Friday, July 30, 2010
Today was packed with events. We hopped off the ferry and onto a coach bus for our whirlwind tour of Normandy. We picked up our guide and she began to explain the history of the area to us. On our way to Normandy we were able to stop at a local French bakery for Croissants and baguettes and it was an amazing start to our day. Being in Normandy was another pinch me day. The area has such deep meaning to so many people because of the battle fought there and has become idealized and romanticized through the use of Hollywood. Yet being there was not disappointing, it was sobering and gave me a need to just reflect on each place we went no matter how short of a time we were there.
We began our tour at the Port de Hoc Range which was a German battery. Craters are everywhere, from the allied bombs, as well as remnants of the fortifications that were there including concrete, barbed wire, and metal. Walking through the are was frightening and fascinating because this one of our first really battlefield type place we went to, and to see how the war so dramatically changed the landscape of an area was mind blowing. It is so different from battle fields in the states from the civil war which are basically empty fields, but the civil war did not involved the same military technology to create such vast destruction. While I was there I began to understand how much the allied troops had to go through to get past the German fortifications. Then we headed to Omaha Beach which everyone was excited to see and disappointed when we were only given 5 minutes. The beach had two memorials on it that I am assuming were both for D-day. One was actually in the sand and the other one was by the road. I was really excited to go the beach and just see it and maybe receive a little taste of the day over sixty years ago. One of the only things I could think about there was the comment made by someone that with Saving Private Ryan there was one thing wrong with the beach and that in the movie you can see sand. On D-day the sand could not be seen because of the massive amounts of bodies. The sights of Normandy all felt very sacred to me and the beach was not an exception. Next up on the agenda was the American Cemetery. This famous cemetery holds many graves and I believe that the average age of a soldier buried there is early 20s. I could have stayed there all day long and just wandered around and read the grave stones, because for me each gravestone is of a person who has a story and I want to know who they are and what their story was. As with many places the cemetery was also a heavy emotional spot because so many American men gave up their jobs and joined the military, fighting for their country. On our way into the cemetery we spotted three older gentlemen who were veterans of D-day and we were able to take a picture. I wish we had time to talk to the men but alas we needed to move on. With a lot to see and not enough time to really explore, I headed to the small chapel in the middle of the cemetery and then back to the main memorial near the entrance which contains on a monument Operation Overlord. We left the Cemetery after only twenty minutes and headed to see Batteries de Longues which were pill box style German bunkers. These were different because two of the three still had guns that were intact. The previous site and this site were remarkably intact but also looked like no one had really done anything to them after the war and someone asked how all of this was still there. Our guide said that the French were basically tired of war and decided to just leave everything where it was because it was much easier than trying to clear and build something else. Also there is a possibility of an unexploded bomb somewhere in the craters.
Our next stop was the little town of Arromanches where we were able to wander around and have lunch. There was a D-day museum but many of us decided that it was not really worth it because of the other museums we had been to. My group headed down to the military shop that was supposed to have really interesting artifacts from the war. I went in not expecting to find anything spectacular and was going to buy one of the old magazines that the troops would get. However, I decided to ask the owner if He had anything related to women in the military and he said that he did. It turned out to be a WAC officer winter dress hat. The coolest part was that there is a number written on the tag inside that appears to be the ID number of the WAC who wore the hat. I am in the process of finding out who the hat belonged to. Regardless it was the coolest find of the day in my opinion, when he showed it to me I about died I was really excited. It was definitely something that I could not pass up. Arromanches itself was also very important during the D-day invasion and in their harbor the floating docks are still there. The docks were used by the allies in order to transport heavy cargo and machinery to shore so that the larger ship would not get stuck.
