I wrote this post in October, 2009, the first entry on my fledgling blogging site, Sentimental Journeys, and it seems amazing now that I was planning my first trip to France. Since then, we have been to France twice, and I long to visit again soon.
Because this post is mostly about my father, and yesterday would have been his 93rd birthday, it seems appropriate to bring it back into the light on Throwback Thursday.
Dad, we hope you are dancing and singing and gardening and cooking happily in heaven.
It seems strange that I am planning my next vacation before I finish cataloging the digital photos from the last one, but maybe it’s not really strange at all. Isn’t that what travelers do? I don’t think I’m much different than anyone else who loves to travel. I read magazines and books and watch movies and see intriguing locations in which I want to be more than an armchair traveler. So, here is my journey. I’m going to write it down for the world to see. Maybe someone wants to connect with me, maybe not, although I’m hopeful that people will comment and recommend special places. Mostly, I just want to write about my thoughts, plans, and dreams.
In looking back, I know I started planning this trip several years ago after my friends came back from visiting France. A military family, they were figuratively blown away by the experience of visiting the Normandy beaches and the cemeteries. Then, my father died in the spring of 2009. He was a WWII veteran who was drafted in 1943, became a mechanic, and followed the Normandy first wave into France. He never got to go back to Normandy, and I’m not really sure if he wanted to. He hated how WWII was shown on television and movies and never really came to grips with the fact that many human beings learn how to deal with grief and pain by using humor to leaven the memories. When my brothers and I tried to watch Hogan’s Heroes, Dad always said, “That’s not really how it was.” We children were supposed to take his war and all wars seriously and understand the toll that war takes on individual soldiers as well as nations. He was proud of his military service and appreciated that he got to see places in Europe as a young man that he would never have had the opportunity of seeing, and he also valued the benefit of the GI Bill that allowed him to go to college when he came out of the Army. So, when the opportunity came to plan a trip to France, I knew that I wanted to honor Dad’s memory by going to Normandy.
As I started to look at my options, I began reading about trips to Normandy that included visits to the beaches. Many of the reviewers commented about having WWII veterans on their tours, and I realized that shortly, there won’t be anyone traveling who was actually there. Honoring my father’s memory became easier; we were going on a tour that was likely to include WWII veterans. That’s why I decided to choose a Seine river cruise from Paris to Normandy and back.
I asked my dear friend Nadya, who is a travel agent, to recommend a cruise line. As with so many other elements of traveling, she has experience with the cruise lines and was quick to sort through our options. We decided to spend four days in Paris on our own prior to sailing, and then another extra day at the end of the cruise. That way, we have some group time and some individual time to tour.
Now that you know my story, here is the road map for this journey. As I read books and view movies to prep myself for the trip, I’ll comment on them and review them for you. In between, I’m sure you’ll find more of my homegrown philosophy and some more about my wonderful family and friends. Bon voyage!
Update: If you click into the Travel Diary tab and choose France, you will get more stories about my love of this beautiful and inspiring country. Our Paris to Normandy trip in 2010 was on Viking River Cruises and we followed that up with a Provence trip in 2013 and an Eastern Europe trip in 2015. Viking provides a solid, dependable vacation and we recommend them as a good place for sampler trips to destinations.