucket List trip of ours- Northern France.
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Since moving to Germany, we knew that Northern France was a trip we had to do while we were here. Cody, a huge history buff, has long been deeply intrigued in all things war history.
Me? I just like croissants and crepes.
Our eight-day trip, sans dogs (I did not do that on purpose. Cody just informed me sans is a French word. Look at how French I am becoming), consisted of driving through Germany to Northern France with six major stops (Verdun, Reims, Rouen, Bayeux, Mont St. Michel, and Paris) before returning to Germany (hopefully sans (LOL) Corona Virus).
Our trip to Northern France
We started our trip at 7:20 on Monday morning. (This means I was only twenty minutes late! But really, I think I was probably ten minutes early. Cody tells me earlier times so I’ll actually be ready on time.) Westbound on A6 headed to the land of sparkling wine- Champagne!
Our morning drive consisted of conversations ranging from podcasts and books we’ve been listening to/reading, to Corona Virus, to quick recaps on WWI and WWII, to friends and their babies.
We started listening to Rabbit Hole, an eight part series on the rabbit holes of the internet.
Around noon on Monday, we arrived in Verdun. An infamous WWI battleground. We drove to some of the most historic sites in the area seeing multiple mass cemeteries, a memorial with thousands of men’s bones, trenches from the war as well as craters from artillery.
That evening we arrived in Reims, right smack-dab in the middle of the Champagne region.
Our time in Reims started out as most of our European travels have- with a walking tour by Rick Steves.
After our walking tour, just as the rain began to fall, we loaded up the car and drove out through the Champagne country side. Miles and miles of grapes dotted with beautiful homes nestled in the hills.
Unbeknownst to us, we planned our trip to coincide with Bastille Day. This is a French holiday celebrating the turn in the French Revolution. Most of the little towns we drove through were completely dead. Except for the last, and most recommended by Rick- Hautvillers. (Not Hot-vill-ers for us Texas people. But instead, Ooh-Vee-Eh.)
A quick detour through this hilltop town afforded us the chance to find a Champagnery open for tastings.
After a sip on some bubbly, we headed back down to the city of Reims for a tasting at Martel- a recommended Champagne producer. There we sipped on a few different types and chatted with the young sommelier who tried to teach us the correct way to pronounce the names of the towns we had been visiting. I shared with him how we would say them in Texas.
World War II
Wednesday morning, after a quick jog to Reims’ beautiful park, we packed up and headed to the WWII part of our Northern France trip.
As I mentioned above, Cody is an avid World War I and II consumer. I knew nothing, really, of the wars other than WWII consisted of the Holocaust. I blame this on my lack of any interest in anything beyond purses and A.I.M in my middle and high school years.
Luckily, I have a knowledgable and patient husband who answered my questions like “But what is artillery? I thought it was just guns…”
On our drive to Bayeux, we took a quick detour to the recommended town of Rouen. This town is where Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) was burned at the stake for inspiring the French to fight back against the British during The Hundred Years War. The people thought she was crazy and filled with the devil.
So naturally, when a woman is crazy, you burn her.
Now she is a revered woman in France’s history. In fact, as she was being burned, the British realized they had burned a future saint.
We also saw some much more lighthearted things. Like the restaurant where Julia Child had her first French meal, inspiring the cooking she brought back to America, lots of half-timbered houses, a Renaissance clock, and the tallest church in France.
Wednesday evening we made it to Bayeux, a quaint and idyllic French town. Bayeux is still largely intact as the beaches were secured (that’s war lingo for “the good people kicked all the bad people out”) by the time the Allies made it to Bayeux.
We stayed in the most adorable Airbnb with the friendliest French host, who had actually traveled to Austin in earlier years. After getting settled, we found dinner at a restaurant overlooking Bayeux’s Cathedral.
This was Cody’s part of the trip so I took a hands-off approach in planning out our time visiting the D-Day highlights. Luckily, we had Rick to guide us along the way.
Our trip to Northern France was his bucket list trip. But this day was his bucket list day. Instead of writing about all we saw and did (it was a lot), here is a video recap of our tour of the D-day beaches and monuments.
We started the morning with a visit to the British landing sites, spent the afternoon in the American WWII Cemetery, and capped off the day with some cider. The Normandy region is famous for cider, camembert cheese, and crepes.