We headed back to Caen to drop off our guide and to go to the Caen memorial museum. When we got there a film was about to begin so we headed in and watched a very visual film with very little words about the rise of Hitler and the beginning of the war as well as a section of pictures of France. The film was excellent because it gave a lot of information, was entertaining and people of all languages were able to watch it because there were very few times where anything was spoken. I thought that was a good use of their resources rather than having something for everyone in their own language. After the film we headed towards the exhibit which employed a clever use of a circle space to highlight the entrance into war as well as the change of color from white to black. The exhibit was excellent and I enjoyed the artifacts and informational boards throughout. One of my favorite and most memorable parts of the exhibit was just an artistic element. A brick wall with posters in the upper left hand corner peeling because they have been there for a while and a bike chained to the wall. To me those small parts add great value to an exhibit. They help to establish a sense of place into what you are looking at rather than just have the artifacts strewn all over the pace with random text panels. I was disappointed when I realized I had only gone through about one-third of the exhibit and then it was time to meet up with the group. After spending only a few moments in the exhibit I knew that I wanted to see everything, but there was not enough time for everything.
From the museum we headed to our hotel in Bayeux for the night. We ate dinner and then heard from a gentleman named Jacques who . I was disappointed when I realized I had only gone through about one-third of the exhibit and then it was time to meet up with the group. After spending only a few moments in the exhibit I knew that I wanted to see everything, but there was not enough time for everything.
From the museum we headed to our hotel in Bayeux for the night. We ate dinner and then heard from a gentleman named Jacques who lived in the Bayeux and was six when the Americans liberated the town. Although he did grow up during German occupation he was a very young boy so did not remember much about that, but he told us what he remembered. He remembers small things like the candy from the American soldier and the great dislike his mother had for all Germans. While now he can separate the German people from the Nazis, he mentioned that his parents and many of the older people never could. I think he enjoyed talking to a group of young people who seemed to be genuinely interested in the stories he had to share.
After a lovely nights rest in Bayeux we packed up and set off for Paris, but not without taking a detour to see the most famous piece of fabric in Bayeux, the Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry was made by women in Bayeux after 1066 and depicts the success of William the Conqueror in the area. No one knows exactly who made it or why, but it is one of the most skilled pieces of embroidery I’ve ever seen. I also was impressed at how well something that is almost 1000 years old has been preserved. Apparently the tapestry has been stolen by Napoleon and other Kings since it was created which adds to the impressive nature of the preservation. The museum has an audio guide for the tapestry which explains each scene. I was really grateful for that because I would not have known the story if it was not for the audio guide. I was really glad for this detour into medieval European history and to experience a beautiful piece of art and social history that was not originally on our itinerary.
From the tapestry we boarded out bus and headed for the lovely town of Rouen. The town is famous because it is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. So that is where we went first. The memorial was very simple I thought. A large cross in a little garden, but the actual cross part was several feet high so that the bottom almost looked like a stake to me. The town had built a small chapel as well dedicated to Joan of Arc and there was a small museum about her. We decided not to go in even though it was a good price, because Lauren wanted to get to the Cathedral it was the only thing she wanted to see. Before we went we got lunch at a little shop and practiced our French. Lauren and the owner were very helpful in teaching us how to pronounce what we wanted to order. We made it to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which I found out that all Cathedrals in France are named Notre Dame because they are all dedicated to our lady. The Cathedral was beautiful and very intricate. It is so hard to imagine that the builders did all of that by hand and totally understandable why it would take a couple hundred years to build the Cathedral. The most fascinating part for me was their handling of the damage created by World War II. The church was severely damaged by bombs during the war, they have pictures inside the Cathedral where you can see the damage. I am sure one of the most devastating loses was the stained glass, but instead of replacing the glass they installed white glass. It was almost a memorial to the suffering that World War II had on the everyday life of the people, even the church. The town also took great pains to rebuild after the war. There was an effort after the war to rebuild in the medieval style of architecture and I am glad that they did, because it was their heritage that they were losing if they did not.
