Our last stop on the Normandy trip was Juno beach – the Canadian beach. Unlike the other beaches, no monument to the Canadian effort existed until June, 2003, when the Juno Beach Center was inaugurated:

The Centre was conceived in the 1990s by a group of Canadian veterans who felt that the contributions and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers during the liberation of Europe were not properly commemorated and represented in the Normandy region. The project, spearheaded by veteran Garth Webb and his companion Lise Cooper, began initially as a grassroots fundraising campaign that eventually gained the financial support of many institutions and businesses and the Canadian and French governments at many levels. The Centre was inaugurated on 6 June, 2003. Over one thousand Canadian veterans attended the inauguration in 2003, as well as the 2004 ceremony for the 60th anniversary of D-Day.


The center is very well done. Outside are plaques from towns across Canada, we found the City of Barrie:


The center covers the entire war, with one interactive display kicking it off. You stand/sit in a room that is built like a landing craft and watch the famous video Juno beach video. Very moving.

As we wandered through the center, you remember how a small nation contributed broadly to the war effort with many battles almost forgotten. For instance, I never knew that Canada served with the British in Hong Kong:


The beach itself looks flat and open, but history tells us that it was not a nice place to be landing:

Juno was the second most heavily defended of the five landing sites chosen.[3] General Wilhelm Richter was in charge of the 716th Division guarding the beach, with 11 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75 mm guns at his disposal. Additionally, pillboxes and other fortifications were present all along the beach, most heavily concentrated in the Courseulles-sur-Mer region. The seawall was twice the height of Omaha Beach’s, and the sea was heavily mined.[4]



But the remnants are still there.


After travelling up and down the beach, we headed into the town and stopped at a little river side café to enjoy mussels and seafood. Nothing beats a seaside café on a sunny day. As I looked over at the fishing boats, I was fooled by this optical illusion and commented to the boys:

‘Hey look, they must have taken that boat apart to fix it. That is quite a load to keep in place while fixing. I wonder why they are doing it in the water?’ (LOL … it is 2 boats).


And with that, we made our final stop at the grave of Ross Ellsmere and then headed home. A historic place well worth visiting and remembering.



Day 3 in Normandy had a simple plan, Arromanches, Canada’s beach – Juno and then a cemetery on the way home.

Arromanches 360 was recommended by friends as a ‘must do’:

The SAEM Arromanches 360, created upon the initiative of Lower Normandy Regional Council for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Landing, presents an exceptional film projected on 9 screens in a circular cinema: “The Price of Freedom”.

An exclusive procedure is employed to obtain the 360° projection : the Circorama, conceived by Patrick Besenval and the Futuroscope productions.

You enter the building, overlooking Sword beach and stand in the middle of a dome. The film plays out on 9 screens all around you, blending footage of modern day Normandy beaches with footage of the invasion. A truly moving experience, in fact we found it one of the most profound pieces of the trip. It really made it sink in.

Overlooking the site is a statue, which made me pause and think; Mother Mary or simply a statue of one of the many mothers who left their son on that beach?

2009 05 03 Arromanches 360 hill (2)

Upon exiting the building, you can go back to your car or walk down the path to Sword beach – the British beach. We walked down the path ..


As we left the beach, we decided on one final stop, the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum (Le musée Mémorial d’Omaha Beach). It is what you would expect, although everything is a bit better protected as it did not have the scattered, family run business feel like the D-Day museum (which I enjoyed more). A few photos below.

The Sherman tank at the entrance.

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A German camouflage helmet.

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Another view of the landing craft. Imagine 36 men crowded into the craft:

2009 05 02 Musee Memorial D'Omaha Beach

The craft was one of many D-Day innovations. Called the Higgins Boat or Landing Craft Vehicle or Personnel (LCVP), it has quite an interesting story:

Andrew Higgins started out in the lumber business, but gradually moved into boatbuilding, which became his sole operation after the lumber transport company he was running went bankrupt in 1930.

Fortuitously, the United States Marine Corps, always interested in finding better ways to get men across a beach in an amphibious landing and frustrated that the Navy’s Bureau of Construction and Repair could not meet its requirements, began to express interest in Higgins’ boat. When tested in 1938 by the Navy and Marine Corps, Higgins’ Eureka boat surpassed the performance of the Navy-designed boat and was tested by the services during fleet landing exercises in February 1939. Satisfactory in most respects, the boat’s major drawback appeared to be that equipment had to be unloaded, and men disembarked, over the sides—thus exposing them to enemy fire in a combat situation. But it was put into production and service as the Landing Craft, Personnel (Large), (LCP(L)). The LCP(L) had two machine gun positions at the bow. The LCP(L) or commonly called the "U-boat" or the "Higgins" boat, was supplied to the British where it was initially known as the "R-boat" and used for Commando raids.

The Japanese had been using ramp-bowed landing boats in the Second Sino-Japanese War since the summer of 1937—boats that had come under intense scrutiny by the Navy and Marine Corps observers at Shanghai in particular, including from future General Victor H. Krulak.[1] When shown a picture of one of those craft in 1941, Higgins soon thereafter got in touch with his chief engineer, and, after describing the Japanese design over the telephone, told the engineer to have a mock-up built for his inspection upon his return to New Orleans.

Within one month, tests of the ramp-bow Eureka boat in Lake Pontchartrain showed conclusively that successful operation of such a boat was feasible. This became the Landing Craft, Personnel (Ramped) (LCP(R)). The machine gun positions were still at the front of the boat but closer to the side to give access between them to the ramp. The design was still not ideal as the ramp was a bottleneck for the troops as was the case with the British Landing Craft Assault of the year before.

No less an authority than the Supreme Allied Commander declared the Higgins boat to be crucial to the Allied victory on the European Western Front and the previous fighting in North Africa and Italy:

"Andrew Higgins … is the man who won the war for us. … If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different."—General Dwight Eisenhower

It is interesting to see that one of the most important inventions of WWII was based on a Japanese design (or reverse engineered). A tactic the Japanese are famous for.

And so ends a very full day.


