Dimanche en Paris

The city of a million cathedrals and the granddaddy of them all – Notre Dame. As I am sure you are all aware, Notre Dame suffered a terrible fire not just two weeks ago. Our original plan was to attend Sunday mass there but obviously, this was not meant to be. On Friday, before Jack and Kim arrived, Richard and I did a little church exploring on our own to find the perfect church for Sunday Mass. So, when we met up with them on Sunday morning we already had a plan to sightsee a few cathedrals and then attend Mass at 1 PM. We hopped the subway to the nearest station to Notre Dame and joined the thousands of people already lining the streets. The streets nearest to the church have been blocked off so the closest view that one can get is from across the river (or, of course, on the river). We wandered down the street saddened by the destruction left behind by the fire. We crossed the Pont de l’Archeveche at the rear of the Cathedral, took a few pictures and followed the crowd around the island. Ile de la Cite (Island of the City) is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded. It was used as a defensive position from the Huns in the 7th century and the Vikings during the 9th century. Three medieval buildings still remain on the island – Notre Dame Cathedral established in 1163, Sainte-Chapelle built in 1245 and Conciergerie Prison where Marie Antoinette awaited execution in 1793. The buildings are amazing and we walked down the streets taking pictures and recalling books and movies that used the island as a backdrop. It is interesting to note that the Notre Dame Cathedral became most famous after Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was published in 1831. It was of course made even more famous after Disney made the animated picture based on the book.

Once we left the island, we wandered through the narrow streets of the Old Latin Quarter to Saint Severin Cathedral. It is one of the oldest churches that remains standing on the Left Bank and it continues to be used as a place of worship. As mass was to be starting shortly at this church, we did a quick tour through and moved on to our next attraction.

The original foundations of the church of St. Germain des Prés were laid in the 3rd century A.D. but the church standing today was built in 1163 and is the remnant of what was once a rather large monastery complex. It is considered to be the oldest church in Paris. The church is under heavy restoration at the moment though masses do still take place there. We drank in the history and left to attend our 1 PM mass at Saint Sulpice, just a couple of minutes down the street.

St. Sulpice is only slightly smaller than Notre Dame and thus the second largest church in the city.  Construction of the present building, the second church on the site, began in 1646. We chose this church for mass because of its beauty but also because the Cardinal was speaking. We thought that there would probably be a lot of pomp and circumstance and we were not disappointed. We arrived to the sounds of the Great Organ coming from the building. This organ built in 1862 is considered to be one of the best three in the French Kingdom. It has been rebuilt to accommodate more modern technology without altering its historic design and is still one of only three “100 stop” organs in the world. The almost two hour French mass was filled with music provided by a wonderful choir, special presentations and of course all the other things associated with a mass. We estimated that there were at least 3000 people there. It was absolutely amazing!!

After mass we stopped for a small bite to eat, took the subway back home and while the Bonekamps headed to their hotel, we prepared to entertain.

Jack and Kim arrived at our BNB around 6:30 for a meal of pasta, bread, wine and a few appetizers. It is the first time that we have hosted since we left home last year. What a great time we had!! Lots of reminiscing, plenty of laughs and a wonderful evening with friends. Can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow!!

Noter Dame Views from the Perimeter.


Col, Jack and Kim at Saint Germaine des Pres, the oldest Church in Paris.img_4829

Good Friends in Paris

Today is the day that we have been anticipating for months!! Jack and Kim were flying in from Winnipeg to spend a few days in Paris. I’m sure it was just to meet us but some may argue that they may have ulterior motives.  They have also booked onward journeys to the Netherlands (Jack has family there) and a 10 day cruise along the Danube. We are so excited for them and know that they will have such a good time. In the meantime however, they have to put up with my and Richard’s silliness. I mean we haven’t seen friends from back home since we left Hawaii and Richard’s sister all those months ago. What a treat!!

We waited for them at their hotel and they finally arrived about 9 AM. As their room wasn’t ready yet, we took them off for breakfast and then gave them the three cent tour of one or two Paris icons. They followed me obediently as I led them down the street and past the Eiffel Tower. As we will be climbing the tower on Monday, we took a few pictures, crossed the Pont d’Iena over the River Seine and headed towards the Arc de Triomphe.  I am sure that they were wondering where I was taking them but once the Arc came into view, everyone breathed a sigh of relief (including me!!). The Arc de Triomphe, the most monumental of all triumphal arches, was built between 1806 and 1836. It was built to honor those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies under the vault of the arch. As is always the case, we were completely in awe  of this amazing structure.