From there we headed on to Paris. Everyone says that you will either love Paris or hate Paris that there is no in between. I was worried about being disappointed by Paris and not loving it. However, I can say that I do not hate Paris, but we were not really there long enough for me to love Paris. I was disappointed in the fact that we were not there long enough to really experience Paris, but that is a nother trip for another time. We got into Paris and went to dinner at an adorable French restaurant and had a very French meal. After dinner, we went to the Pantheon in Paris which is located in the Latin Quarter and is the resting place for French royalty and those who have made significant contributions to France. From there we walked to the Metro station to see the Eiffel Tower. The one thing I was looking forward to the most of this trip and it did not disappoint. I was worried about pickpockets on the Metro and at the Eiffel tower, but I never had a problem which was exciting. We got out of the metro and walked straight up at the base of the Eiffel tower. The first thing we encountered were tons of men trying to sell us souvenirs. They were a lot like vultures in a way constantly coming up to us and asking us if we wanted to buy something for a Euro. We successfully avoided them, got our tickets and proceeded to the top. We took the first elevator to the first deck walked around, took some pictures, and then got in line for the next elevator. I am pretty sure that half of our time was spent in line for the elevator. We finally made it to the top and the views of Paris were incredible, I could have spent much more time up there just taking in Paris. However, it was time to leave so we once again stood in line for an elevator. Once we got down to the bottom we headed to the middle of the park that is around the tower to take more pictures. The tower was really beautiful all lit up at night and I can see the romance that Paris is known for. After the tower we went back to our hotel and rested up for our full day in Paris.
I was really excited for our tour of Paris. We picked up out tour guide Katherine who was so knowledgeable about Paris and was just very French to me. We drove around Paris in our bus and saw so many things that I really can not remember them all. The building in Paris were so beautiful and so many survived the war because Paris was never really bombed. As our guide said no one wanted to be the one who destroyed Paris. The tour mainly focused on Napoleon and the French Revolution which I was slightly disappointed about, I wish there had been more of a focus on the World War II history in Paris but the tour was still awesome. We saw the statue of Joan of Arc, the Arc de Triumph, and one of the most famous squares in Paris Place de la Concorde where many died during the French revolution at the blade of the guillotine. One of the most interesting and surprising parts of Paris was the two thousand year old roman bath. I think many of us were shocked to find out how far the roman empire expanded and how their remnants are still around today. We also saw the square where the Ritz hotel is located, where Princess Diana stayed. The square is dedicated to the Sun King, Louis XIV and contains some of the most expensive stores in the area including the first Cartier store. After our tour of Paris we made our way to the Palace of Versailles. I overheard Margaret ask why we chose to go to Versailles since it was a World War II themed trip. But the palace does have connection to our trip because the Treaty of Versailles was signed there which was a reason for World War II starting. The palace was beautiful and I could just picture the opulent furniture and people who lived there during the 18th century. Having Katherine as our tour guide was great because we were able to have a nice detailed tour of the palace, but I do felt that we rushed through the rooms a little bit. The palace has about 2,000 rooms inside and we saw maybe a little over fifty. I wish they had more rooms open to the public including the private apartments of the King and Queen. The public rooms were amazing and I cannot imagine having to do everything in public like they were required to. They not only had to sleep in public, but get dressed, eat, and just about everything else. After our guided tour we were able to explore the apartments of the Dauphin Prince which were very opulent and numerous for such a small person. Then we took some time in the gardens. Because it was raining and we were short on time we did not fully explore the gardens but we did go to the back of the palace and the gardens just went on forever. I cannot imagine the upkeep a garden like that requires, but it was opulent like everything else.
We left Versailles and headed back into Paris where we had some free time before dinner so we went shopping. I bought some cute stuff and we all headed to dinner at a pizza type place. It was a really good dinner and was a welcome rest from the whirlwind of the day. After dinner a group of us headed to the Latin Quarter to hang out. I do not actually think my group made it to the Latin Quarter because we split off from everyone but we had a fun time. We kind of lost our bearings on the way back to the Metro but everything was fine and we made it back to the hotel safely. One thing I regret about Paris is that I felt that I did not get to truly experience Paris in the way I would have liked, but EF trips are about tastes of places so you know what you would like to go back to. Paris is one of those places for me and I fully intend to go back in the near future to truly experience Paris.