Omaha beach was by far the bloodiest of beaches during D-Day. The Americans paid a horrendous price to take that length of sand: (via):

Wars leave names indelibly impressed into the psyche of our lexicon. Half a century later successive generations hear of these places without thought to their significance.

To the British they are Dunkirk, El Alamein and Arnhem. To Canadians Dieppe and Vimy Ridge (WW I) recognize catastrophe and success. To Americans, Iwo Jima, Tarawa and Omaha Beach symbolize costly, bloody triumphs against diehard enemies. “Bloody Omaha” is the image of killers, untouchable in concrete bunkers, slaughtering America’s youth helpless on an open beach. OMAHA Beach is sacred, hallowed ground bloodied by men who came three thousand miles to free Europe and subdue Hitler’s nazis.

2009 05 02 Omaha Beach  (4)

2009 05 02 Omaha Beach  (13)

2009 05 02 Omaha Beach  (10)

To get a feel for what they faced, we hiked down the pebble beach. You stand at the bottom looking up, imagining German machine gun, mortar and artillery fire raining down on you, land mines and obstacles everywhere, absolutely no cover available. One has to wonder how anyone made it off the beach.

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2009 05 02 Omaha Beach  (20)

What they faced (via):

OMAHA Beach is a seven-kilometer (4 miles) long concave arc. The 35-meter (100-foot) bluffs gave the Germans, in long established positions, the high ground from which they dominated every square foot of the beach. Two thirds of the eastern end of beach was shingle making vehicle traffic impossible. At the western end a 2-3 meter sea wall ran the length of the promenade. A significant obstacle for mobile equipment. Five valleys (called draws) led from the beach up to the higher ground. The westerly
one at Vierville was paved but the other four were undeveloped tracks. The draws were wooded and defended by paired “resistance nests” (Wiederstandsnest). Six more resistance nests on the bluffs between the draws and three inland at the towns created a formidable defense. Along the beach were eight large caliber guns in concrete casements, thirty-five antitank guns in pillboxes and eighty machine gun nests. Communication trenches interconnected the defenses.

On the sandy beach were three lines of log obstacles, 7 meters apart, tipped with contact mines and shells. Closer to shore were metal hedgehogs tipped with explosives (similar to 4 meter tidily winks) to tear open the hulls of landing craft. At high tide the obstacles were beneath the water and difficult to see. From the beach to the foot of the bluff were antitank ditches, minefields and barbed wire, thickest around the draw entrances. Scattered liberally over the slopes were thousands of antipersonnel mines designed to explode under foot or pop up and explode at waist level.

We then hiked around the hill and headed to the top to get the German view. From the top, the whole beach rolls out in front of you. On the end of a sniper rifle or machine gun, it must have been a) scary to see the magnitude of the invading force and b) been like shooting turkeys in a barrel. Just keep firing.

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What you do notice is how your view is limited, there is a certain field of fire and if someone makes it outside that field of fire, you are blind. To get that feeling, we climbed inside a bunker (this time I had my camera loaded). The entrance was overgrown and I went in first – carefully (you never know what someone left behind, beer bottles or worse).

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2009 05 02 Omaha Beach  (56)

Inside is very eerie. Absolutely dark (I kept using my flash to light it up … should have brought a flashlight). Silent and not very spacious. Imagine being crammed inside this thing with bombs and bullets whistling around. Better than on the beach, but still quite scary.

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2009 05 02 Omaha Beach  (48)

You can still see out the machine gunner’s opening. Limited field of view, but you can see a long way.

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Hidden among the grasses and brush are remnants of the war, huge slabs of torn up concrete, careful where you step.

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The vantage point from the top. The US troops stormed up this gap, it was a death trap – mines and barbed wire. Casualties on the beach averaged one per every 2 meters (6 feet).

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I read that it took 20 years for the French to clean up the beaches, so littered with mines and anti-invasion devices. If you look out on the horizon, you can still see some remnants in the water.

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A new perspective on why we wear the poppy and should be very thankful for what they did ..


As we drove from Pointe du Hoc back toward Omaha, we passed another interesting site that I had spotted as we passed, an apple orchard. We had to stop …

2009 05 02 le manoir d'englesqueville-la-percee  (2)

The Lebrec family business is set up around an ancient U shaped building. You drive through the archway (above), pulling into a huge courtyard. The proprietor, Bernard Lebrec, greeted us as we got out of the car, followed by an enormous Labrador who’s only goal was to drop at your feet and get his belly rubbed. Looking around, you come to see just how big the place is. I asked him how many people live here? He responded that his mother lives in the main house, he rents out an apartment on one end and .. on Mondays he lives there (pointing), on Tuesdays there (pointing), on Wednesdays here, at which point he burst out laughing.

A picture of the wall, with the manor house in the background.

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2009 05 02 le manoir d'englesqueville-la-percee  (4)

An outside view of one of the walls. Imagine being a kid here, exploring all the rooms …

2009 05 02 le manoir d'englesqueville-la-percee_

Of course I had to ask if the place was occupied during the war. Sure enough, his family moved to Paris while the German army occupied the home. Hard to imagine, giving up your home and all the possessions that you own to the occupier. As Stephen Ambrose says in Band of Brothers (page 143):

As had been true of the villages of France on both sides of the line on the Western Front 1914-1918, the civilian residents of the Island were evacuated (and Holland is the most densely populated country on earth). This gave the men almost unlimited opportunities for looting., opportunities that were quickly seized. Webster wrote, “civilians dwell under the misapprehension that only Germans and Russians go through their drawers, closets and chicken coops, whereas every G.I. of my acquaintance made a habit of doing so.” Watches, clocks, jewellery, small (and large) pieces of furniture, and of course liquor quickly disappeared – that is, what was left, as the British had already stripped the area.

We picked up a bottle of strong cider, Calvados, which I detest. Not unlike Scotch:

Calvados, from Normandy, is a spirit is made of cider through a process called double distillation. In the first pass, the result is a liquid containing 28%–30% alcohol. In a second pass, the amount of alcohol is augmented to about 40%.