Day two started out with a quick tour of Bayeux (two pictures below), the town we were staying in before we headed off to the German WWII Cemetery and Utah Beach.
Mont St. Michel
After finishing up Utah Beach, we headed even further west towards this “tidal island.” Meaning, when the tide is up the whole island is (obviously) surrounded by water. Mont St. Michel is famous because it is a religious pilgrimage center for Christians who couldn’t make it to Rome.
Unfortunately, when we were there, the tide was low so we didn’t get to see it completely covered. We did, however, get to walk around on the mudflats at night and during the day.
We stayed out till 11:45 or so trying to figure out night photography.
Then, I woke up at 5:30 to get pictures of the sunrise. I was a bit disappointed that I woke up so early to take pictures of haze, but the quiet morning to myself was really peaceful.
Other than the fact that this place is a complete and total tourist trap, the abbey itself was really awesome and I am glad we got up early enough to get there before all the tourists arrived.
Off to Paris
When planning our trip, we initially said we just needed one night here, maaaaybe two. Both of us had been to Paris separately and done all of the “highlights” so why would we need more time?
Because it’s Paris…That’s why. Shortly into our planning, we decided three nights would be wise.
TBH, I’m a bit disappointed in Paris. I was really hoping it wouldn’t live up to the hype and this girl who loves nothing more than a check off the list, could finally “check” Paris off the list of places to travel. Unfortunately, it’s not that way and I am already ready to go back and keep exploring.
We’ve knocked Northern France off our list, but we still have to see the southern region. I suppose there will be another Paris trip in our future. There is just so much to do and explore here, it seems like there could never be enough days to experience it all.
Slow Day in Paris
Considering the fact I was running on about four hours of sleep when we arrived in Paris, we decided to start off with an easy day.
After unpacking, we found dinner (and snails!) and then headed back to the hotel where I crashed in about 10 minutes.
Sunday morning we took a walk down the main street in the Rue Cler neighborhood. This street is lined with shops and eateries. Rick Steves had an audio walking tour we were able to do and hear a bit about the different shops. He also advised which ones would be worth picking up some food from.
We found, quite possibly, the best croissant we’ve ever tasted as well as some meats and cheeses to take with us to Luxemburg Gardens for lunch.
I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in the gardens because it was all gravel, sand, and green chairs to sit on. Only then did Cody remind me we learned that in France, “gravel is for sitting and walking and the grass is for looking.”
Regardless, we had a yummy lunch and spent an hour or two hanging out in the park reading and resting before hopping on a bike-for-rent and heading to the Marais neighborhood to walk around, find some ice cream, and get on the bus to head back to our side of town.
We ended the evening with dinner out and champagne (from our earlier stop in Reims) at the park leading up to the Eiffel Tower.
Our final day in Paris was spent wandering the historic part of Paris. We got to see the Notre Dame (and the cool exhibit they have about the fire and the work that is being done to clean up and restore the historic cathedral), a deportation memorial, and find another delicious croissant!
The walking tour even took us by a famous, and historic, bookstore + coffee shop. As with a lot of stuff in Europe, it was closed on Monday so we didn’t get to check it out. This bookstore and coffee shop has been home to many ex-pat writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Another cool stop before we wrapped up our tour was the Sainte-Chapelle (pictured below). It is a cathedral of beautiful stained glass depicting the entire story of the Bible.
We finished our Historic Paris tour with really the most American thing possible- Chipotle, MAC, and Sephora. This girl needed some make-up and the make-up scene is Regensburg is less than thrilling.
Our last night in Paris, intending to do a small “tapas” type dinner before heading to the Arc de Triomphe, turned into a delicious entire meal.
Top 3 of Northern France Trip
Since traveling here, we’ve began keeping a notebook of all of our adventures and places we go, things we eat, stories to remember, etc. One of our favorite things to do on our way home from any vacation is pick our top three favorite things of the trip. So here they are:
Kelly’s Top 3
1.The little church where the lost American medics set up shop to assist wounded troops
2. All the learning about World War II
3. Our drive through Champagne and stopping for a glass
Cody’s Top 3
1. Pointe du Hoc, where the Rangers landed to overtake a German gun battery
2. The American World War II Cemetery
3. The Verdun Ossuary
Because this post is already miles of pages too long, I’ll blog about ALL the amazing food we ate and share it when it’s complete.
Until next time,