We left Paris and traveled most of the day but for me this was one of the most impactful days of the trip. We paid a surprise visit (for us anyway) to Mumm’s Champagne House. Apparently the Champagne region of France is the only place that what we call champagne can be made and actually called champagne. Everyone else that makes it, even if they use the same technique cannot call it champagne. Making champagne is a very intensive process and they take great care to ensure that the champagne is the same quality that they have produced for decades. They also have kept a lot of the historical equipment throughout the years which I thought was really cool. After the fun detour from our history emphasis we headed to a World War I battle site of Verdun. The site was of the longest and bloodies battle of World War I. We got to the area and stopped at spot that was covered in craters and the remains of trenches. I did not realize until later that the site we were at was a town, and the street names were actual streets. There were little plaques where houses once stood and several memorials including a chapel that had been built. It really hit me as I walked around by myself that the area was a battlefield and that mend died and were probably still buried beneath my feet. In the quiet eerie stillness I could almost picture the battle. World War I really changed the landscape and geography of Europe. In the whole area where the battle took place there had been nine villages, but they were all destroyed in a matter of weeks. Also the land is now basically useless and nothing can be built on it because no one knows if there is an unexploded bomb in the area. Yet I do not think the area should be rebuilt, to much happened for anything but a memorial to be on the property. Standing there on the bath with craters all around me I realized that is why I came on the trip. To stand in these places and get a glimpse of what it was like for the men who fought these battles we learn about in our history classes. I also was able to see why there was so much appeasement for Hitler prior to World War II. I could see the devastation that Europe wanted to avoid again.
We left the area and made our way to the Fort de Douaumont which was built in the 1880s and continually reinforced through the early 1900s. The fort was used by the French and the Germans. In the early part of the Battle of Verdun the Germans had a hold of it in 1916. But the fort was continually bombed and the French later recaptured it after heavy losses for both sides. Craters were everywhere and so was the rubble. There were several holes blown into the fort including one in the roof. The fort was built into a hill which I am sure helped to conceal it somewhat as well as make it harder to capture on foot. Unfortunately we did not have a lot of time there, but if we had more I would have paid the small fee to go inside and explore the fort. This area was the first battle area I have ever been to that looked like it had been through war. All of the battlefields in the United States are basically big open fields with little evidence people died there, but that is mainly due to the technological advances. The destructive evidence of war was clearly seen.
Our last stop at Verdun was the cemetery and Douaumont Ossary. It was a cemetery of the French soldiers with a memorial to the unknown. There was also a memorial to the Muslim troops mainly from Algeria and other French influenced countries that fought for France. The memorial has a very Moroccan architecture and I think it was really cool that the memorial was there. We often do not think of people of other faiths fighting in wars except for the difference between Christianity and Judaism. They were also buried in an area separate from the other troops. There was a fence around their graves and a sign in French that basically said that it was against their religion for people to walk on their graves. I thought it was great that they were not left out of the commemoration to all the people who fought and died in the battle. The building on the site was a tower and held memorials to the unknown soldiers that were found. I walked around to the back side of the building and saw windows near the sidewalk. I looked in them and there were piles of bones which shocked me to no end. I still do not know why they left them exposed like that, it almost seemed irreverent in a way. My only conclusion was that maybe they were the bones of the unknown soldiers that were memorialized inside the building. I walked through the French graves looking at the names and half way searching for anyone with my last name. I did not see anyone but I enjoyed looking through the graves and just seeing the names. One interesting thing about the cemetery was that the general was at the head of all of the graves, separated from everyone else which is a sign of the general’s ranking and importance in the group of soldiers. The cemetery was a peaceful place and holds over 15,000 french soldiers who fought in World War I. Cemeteries are always impactful for me because of the history of the people buried there and the untold stories represented only by a name. The whole day in Verdun was just really impactful for me and was one of the best days of the trip.
We headed to our hotel and passed by two very interesting sites on the way there. The first was a German cemetery, which was very different from the other cemeteries we had visited. The graves were marked by black slate crosses and there were not any memorials in the area that emphasized it was a German cemetery. We found out that this is typical for all German cemeteries and I can see why they would be understated in France because of the negative connotations. Then as we were driving through the countryside we spotted a bunker in the middle of no where. The funny part about it was that it was being used as a stable. I thought it was interesting how the people have turned the various things left by the war into something useful for them today. We stayed at our hotel in the middle of nowhere, France but had a wonderful time. It was defiantly a night that I do not think anyone will ever forget. We all had a lot of fun hanging out and Margaret taught us a hilarious game called Ibble Dibble that I am sure will be a new St. Augustine staple.