We also picked up a bottle of sparkling cider, or what the French call bouche (Bouché simply means that the cider is in a pressure bottle with a champagne style pressure cork). Only 5% alcohol and a very distinct taste. Hard to describe, other than earthy and fantastic. I would have loved to have grabbed a case at €5 a bottle, had I known I would like it so much. A quick look on the LCBO website shows a Quebec variant (At 3X the cost). They describe it as:

Clear straw colour and sparkling; aromas and flavours of fresh apple; off dry on the palate, with refreshing acidity on the finish.

What a great place. Back in the car, we headed to Omaha (again).


The problem with driving down a road and going to a place where you have never been before is that you are constantly filled with doubt .. did I miss it? How much farther? Did I miss the sign?

In the end, we never did make it to Batterie de Maisy, because I thought we were there when we came to Point du Hoc, a coastal gun emplacement. I am glad we made the mistake. The sun had cleared the morning’s ominous clouds, so we headed down the path from the parking lot. As you walk, you start to see craters. Huge 15-20 foot deep holes where the shells from the Allied ships and bombers had attacked the emplacement. As you end the path, you round a corner and look out on this huge field that had once been flat … the Allies shelled the place into oblivion. Amazing  ….

2009 05 02 Batterie De Maisy  (7)

A number of the bunkers remain, but huge slabs of cement, with jagged iron stick out at odd angles everywhere. A two foot thick slab of concrete sticking oddly out of the ground gives you a distinct impression of the size of the artillery shells.

The six 155mm gun battery with a 17 kilometer range housed inside concrete bunkers threatened the invasion fleet, OMAHA Beach, 6 kilometers east, and UTAH Beach, 14 kilometers to the northwest. This was the most lethal battery in the invasion area. The battery had to be neutralized as quickly as possible in the early hours of the invasion.

The battery was bombed April 15, May 22 and June 4 resulting in the six 155mm howitzers being moved temporarily to an orchard one kilometer south. Substitute telephone poles, under camouflage netting disguised the precautionary move. Andre Farine, the café owner in
Letanville (3 kilometers southwest), in seeking wood for baking would visit M. Fouche’s farm overlooking the Pointe du Hoc battery site and secure intelligence he transmitted to England. He discovered the German ruse but the ships had sailed under radio silence. His own observations and what he gleaned from the labor building the Atlantic Wall eating in his café saved many lives. He was awarded the
Croix de Guerre.

The 8th Air Force bombers cautiously held their bomb loads a few seconds longer to avoid hitting the assault wave. The bombs landed harmlessly inland. At 6 a.m. the battleships Arkansas and Texas commenced their bombardment. Before lifting their shelling a half-hour later they had fired 600 12 to 14 inch shells. The 10,000 tons of explosives equaled the destructive power of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. One battleship shell exploded inside an empty bunker collapsing the rear wall.

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The whole area was once a myriad of tunnels, connecting the different bunkers and gun emplacements. Many remain open and survived so that you can explore and come up through the turrets. We spent hours exploring …

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Loved climbing into the ruins.


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2009 05 02 Batterie De Maisy  (45)


As you walk to the edge of the site, you look down and try to imagine …US Rangers in boats, with climbing ropes and ladders scrambling get to the top of the cliffs while under enemy fire. The German’s must have thought they were nuts …. via:

The plan called for the 2nd Ranger Battalion (Companies D, E and F) to land east and west of the Pointe at 6:30 a.m. The rangers, using British LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel) manned by British coxswain had one of their 10 boats swamped shortly after leaving the mother ship. The company commander and platoon were rescued but returned to England. A 20mm cannon shell fired from the cliff top sank one of the four DUKWS (amphibious truck).

In error the coxswains headed for Pointe de la Percee, 5 kilometers east. Colonel James Earl Rudder seeing the error ordered a course change that brought the 9 landing craft, 3 DUKWs and one supply boat (a second had swamped) back to Pointe-du-Hoc along a route paralleling the coastline. A German machine gun nest on the cliff edge 300 meters east of the Pointe raked the passing attack force. All the craft landed east of the point forty minutes late and long after the USS Texas bombardment had lifted. (The delay caused the reinforcement 5th Ranger Battalion to believe the rangers on the Pointe had not been successful and diverted to OMAHA Beach.) The Germans rushed to the cliff edge firing and throwing hand grenades down on the invaders. Two navy destroyers, the HMS Talybout and the USS Satterlee moved in close firing their machine guns and antiaircraft pompom guns into the German ranks. From the landing craft grappling hooks with rope ladders attached were fired to the top of the 35-meter high cliffs. Many of the ladders heavy with seawater fell short.

On each hook a burning fuse terrorized the Germans attempting to cut the attached rope. From one of the DUKWs a ladder borrowed from the London Fire Department rose to overview the cliff top. Sergeant Bill Stivinson with his machine gun climbed the ladder. The DUKWs unsteadiness on the rocky beach combined with Stivinson’s weight caused the ladder to sway back and forth 45 degrees. Each time the sway brought Stivinson past the cliff top he fired on the Germans along the edge.

Within five minutes a number of rangers had climbed to the top. In another ten minutes the remaining 120 of Rudder’s 225 men were slithering over the edge and into the welcome protective shell craters. The platoons moved off to seize their pre-assigned bunkers ignoring the machine gun and 20mm fire from the large strongpoint on the cliff edge. Determining they had captured empty bunkers containing only telephone poles the rangers moved south to D514. Although the bunkers had been taken the battery area was still not cleared. The enemy would unpredictably appear from their elaborate tunnel structures, fire a burst from an automatic weapon or throw a grenade then disappear. The machine gun east of the Pointe that had harassed the landing craft now poured fire over the heads of the rangers in the shell holes. The navy and army fire control team had been knocked out with a short shell and the radios damaged. A visual Morse code blink light signalled the USS Satterlee to knock out the machine gun nest. A few rounds tumbled the nest and occupants down the cliff face onto the beach. No one survived.

These are the cliffs they climbed …




I cannot image the climb. The fighting. It is truly a site to behold. The size of the craters makes one wonder, what was it like living through the artillery barrage? The view from inside a bunker …




A great perspective on the slabs of concrete. Those were mighty big shells.




The irony is that the guns were found hidden in an orchard later, unprotected.