From the Arc we started down the Champs Elysees. This is one of the most well known streets in the world but it actually began as a swamp in the 17th century. It was the gardener from the Palace of Versailles who envisioned the original path. And thus a legend was born. The avenue has only become more beautiful with every passing decade. The two kilometer roadway is lined with high end shops, theatres, cafes and clubs. It is the finish line for the Tour de France and the Bastille parade route on July 14th. Today, however, the street was also lined with military and police personnel. We believe that there is a Yellow Vest rally that is to take place but we saw no evidence of this. Only half way along les Champs, we found that we could go no further as this area was  barricaded by police vehicles. So, we improvised and headed back towards the Bonekamp’s hotel. It was almost two by this time and we thought that their room should be ready. Sure enough, it was and we left the two of them to a well needed nap and we headed back to our BNB.

Such a great day with friends! We had kinda forgotten how wonderful it is to chum around with people of like mind. Can’t wait to see them later!!


New France garden with busts of Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain.


From Bordeaux to Paris

After 7 glorious days of R&R in Bordeaux, we hopped a train this morning to Paris. Over the 7 days we finished planning the rest of our trip. Rooms are all booked. Rental car booked. Ferry ride from Scotland to Ireland is booked. Flight to Canada is booked. Now we just need to execute the plan.

Bordeaux is a very beautiful place. Of course it is known for its wine and I must admit that I did sample a bottle or two and they were quite good. The Garonne River runs through the city into the Atlantic and while we were there a couple of large cruise ships docked on the shores. Due to the poor soil in the area, there are very few buildings over three stories. We were the exception and our 5th floor balcony gave us a wonderful view of the docked ships, church steeples and unique rooftops. We walked the quay and the narrow streets. We sampled the street food and sat in the sun. We went to Easter Sunday mass and wished that we could understand the French priest as he seemed very entertaining. We updated our resumes and reached out to contacts on LinkedIn and brushed up our profiles on Indeed. But most of all we enjoyed this free time to read, write and recharge our batteries. The last few weeks of this journey are going to be awesome but they will be busy. We feel that we are now ready to enjoy every last minute of it!

The view from our balcony:


I actually didn’t know they had Canada Geese in France.  My goose call sure got them talking though.


Ahhhh…. Good ol wood cooked pork.


Around town.


Joan of Arc…


Oh the French….(in a French accent) Zay are crazy, I tell you!!


Bonjour Bordeaux

We decided to take a week long “vacation” to Bordeaux before we begin our last push of travelling. We are planning to use this downtime to plan our month long adventure in the UK and also to start planning for when we return home. Updating resumes. Dusting off references. Researching living spaces. And all the other details needed to integrate back into our former lives. We think that we will be different. We hope that we will be different. There are so many things that we have learned about the world and of course, ourselves, that it would be a shame to just jump right back into the same rut that we were in. It’s almost like graduating from high school again with amazing opportunities promised ahead – except of course, we are pretty old. So, what are we going to do? Where are we going to live? Let’s hope that we come up with some really cool ideas and plans. And of course, we are open to suggestions and job offers. Have a great week all. We’ll see you in Paris!!

The view from our balcony in Bordeaux.  Wine capital of France.



The Canadian War Memorials.

Our tour of the Canadian war memorials has come to an end.  We have seen so much, experienced feelings and emotions that are difficult to explain.  Shed a few tears, had a few laughs and said Thank You many times internally and externally as we walked among the tombstones of those young Canadians.  There were other sites that we did not visit, but we feel very content with what we have seen and are so pleased that you have allowed us to share our journey with you.  Thank you.

As in the past I wanted to make a slideshow to wrap up this part of our adventure and as I started to think about I was wondering what music I would use to accompany the pictures.  Well, I can tell you that the music came to me almost instantly and  it seemed very appropriate.  I hope you enjoy it….

The Caen Memorial

On Sunday we left the safety and security of our B&B for a leisurely walk to the Caen Memorial.  The memorial is home to the Caen museum which many regard as the finest WWII museum in France and it is also home to the Canadian, American and British honour gardens.  Also on site is the genuine command post bunker that the Germans used for coordinating their defence of Normandy. We did not visit many tourist places while in Caen as we used it as our base camp for visiting the memorial sites in Normandy.

On the grounds of the museum there is one of 16 copies of the famous Non-Violence sculpture, also known as The Knotted Gun by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd. The sculpture depicts an 5′ long by 2.5′ high Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver with a the barrel knotted and pointing upwards. the sculpture rests on a 1′ high bronze plinth which rests on a 4′ high by 6′ long by 3′ wide by rectangular stone base.  A small plaque on the front of the base is inscribed:

Knotted Gun


The Canadian Garden.