Friday, July 16, 2010
The beginning of the whirlwind trip through Europe
The first day of the trip and it was incredibly eventful. There were many headaches and difficult situations to contend with not to mention many exhausted and sweaty college students. But our first day in London, England was amazing despite everything. The day was started late by my groups late arrival from the states but we hopped on our bus and headed towards our hotel. We were able to drive through the center of London and received a mini tour from our tour director Margaret. It was really great because I know that it helped me to get my barrings for the city a little bit. I fell in love with the architecture that is in London, the buildings just have so much character and I really loved the ones with the glass domed ceiling that artists mainly live in. To me that is an interesting history of the building and the city, it is some of the things I like to know about the place After we dropped off our luggage and our bus we gathered everyone back together and took the DLR line to the center of London. This was my first experience really using a subway type station in a completely foreign city so I was slightly nervous but everything worked out wonderfully. We went straight to Hyde Park and had the choice of lunch or going to the Palace. My group opted for lunch first and then we walked through the park to Buckingham Palace. We took the obligatory pictures and then just kind of stood around for a few minutes and took in the area. I think this is when I kind of realized that I was in a foreign city, but at the same time the fact that everyone was speaking English fooled me into thinking I was still in the states a little bit. After that we headed off towards the Imperial War Museum. I was really excited to see my first museum of the trip as that is what I would like to do for my future career. Margaret left us to go on our own and we got a little lost on the way I think. But we finally made it to the museum and I was surprised to see that there was a section of the Berlin Wall at the museum. It made sense for it to be there because the museum was about war and WWII and the wall was a result of the was. I was surprised but I also felt that it was appropriate to have it there for the above reasons. The museum itself was well done and had interesting exhibits. Margaret recommended that we go see the Holocaust exhibit, the trench experience, and the blitz experience. I loved the holocaust exhibit, as strange as that sounds. As someone who has been to the huge museum in Washington D.C. I was expecting the same thing, but the museum really took the time to make it different. While the timeline is the same, the IWM I think took a slightly different spin on it. They focused more on the persecution of the Jews before the expulsion to the camps. They also seemed to focus more on the lives in Europe and on several individuals, making it seem more personal than the vastness of the D.C. museum. I liked the trench experience, even though I knew that it was fake and it looked fake, I really felt like I had some sense of what it was like to just be in the trench. They even had a strange smell that to me added to the realness of the experience. I did not like the Blitz experience at all. They first have you walk into a shelter type room and you sit there in the dark while bombs drop around you. That part was fine and I thought it was a good representation. Then the (insert name of the warden type person) comes and ushers you out to the “street” but the street is dark and there isn’t really anything to look at and no one knows where to go or what to really look at. There was also nothing to point towards the exit which made the whole thing even more confusing. I think it is a good concept, but was poorly executed. The museum also had a wonderful exhibit about the children and their experience during war time. That was probably my favorite exhibit and it was very well done. I wish I had been able to go into the ministry of food exhibit but they charged to go onto it and I did not want to pay the money. I thought that was interesting that for certain exhibits they required an admission charge. I never would have thought of that and I wonder if it is common in many large museums in larger cities. I have heard of charging to see a museum but not just one exhibit. Overall, I enjoyed the visit of the Imperial War Museum and was able to get some really great propaganda post cards.
We then headed to Covent Gardens and Piccadilly Circus to shop and waste some time. It was really fun to explore a little bit of London in the short time that we had, after that we headed to dinner and then back our hotel. I think all of us were glad to have the day over with. It was an incredibly tiring day coming off a full day of travel. We all slept really good that night and needed our rest for the even fuller day for the next day.