The intact battery bunker nearest the point became the medic’s aid station. The Germans had pulled back south of D514. The rangers set up defences. Sergeant Leonard Lomell and Jack Kuhn followed a dirt road, suspicious it might be the track created by the Germans hauling out the six-gun battery. Two hundred and fifty meters south of D514 in an orchard they found the guns and ammunition unmanned.

The German gun crews had cautiously pulled away from their ammo dump. The Americans blew up the ammo, destroyed several guns and incapacitated the remaining gunsites.

The empty site …


One of the guns … they are big.


A couple amazing hours later, we jumped in the car to hit our final stop, Omaha beach (or so we thought).


On the wall of a building at the D-Day museum was an advertisement for Batterie de Maisy and on a whim we decided to head away from Omaha beach in search of the battery that was promised to be no more than ‘5 minutes drive’.

A windy road takes you along the coast, where we passed a host of breathtaking buildings. One being Le Chateau de St. Pierre du Mont, a castle converted into a bed and breakfast on the Normandy coast. It simply rises out of the road as you head along the coast. I would have loved to have spent a night there, had we known it existed …. via:

St. Pierre-du-Mont Castle, locally known as Château de St. Pierre-du-Mont or more simply as Château St. Pierre, stands near the village of Saint Pierre-du-Mont, north west of the city of Bayeux in the Calvados department in the Normandy region in France.

St. Pierre-du-Mont Castle dates back to the 16th century. Its entrance gate, flanked on the right by a machicolated defensive tower, is typical of the fortified gates which guarded Norman manors at the end of the 16th century. The upper part of that tower once housed a dovecote, which was a symbol of nobility until the Revolution.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the estate belonged to Francois du Mesnil. His family, like many noble families of that time, followed the reformed religion. Shortly after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) they returned to Catholicism.

At the end of the 18th century St. Pierre-du-Mont Castle passed through marriage to the De Frotté family. One member of this family, who was a Marquis, was a prefect during the first half of the 19th century.





I always wonder what life was like when places like this were built. Peasants working for a rich family, building away, living off of the whims of the Lord and their family. We live in much better times, no matter how beautiful the building is.


The nice thing about having your car, you can stop where you want. We continued down the road.


Well, we are finally settling into our new home. That means I can start processing the photos from a few of our last trips, Italy and Normandy in particular. One of the advantages of England is that it is so close to everything. Heathrow is a great jump off to Europe with low air fares (although I doubt that our travel agent every got us a low fare) and the Eurotunnel which is a hop, skip and a jump into France.

One of my personal ‘must do’s’ before we left England was Normandy. As an avid war history buff, there was no way that the opportunity could be missed – and of course, we both knew that the boys would love it. So, on a May long weekend we hit the road. To prepare for the trip, I cracked out an old documentary that I use to love as a young boy – The World at War. We watched the D-Day episode and it set the tone for the trip, giving the family a grounding in what we were about to see. The most significant (and widely watched) piece of footage was shot on Juno beach by Sergeant Bill Grant. The film shows Canadian troops of the Queen’s Own Rifles, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, landing in the second wave at Bernieres-sur-Mer, Juno Beach, on D-Day.

"It’s the film sequence that epitomizes June 6; that indelible sequence showing darkened but clearly visible figures of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada silently exchanging last moment instructions, moving ladders and rifles into final ready position and patting the forward-most troops on their backs for encouragement. The doors swing open and the brighter outside light streams in. The first troops leap out of the landing craft. Ahead of them, clearly captured in Grant’s sequence, are the famous beach-resort houses that the Germans had incorporated into their coastal-defence system. It is point-of-view film of the greatest amphibious invasion in history — the D-Day landings." (from an article by Ted Barris, Friday, June 4, 2004 – The Globe and Mail).

The war footage was rushed to England where it was showed around the world to show the landing in Europe.

As a family, when it comes to trips, we are not the ‘early starter types’. We have a philosophy (which at times I have resisted), if you jam in too much, make the days too long, you lose the moment – and it becomes seeing sights for the sake of seeing sights, instead of truly enjoying it. So we scheduled a Flexipass time for 10AM and headed to France. Our final destination for the day was to be Hotel Barriere in Deauville Normandy. While making the 6 hour drive, we planned to stop at Dieppe to see the sites.

2009 05 02 Deauville  (3)

2009 05 03 Deauville  (10)

The French countryside was beautiful, farms in full swing and mustard fields in full bloom – yellow as far as you could see. As you drive toward Dieppe, the first thing that struck me were the markers. Everywhere you went, you saw memorials to fallen soldiers (many from WWI). It is not unlike England, and Canada, where there are memorials. The difference is the location. There are markers in the towns, but there are also markers randomly scattered along the roads. A reminder that this is where the two great wars were fought, hand to hand.

2009 05 01 Canadian war monument

The second thing I noticed as we drove into Dieppe were the Canadian flags. I have read about Dieppe, and there is much debate on the debacle:

The Battle of Dieppe was a test for the full-scale invasion of western Europe. The plan was to make a frontal assault on the town of Dieppe, across the English Channel on the coast of France. The raid on Dieppe would give the Allies a chance to test techniques and equipment for landing troops from the sea. The Battle of Dieppe was a disaster for the Canadians. Nearly 1000 Canadians died and nearly 2000 were taken prisoner.

In the book Juno: Canadians at D-Day, there are two views. One view states that it was a tragic waste of Canadian life while many others say that it was key to D-Days success. Dieppe taught many lessons to the Allies, some very mundane, but in the end it helped teach the Allies about how to invade. A terrible cost, but one that paid off in many lives saved.

The third thing that I/we realized is that it was a national holiday in France and that the sights that we were going to see (The museum) were in fact closed. Which was fine, as we climbed the hills overlooking the beaches and had our first experience with German bunkers. They are scattered along the cliff, huge concrete behemoths, hidden slits poking out of the ground, some are left as only chunks of broken rebar. Amazing to climb into them and look out on the beach, although you need to be careful – the local kids obviously enjoy hosting beer drinking parties in them.