Below is the large granite slab with the Latin inscription:

No Day Will Ever Erase You From The Memory Of Time.


The American garden has a memorial wall with plaques from all 50 states along with messages from some American territories.  Among them we found one which we thought to be unique.  It was from the State of Pennsylvania and has a piece of Granite from the Gettysburg Battlefield.


The bunker for the German command post was a very interesting visit.  Unfortunately the lighting in the bunker was not very good for pictures.


Juno Beach

Today we travelled from Caen to Juno Beach, about a 20 minute drive. On the way we stopped at Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. Many of those buried here were men of the 3rd Canadian Division who died either on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) or during the early days of the advance towards Caen. There are 2048 gravesites here with the majority of them being Canadian. The site honors the dead with lovely flowers, well kept lawns and hedges and a view that faces Juno Beach.

Once at Juno Beach we walked along the boardwalk and crossed over the dunes to the beach. There are a number of storyboards along the way telling the story of the first offensive of the Allieds on this day of days. Buried in the sand is a German bunker which gives you an idea of how close the enemy really was to the beach. Even though many young men perished that day, it is amazing to me that any of them actually made it up out of the water onto the beach without being completely slaughtered. Their courage is amazing!!

Situated immediately behind the beach is the Juno Beach Centre. This museum, established in 2003, gives a history of Canada before the Second World War, our contributions during the war – both in Europe and at home, our current role as peacekeepers around the world and finishes off with a very moving twelve minute film of the landing and subsequent fighting on D-Day and the days that followed. Richard and I spent at least three hours here and would recommend it to anyone – especially if you are a Canadian. It is emotional at times, very well organized and always informative.

We left the museum feeling that we have probably seen all that we can see at this time.  Our minds are flooded with facts, our emotions are ragged, and yet our cup runneth over. We are so blessed to be Canadians and are so proud of those that have gone before us. There is nothing more to say.

Beny-sur Mer:

The Canadian Flag greets you as you drive into the parking lot of Beny-sur-Mer.


Juno Beach:



The arrow on picture below this one shows where the German soldier was positioned at the top of the bunker.img_4634



Orders given to the Canadians as they landed at Juno Beach.img_4647img_4655img_4658

Col looking over the Memorial Bricks.img_4660img_4664img_4666img_4680img_4681img_4682img_4684img_4685img_4687img_4686img_4692img_4693img_4697img_4698img_4699img_4688



The five soldiers of the Remembrance and Renewal sculpture stand tightly in a circular formation, each looking outward in the distance.  The massive figures undulate into one another, accentuating the unity and comradeship of those who served Canada at home and abroad.  This memorial sculpture honours the sacrifices of all those who participated in the war effort, both in the field and in all operations in Canada, to help bring about the final victory.


As you know from the blog we paid a visit to Vimy Ridge which is the largest of the Canadian WWI memorials. Being as we were there just a few days ago Matthew Halton’s report connected with us in a profound way.







Vimy Ridge and The Newfoundlanders

We packed up and headed out to Vimy Ridge, Beaumont-Hamel and Dieppe. We figured we would spend about an hour at each and be at our BNB in Caen by 6 PM. Boy, were we wrong!

The Vimy Ridge Memorial stands high above the Douai Plain in Northern France and is a tribute to all the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. We parked the car and headed straight to it. It is absolutely magnificent. It took 11 years to build, stands 110 meters from base to tip and has 11,285 names of Canadian soldiers inscribed inside the ramparts.  It was unveiled to the public in 1936. What we didn’t know was that the monument sits upon 123 hectares of land that was gifted to Canada from France in 1922. Upon this land are trails that follow the battlefield, craters created from artillery fire and underground mine explosives, trenches and tunnels used by the soldiers, two Canadian cemeteries, No Man’s Land and of course the monument. What kind of explorers would we be if we did not check all these things out? We walked to the Visitor’s Centre which is loaded with pictures, facts and artifacts of the battles on Vimy Ridge. We picked up a self-guided tour map and spent the next hour or so, wandering through trenches, looking over No Man’s Land, checking out the gravesites and being totally blown away by the absolute immensity of it all. We came away humbled and about two hours behind schedule.