My fourth realization? That I forgot to put a CF card in my camera. So, no pictures of Dieppe. Well, that isn’t quite true. I had many pictures of Dieppe. The problem is that after I looked at them in the viewer on the camera’s built in memory, they disappeared into the cosmos …..

After a light lunch, we headed down the coast toward our hotel. Driving through the French countryside is a wonderful thing. I constantly found myself staring out the window, enjoying the huge range of architecture, thatch roofs with tulips growing out the top, Wisteria in full bloom. And of course, churches. Beautiful old churches, everywhere.

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We arrived at the hotel late and faced our first challenge, the car park was full (groan). A common occurrence in England and Europe. When they were building in the 1800’s, no one really took the time to think ahead to when stables would be displaced by motorcars (smile). At least the French are a bit more commonsensical than the British, they all park in the same direction. It only took 20 minutes of driving around and around to find a spot.

We decided to head down to the hotel restaurant (which is highly rated) and enjoy a quick dinner as we were all tuckered. It was there that I enjoyed what had to be my 400th ‘buyer beware’ experience. I have become quite fond of Gin and Tonic while in England (I am told that drinking ‘G&T is ‘very British’ … so be it). So I ordered up. The waiter brought me a Bombay Sapphire, in the glass with ice, Tonic not poured. It looked like a lot of Gin, the glass was half full. It was. I had to keep adding tonic to distil it down. When I got the bill, I figured out why – €18. For my Canadian friends, that is about $25. My one and only G&T in that hotel (LOL).

Outrageous G&T aside, the hotel was amazing. Any hotel that lets animals in the restaurant and in the room is alright by me. We could learn from the French in that regard – that is for sure.

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So ended Day 1. Day 2, off to the beaches. And of course, the weather looked ‘very D-Day’ like, clouds ahead.

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A few weekends ago our family jumped in the car and headed to Normandy for a long weekend. I will provide additional details on the trip in future entries, as it was one of my favourite trips that we have taken in the last 2 years.

A big part of the trip was the goal of finding one of Narda’s relatives in the war cemetery near the D-Day landings. Veterans Affairs has done an amazing job through the Canada Remembers project of cataloguing where our war dead lay.

2009 05 03 St Desire War Cemetery_

I do not have immediate relatives who served in the Canadian forces during WWII as my family mostly moved from Holland in the 50’s. Ross Ellsmere served in the Air Force as a pilot and died a month before D-Day (probably on a bombing run).  He is buried at St. Desir Cemetery, which is found after a long and winding drive through the French countryside. On the road we were lucky to see the small sign pointing down a side road, in the middle of nowhere. I wondered what it would be like.

Situated just out side of the town of Lisieux, famed for the Basilica dedicated to St Therese is one of the smaller British Cemeteries.

At first the  British and Commonwealth War Graves Commission buried the fallen German troops in a field next doo, where they still are. The Cemetery contains the dead from three different battles. Firstly there are four First Would War Burials who were transferred here after then end of WWII. There are men who fell in 1940 during the retreat to the Seine and those who fell in 1944 during the recapture of the area. Recently the local French village has made a walkway of peace between the two cemeteries

In all there are 598 graves here including 16 Canadian, 6 Australian, 1 New Zealand, 5 South African, and 1 American.

When I stepped out of the car I was hit with two feelings. The first is pride, the cemetery is immaculate – pristine and beautiful. The government is taking care of our war heroes in the right way. The second is a sense of magnitude. This is a small cemetery (550), but the rows and rows of graves is humbling, a testament to the price that was paid for our freedom.

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2009 05 03 St Desire War Cemetery  (17)

The grave of Ross Ellsmere (22) is surrounded by men who died on the same day. It was a bloody day and you are struck by one thing – the age. Very few are older than 22 or 23.

2009 05 03 St Desire War Cemetery  (18)

2009 05 03 St Desire War Cemetery  (11)

Right beside the cemetery is St. Desir-de-Lisieux, the German cemetery. Unlike the Allied cemetery, there are no words on the graves written from loved ones. There is just name, rank, date. In fact, there are 2 men to each cross and as the picture shows, it is a very big cemetery – 3,735 to be exact.

2009 05 03 St Desir-de-Lisieux German cemetary (5)

2009 05 03 St Desir-de-Lisieux German cemetary (6)

Never forget.


As we walked back to our hotel, we came across this monument which I have had a tough time puzzling out. It says ‘memorial national de la guerre d’algerie’ which I assume is a monument to the Algerian War which is worth reading about here. A few tidbits:

The Algerian War remains a contentious event today. According to historian Benjamin Stora, doctor in history and sociology and teacher at Paris VII, and one of the leading historians of the Algerian war, memories concerning the war remain fragmented, with no common ground to speak of:

"There is no such thing as a History of the Algerian War, there is just a multitude of histories and personal paths through it. Everyone involved considers that they lived through it in their own way, and any attempt to take in the Algerian War globally is immediately thrown out by the protagonists."[41]

Stora further points out that "The phase of memorial reconciliation between the two sides of the sea is still a long way off."[41] This was recently illustrated by the UMP‘s vote of the February 23, 2005 law on colonialism, which asserted that colonialism had globally been "positive." Thus, a teacher in one of the elite’s high school of Paris can declare:

"Yes, colonisation has had positive effects. After all, we did give to Algeria modern infrastructures, a system of education, libraries, social centers… There were only 10% Algerian students in 1962? This is not much, of course, but it is not nothing either!"[42]

2008 December 29 Walking Back to Paris Hotel  _MG_2811

As we walked back to the hotel, we stopped at the Ferris wheel in the Place de la Concorde. The sun was going down and it was a great way to end the trip.

2008 December 29 In The Paris Ferris Wheel _MG_2850

2008 December 29 In The Paris Ferris Wheel _MG_2852

2008 December 29 In The Paris Ferris Wheel _MG_2865

So much still to see. Wonderful city.


After the Louvre we headed to the Eiffel Tower (of course). We did not feel like fighting the crowds and were unable to get a reservation in the tower restaurant (despite an amazing effort from the Concierge). Exiting the metro at Trocadero (Paris has an amazing subway system), we enjoyed the view across the river.


As you exit the metro, you come across a WWI monument to the people who fought the war.