Our next stop was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, just a few miles further down the road. We had been prepped by one of the Canadian student guides at Vimy that we could expect much the same type of memorial. The memorial site is located on 30 hectares of land with the centrepiece being the Caribou Monument. The site is a tribute to the 820 Newfoundland soldiers who died during the first World War. The Tourist Centre houses facts, artifacts and storyboards detailing the heroics of the Newfoundland regiments that fought at various sites during the war. The self guided tour pamphlet is one of the best that we have seen, with the current tour trail superimposed over the original trenches and tunnels from over 100 years ago. The site itself is much more “raw” than the refurbished version at Vimy. Original trenches still exist as they did then, clearly visible throughout the entire site. As you walk along the guided trail, the pamphlet describes each numbered station giving you a very realistic overview of how things unfolded during the battles. The Caribou Monument itself is magnificent! It sits high upon the battlefield overlooking the valley below.  The noble bronze caribou is the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and sits atop a mound surrounded by rock and shrubs native to Newfoundland. It is designed so that you can walk up and around the spiral footpath to the top of the monument. So very well done. We enjoyed this site immensely and definitely recommend a visit.

As we still had a three hour drive ahead of us, we decided to leave Dieppe for another day. We drove through so many cute little villages and passed by so many cemeteries. The beauty is breathtaking but the history is just so horrific.

We reached our BNB just before 7 PM and by the time we settled, got some groceries and had a bite to eat, we were pretty much done for the day. Another emotional day viewing these magnificent memorials.

Just as a side note, I have to mention the Canadian student tour guides. These students are employed by Canadian Veterans Affairs and travel overseas to guide these sites for a four month tenure. The only qualifications that one needs is to be a post secondary student and to speak French. We spoke to a few of these “kids” and we found them to be very enthusiastic about this posting. So, if you have kids or grandkids that are looking for some adventure, this is an amazing program to get involved in.

Also, while we tramped around France and Belgium looking at battlefields and cemeteries, Richard’s youngest daughter Hilary gave birth to a beautiful daughter on April 10. We are so proud and can’t wait to get home to see the newest additions to our family. Congratulations Hilary, Dane and Norah! We love you!!



The Beavers at the base of the flag poles.img_4436img_4439img_4458img_4472img_4441img_4442img_4461img_4459img_4462img_4466img_4463img_4470img_4465img_4445

A view from the monument.img_4469

The Last Post


From the Battlefields




With the amount of undetonated artillery they use sheep to keep the grass down.  img_4512img_4480img_4481img_4482img_4483

On the Flagpole

Just in the small area of France we were in today there are 410 Commonwealth cemeteries, 20 French and 13 German.  We passed close to some and others we saw in the distance.  Out in the middle of nowhere we decided to stop at one.




Monument to the Highlanders who played a crucial role in the Beaumont-Hamel campaign.img_4561img_4558img_4559img_4556img_4557

Col walking one of the many trenches.  This one is about two feet higher than it would have been at the time of the war.img_4547




Image result for We Shall Keep the Faith


A Day at the Beach

After our long, emotional day yesterday, we thought that we would take it a little easier today. We decided to head for the coast and check out Calais and Dunkirk. It was a nice hour and half drive through the beautiful French countryside. We got excited to see the exit for the chunnel to England and thought that maybe we would just pop over and back just for fun. However, after looking into it a bit, we decided that it was probably pretty silly and quite expensive. So, we continued on a couple of miles past Calais to Saint-Inglevert. The Calais Canadian War Cemetery contains 704 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 30 of them unidentified. There are also seven Czech and 19 Polish war graves. It was humbling seeing so many Maple Leafs on the tombstones – many from the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. The men were so young, some only 19 and 20.  It seems such a waste.

We wandered around there for about a half hour and then made our way back towards Dunkirk. We parked near the pier and walked along the wide expanse of beach. Though the day was windy and fairly chilly, it was great to be near the water again. We watched the waves roll in from the English Channel as the wind played havoc with the sand and sea. We walked to the end of the beach and after skirting around some construction found the memorial from Operation Dynamo. With a combination of hard fighting and German indecision, the port of Dunkirk was kept open allowing 338,000 Allied troops to be evacuated.  If you haven’t already, a must see is the movie Dunkirk which portrays this 1940 operation.

We considered the day complete and headed back to the car and our temporary home in Lille. Tomorrow we pack up again and drive down to Caen, stopping along the way at Vimy Ridge, The Beaumont – Hamel Newfoundland Memorial and Dieppe. Another emotional day I am sure.

The Calais Canadian War Cemetery.


As Col had mentioned there were a lot of Royal Winnipeg Rifle inscriptions on the grave stones which made us feel very connected.




The google translation for below is:  To the glorious memory of the naval airmen and soldiers of the Frankish and Allied armies who sacrificed themselves in the battle of Dunkirk May June 1940


On the  lighter side here is Col posing by the Old Fashioned change rooms on the Dunkirk beach.


Our Toyota Hybrid which has been getting us around to the memorial sites.  A big shout out to my wife who has been doing all the driving and has already taken me to some memorials I had not even thought of.  Good job honey!!!