2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2628

As we looked  down on the Eiffel tower from the Trocadero, we did not realize the importance of the location:

For the Exposition Internationale of 1937, the old Palais du Trocadéro was demolished and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot which now tops the hill. It was designed in classicizing "moderne" style by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma. Like the old palais, the palais de Chaillot features two wings shaped to form a wide arc: indeed, these wings were built on the foundations of those of the former building. However, unlike the old palais, the wings are independent buildings and there is no central element to connect them: instead, a wide esplanade leaves an open view from the place du Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower and beyond.

The buildings are decorated with quotations by Paul Valéry, and they now house a number of museums:

      2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2633

    2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2629

    I never knew who Foch was. Interesting quote from him:

    He advocated peace terms that would make Germany unable to ever pose a threat to France again. His words after the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years" would prove prophetic.

    2008 December 29 Touring around Paris  _MG_2642

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2786

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2799

    Enjoying a baguette, in the sun on a brisk December day in front of the Eiffel tower was a magical experience. We then headed down to the river and enjoyed a boat ride – a Paris must do. A few sights captured below.

    Alexander III bridge:

    Pont Alexandre III is an arch bridge that spans the Seine, connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter, widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris[1] [2].

    The bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. The style of the bridge reflects that of the Grand Palais, to which it leads on the right bank.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2652

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2655

    Not the kind of detail you would ever see on a Canadian bridge.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2774

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2782

     2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2784

    Another Egyptian obelisk liberated, the Obelisk of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde:

    The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the nineteenth century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

    The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1831. The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. Three years later, on October 25, 1836, King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2658

    The Louvre.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2681

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2777

    The architecture of old European cities is breathtaking.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2693

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2673

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2770

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2761

    Notre Dame. We did not take the time to visit, the boys are all ‘churched’ out.

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2721

    2008 December 29 Paris Boat Ride  _MG_2714

    And it was finally time to start walking back to the hotel.


    Our third day in Paris was one of those days that we usually say we will never do, completely full from start to finish. The first stop was The Louvre and as one would expect, it was packed. We decided on a whirlwind tour where we agreed to hit the big three.

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2617

    The Winged Victory of Samothrace:

    The product of an unknown sculptor, presumably of Rhodian origin, the Victory is believed to date to between 220 and 190 BC. When first discovered on the island of Samothrace (in Greek, Σαμοθρακη — Samothraki) and published in 1863 it was suggested that the Victory was erected by the Macedonian general Demetrius I Poliorcetes after his naval victory at Cyprus between 295 and 289 BC. The Samothrace Archaeological Museum continues to follow these originally established provenance and dates.[7] Ceramic evidence discovered in recent excavations has revealed that the pedestal was set up about 200 BC, though some scholars still date it as early as 250 BC or as late as 180.[8] Certainly, the parallels with figures and drapery from the Pergamon Altar (dated about 170 BC) seem strong.

    In April 1863, the Victory was discovered by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, who sent it to Paris in the same year. The statue has been reassembled in stages since its discovery. The prow was reconstructed from marble debris at the site by Champoiseau in 1879 and assembled in situ before being shipped to Paris. Since 1884 it has dominated the Daru staircase.[9] displayed in the Louvre, while a plaster replica stands in the museum at the original location of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace. The discovery in 1948 of the hand raised in salute, which matched a fragment in Vienna, established the modern reconstruction — without trumpet — of the hand raised in epiphanic greeting.

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2554

    Venus de Milo. A fascinating history:

    The Venus de Milo was discovered by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas in 1820, inside a buried niche within the ancient city ruins of Milos, on the Aegean island of Milos, (also Melos or Milo). The statue was found in two main pieces (the upper torso and the lower draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads), fragments of the upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth. Olivier Voutier, a French naval officer, was exploring the island. With the help of the young farmer, Voutier began to dig around what were clearly ancient ruins. Within a few hours Voutier had uncovered a piece of art that would become renowned throughout the world. About ten days later, another French naval officer, Jules Dumont d’Urville, recognized its significance and arranged for a purchase by the French ambassador to Turkey, Charles-François de Riffardeau, marquis, later duc de Rivière.

    Twelve days out of Touloun the ship was anchored off the island of Melos. Ashore, d’Urville and [fellow officer] Matterer met a Greek peasant, who a few days earlier while ploughing had uncovered blocks of marble and a statue in two pieces, which he offered cheaply to the two young men. It was of a naked woman with an apple in her raised left hand, the right hand holding a draped sash falling from hips to feet, both hands damaged and separated from the body. Even with a broken nose, the face was beautiful. D’Urville the classicist recognized the Venus of the Judgement of Paris. It was, of course, the Venus de Milo. He was eager to acquire it, but his practical captain, apparently uninterested in antiquities, said there was nowhere to store it on the ship, so the transaction lapsed. The tenacious d’Urville on arrival at Constantinople showed the sketches he had made to the French ambassador, the Marquis de Riviére, who sent his secretary in a French Navy vessel to buy it for France. Before he could take delivery, French sailors had to fight Greek brigands for possession. In the mêlée the statue was roughly dragged across rocks to the ship, breaking off both arms, and the sailors refused to go back to search for them.[2]

    News of the discovery took longer than normal to get to the French ambassador. The peasant grew tired of waiting for payment and was pressured into selling to a local priest, who planned to present the statue as a gift to a translator working for the Sultan in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey).

    The French ambassador’s representative arrived just as the statue was being loaded aboard a ship bound for Constantinople and persuaded the island’s chief citizens to annul the sale and honor the first offer.

    Upon learning of the reversal of the sale, the translator had the chiefs whipped and fined but was eventually reprimanded by the Sultan after the French ambassador complained to him about the mistreatment of the island citizenry. The citizens were reimbursed and ceded all future claims to the statue in gratitude.

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2591

    And last but not least, the Mona Lisa: which was protected by glass as it has been vandalized twice (acid thrown on it once, a rock another time).

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2564

    We did not have a lot of time (and it was just too busy), and we passed by a thousand great pieces (which means we definitely need to go back). One noteworthy part for me was when we passed the Greek and Egyptian displays (having been there, we skipped past). It left me reflecting upon the comments of our guides in those countries and how their history no longer belonged to them. Each went on to explain how large parts of their history is in the museums of the world (Britain and England in particular). Consider the following ….

    From the Parthenon in Athens, hundreds of statues were taken (the second picture being where this would reside had it been left behind):

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2589

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2588

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2580

    A sphinx …. (well over 6 feet high):

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2600

    Of course. You need to look up. This is just the roof …

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2569

    How it looks before they go on display:

    2008 December 29 The Louvre  _MG_2577

    And that was just the morning.



    After enjoying the Catacombs, we headed toward the Eiffel Tower and the Military Museum. Our first stop was lunch at a little French deli near École Militaire. The food  was fantastic and we did everything that we could to get the French lady who was serving us to smile (she certainly was not going to speak English).

    The École Militaire is a vast military training facility near the Eiffel Tower and had I read the map correctly, I would have realized that it was not the Musée de l’Armée that we were looking for. It is very vast and in the biting wind, the troops were getting a bit frustrated that I could not find the entrance.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-4

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-5

    As we circled, we came across this memorial and to the best of my knowledge this refers to the round-ups of Jews and other political targets in Paris:

    December 12, 1941:
    Arrests in homes. Roundups carried out in Paris, regardless of nationality but aimed particularly at French Jews (dignified Jews) – sent to the camp of Compiegne.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-6

    Coming around another corner, I finally realized we were circling around the wrong building (DOH). Guess I should have looked up earlier.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Armoury-7

    I should have realized that it was the building with the gold roof.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-2

    The Musée de l’Armée is a museum at Les Invalides in Paris, France. Originally built as a hospital and home for disabled soldiers by Louis XIV, it now houses the Tomb of Napoleon and the museum of the Army of France. The museum’s collections cover the time period from antiquity until the 20th century.

    The start of our tour was the tomb of Napoleon (among others). This is a magnificent building dedicated to one of the world’s greatest generals:

    Within Les Invalides is the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.

    The former emperor’s body was returned to France from St Helenain 1840 and, after a state funeral, was laid to rest in St Jerome’s Chapel while his tomb was completed in 1861.

    There was no expense spared for the tomb and Napoleon Bonaparte’s body lies within six separate coffins. They are made of iron, mahogany, two of lead, ebony, and the outer one is red porphyry.

    The tomb sits on a green-granite pedestal surrounded by 12 pillars of victory.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-8

    I found this book very interesting, it is Napoleon’s notes about Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, which influenced his thinking. The Scots would be proud.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-18

    What is also interesting (and not publicized) is the fact that the tomb also hosted hundreds of President  Mitterrand’s spies who kept tabs on his enemies.

    A FORMER French spy chief has revealed how a bunker beneath Napoleon’s tomb was used by hundreds of secret policemen to monitor the conversations of politicians, writers and celebrities.

    Pierre Charroy, 69, a retired general, lifted the veil last week on one of the most sensitive secrets of French intelligence when he told a court about the so-called inter-ministerial control group, or GIC, that he ran for 16 years.

    He is one of 12 accused in the “Elysée-gate” scandal, a case that has made history by showing the extraordinary lengths to which the late President François Mitterrand went to keep tabs on his enemies.

    Abusing the near absolute powers of the French presidency, the Socialist leader set up a cell of security officials in the Elysée Palace to protect secrets such as the existence of his illegitimate daughter and his work as an official in the collaborationist wartime Vichy government.

    We then headed into the museum. Put a male in a war museum, you can never go wrong. The museum covers all major wars and France’s colonial days. A few highlights for me ….

    It is scary to think that exploitation of Africans was so common place in an era not that long past. These posters are from 1905, The paper on the right was denouncing the exploitation of black Africans (November, 1905).

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-26

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-27

    During the Battle of the Marne (WWI), the German’s tried to encircle Paris. At one point, the legend of the Taxis of the Marne was created, where 670 taxis took 6,000 troops to the front as the rail system was too congested. You can read about it here. It should be noted that the fares were paid, at 27% of the metered rate.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-30

    This weapon stopped me in my tracks. In the middle of machine guns and artillery from WWI was a French made cross bow. It was used to hurl grenades and made from wood. Someone must not have seen the memo about the move to Gatling guns and mortars.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-36

    The tank changed the cavalry but it was the Gatling gun that changed man’s approach to infantry. This 1939 Gatling gun looked menacing.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-24

    This map reaffirmed my admiration for the British in World War II. A small island of blue holding out against the Axis regime. Thank God for the British and Churchill.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-41

    The benefits of video games? My boys could name an astonishing number of weapons in that museum including the German Goliath, the tracked mine (thanks to Company of Heroes). It was bigger than I imagined.

    2008 Dec 28 Military Museum Paris_-52

    So ended day 2, strolling past a beautiful flower shop on our way back to the hotel.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris_-3


    We decided to stay in the heart of the city, at the Hyatt which made it easy to get to the subway and move around Paris (public transit is fantastic).

    Walking out of the hotel we received our first big Paris experience – the cold. It was hovering around –2 but there was wind chill. As a family of Canadians who have not seen a Canadian winter in 2 years, we found –7ish crisp VERY cold (how quick we forget).

    2008 Dec 28 Our first walk in Paris_

    2008 Dec 28 Our Starting Point in Paris_

    Paris is littered with great food shops. As we walked to the subway stop we noticed these truffles in the window. Note the price for the white truffles. These are not Cadbury truffles (smile).

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Truffles_-2

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Truffles_

    Our first stop was the Paris Catacombs. We had to wait in line for a half hour and noticed these protestors in the park next to us. The boys went up and asked what they were protesting. Turns out they were protesting smoking, although I wonder if they were protesting people who smoked or the Paris smoking ban?

     2008 Dec 28 Antismoking Sleep In_

    The line slowly moved forward and after a short wait, we entered the catacombs:

    The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris are a famous underground ossuary in Paris, France. Organized in a renovated section of the city’s vast network of subterranean tunnels and caverns towards the end of the 18th century, it became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867. The official name for the catacombs is l’Ossuaire Municipal.

    This cemetery covers a portion of Paris’ former mines near the Left Bank‘s Place Denfert-Rochereau, in a location that was just outside the city gates before Paris expanded in 1860. Although this cemetery covers only a small section of underground tunnels comprising "les carrières de Paris" ("the quarries of Paris"), Parisians today popularly refer to the entire network as "the catacombs".

    The catacombs are massive. We exited at least 6 blocks from where we entered.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-3

    I found this sign at the entrance quite interesting. Who would steal bones? Turns out lots of people. At the exit the security guard had a stack of bones and skulls that he had confiscated from people. But he doesn’t bother calling the police.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-4

    It is roughly 135 steps down to the catacombs, and then it is through a series of tunnels. My camera instantly fogged up (and kept fogging) because the humidity was very high, with water dripping from the ceilings. The ambiance was quite effective and unsettling.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-6

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-7

    After a myriad of tunnels, you finally arrive at the catacombs. The Quarrymen’s foot bath is where the workers would draw water for personal use. The water was a rather eerie green.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-13

    And then there it is. The bones of 6 million (estimated) Parisians. Initially, the bones were simply thrown into the tunnels but during Napoleon’s time it was ordered that they be arranged. The front bones are in neat piles, with the rest jumbled in behind. It is genuinely creepy (but a must see).

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-14

    Various designs adorn the bone ‘walls’.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-21

    Part way through the catacombs you come upon a sculpture carved into the wall, Port Mahon gallery, carved by Decure, a veteran of the armies of Louis XV. The town of Port Mahon is in Minorca, where Decure was kept prisoner by the English.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-9

    There are few bodies that were actually buried in the Catacombs. Those killed during the massacres of September 1792 were:

    The September Massacres[1] were a wave of mob violence which overtook Paris in late summer 1792, during the French Revolution. By the time it had subsided, half the prison population of Paris had been executed: some 1,200 trapped prisoners, including many women and young boys. Sporadic violence, in particular against the Roman Catholic Church, would continue throughout France for nearly a decade to come.[2]

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-18

    An amazing start to day 2 … and a final bone design to close …. creepy.

    2008 Dec 28 Paris Catacombs_-20


    Over the Christmas break our family elected to spend it in Paris. Our first decision was an easy one, spend time in the airport during the holidays or drive to Paris. We quickly settled on the drive (with a few reservations as it is much longer than our Brugee journey) via the Eurotunnel.

    Again, it was surprisingly easy. Approximately 6 hours door to door with roughly 1 hour waiting on the train (to board). The tunnel itself is an engineering wonder and sitting inside the train with a couple hundred other cars is surprisingly relaxing. Correction, relaxing once I had asked the people in front of us to roll up their windows as I was growing weary of listening to High School Musical 3 blaring from their DVD player.


    Driving into Paris around 4 p.m. (We are not into the whole ‘get on the road early’ thing), we headed directly to our first tourist destination: The Pompidou Center:

    Centre Georges Pompidou (constructed 1971–1977 and known as the Pompidou Centre in English) is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles and the Marais. It was designed in the style of high-tech architecture.

    It houses the Bibliothèque publique d’information, a vast public library, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. Because of its location, the Centre is known locally as Beaubourg. It is named after Georges Pompidou, who was President of France from 1969 to 1974, and was officially opened on 31 January 1977 by the then-French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

    An interesting building, designed with the ‘guts’ of the building on the outside.


    The center is dedicated to a French President who loved the arts, with a library and a few museums. We went straight to the top to catch the sunset from the restaurant Georges. It was a spectacular view of the city which you enjoy from here via their live webcams or here for a 360 degree view..

    The view needed to be great, because the food was average, expensive and the service was VERY poor. It was very clear to me that they picked their staff based on their looks and whether or not they would complement the ‘modern art, trendy location’ ambiance versus aptitude (they would rival the British for bad service). But like I said, we were there for the view:



    Frustrated, but still enthusiastic, we headed down to the very cool Junior Pompidou interactive gallery, filled with interactive light and music displays. The boys particularly enjoyed posing for the light wall.


    It was then off for a quick tour of the modern art museum, which has digitized much of the collection here. Of course, this is where the pragmatic small town boy in me comes out. I see art in many of the pieces, but am really challenged by others.

    For example, I get this piece of art: This is a protest piece. This is an artist who has something to say and is expressing his point of view. Of course, this is why it is not surprise to me that during the same year that he made this piece, he was also busy signing manifestos with his fellow art buddies:

    October 27
    Signs a manifesto with Klein, Raysse, Hains, Tinguely Spoerri and Villeglé, thus founding the “Nouveau Realisme” with the Critic/Art Historian Pierre Restany. New Realism= new perceptive approaches of reality.

    This fellow is deep. Apologies for the picture, no filters on hand. Click the link above for one without reflections.


    Now, here is where I struggle. To me, this piece, in British terms, is ‘taking the piss’. I know, the art elite are in shock. How can I not see it? Have I no vision?

    To me, this artist is laughing all the way to the bank. Seriously, am I the only one? And to make it even funnier, it is a prominent location near the entrance.


    The title of this magnificent piece? Dark Blue Panel by Ellsworth Kelly. When commenting on his style:

    William Rubin noted that “Kelly’s development had been resolutely inner-directed: neither a reaction to Abstract Expressionism nor the outcome of a dialogue with his contemporaries.”[7] Many of his paintings consist of a single (usually bright) color, with some canvases being of irregular shape, sometimes called “shaped canvases.” The quality of line seen in his paintings and in the form of his shaped canvases is very subtle, and implies perfection. This is demonstrated in his piece Block Island Study 1959.

    I love reading art reviews. Said one art critic to the other over a glass of white wine ‘Magnificent. Look at the way he has taken this 12’ by 12’ canvas and only covered it in the darkest black, and only black. Minimalist mastery. It is like I am looking into the tortured soul of the artist. I must have this, it is a bargain at $6,000’.

    To add to the humour of the situation, Ellsworth is an American artist. I wonder when the French will finally realize that this is simply an American getting the last laugh? And not just an American … A New Yorker …

    So ends day one, with a laugh. Thanks Ellsworth.