Another full and crazy day in London. Our tour guide Stuart met us at our hotel with a bus and driver. Stuart was probably my favorite tour guide of the trip nto only was he knowledgable but he had a wonderful sense of humor. We began our bus tour of London near our hotel in the docksides and east end of london. I knew that the East End of London had been brutally damaged by the Blitz of 1940 but did not realize it until I was in the area and Stuart pointed out all of the new construction in the area. The old dock area has now been turned into fancy apartments, but some of the buildings did surrvive the war. The first place we went and got out of the bus was a park with a memorial ot those who died in London during the Blitz. It was kind of sad because the memorial itself is not well taken care of and had grafity all over it. But I personally loved it, it is a black block with a dove carved out of the middle of it. I loved the simplicity of the memorial. Reading about the Blitz and London during 1940 in particular helped me to really appreciate all that the people went through during the endless months of bombing. Being in that park really brought alive for me a little bit of the war and was one of my first aweing moments of the trip.
We continued our tour of London and went to St. Pauls Cathedral where there is also a memorial to the firefighters who worked tirelessly throughout the blitz so that the city would not burn down completely. St. Paul’s was an important symbol to Londoners during the Blitz and Churchill specifically said that St. Paul’s must be preserved. So Stuart told us about the insanity that occurred to keep St. Paul’s standing. Volunteers would be all around the Cathedral even up on the roof and if an incindery bomb landed on the Cathedral they would take sand and water and run up and extinguish it as quickly as possible. Every day with St. Paul’s was still standing and the dome was visable served as a morale booster for the Londoners. We drove all over London and talked about the Battle of Britian and the role that many buildisn played during that time. We talked about Parliament and how they alternated meetingplaces during the war. Londeners were never broken but they took many precautions including evacuating many of their children to the country. The Royal family and paritucaly the Queen and children were highly encouraged and many plans made to evacuate them out of London. Yet the Queen refused to leave her husband as well as London and the princesses also got involved in volunteer work. This was important because it also helped to boost morale because they Royal family were equally involved in the war effort. We ended our tour with Stuart at the Battle of Britian memorial which was a tribute to the Royal Air Force and it was awesome that they honored the pilots.
After our tour with Stuart, we went to the Churchill War Rooms. I was indifferent to them when we got there but I really enjoyed the museum it was one of my favorites. It was continually emphasized that after the war everyone just left the room and did not go back in for many years. The museum was opened in the 1980s and they did an excellent job of preserving the rooms how they were and it really is like stepping back in time. I did hear a comment that someone wished that it was more a living history rather than the mannequins perhaps. But I felt that with the audio guide and the mannequins it was more of a stepping back in time. I feel that if it was more of a living history it would lose some of its timelessness I loved the audio guide. I did not listen to every single thing, but for that museum it was better to have an audio guide rather than text to read for several reasons. First, putting up text panels everywhere would take away from the authentic feeling of the War Rooms, and secondly it would slow down the visitors and create congestion in very narrow areas. I did not get to visit the Churchill Museum inside the war rooms, but I was impressed with the store because they had a lot of unique information that I had not seen yet. For instance, I was able to acquire many propaganda poster post cards for a decent price that were not available anywhere else. Everything they had there related to the war and the time period.
Then I went to Westminster Abbey with Dr. Butler, Maggie, and Nicole. The abbey was beautiful and there was so much to see. Thousands of Kings, Queens, and other people connected with the royal family are buried or honored in the Abbey. It was fascinating to experience this famous church and to see everything that was in one of the most famous and historical buildings in London. One thing I thought was odd was that Elizabeth I and her sister Mary were buried together. Even though the reasoning was that as sisters they would be reunited in the after life. I can not help but think that if they really knew how they were resting in death that they would be very upset because they hated each other that much. The Abbey also had audio guides which helped so much with understanding who was buried where and what graves and rooms were. The guides also allowed me the opportunity to really look and examine what I was looking at rather than reading text and then looking at the graves. I was disappointed that the Coronation was not there, the sign said that it was being restored, but it would have been amazing to see the chair that the current Queen sat in during her coronation. The Abbey was also damaged during the Blitz and although they repaired it back to its original state, they did leave one small part with just glass in it to show where some of the damage was located in the back chapel. Through the (idk what it’s called) there was a small museum with various artifacts relating to English Royalty. The museum contained many wax figures that apparently were used funeral and my personal favorite was the coronoation chair used by Mary of William and Mary. The chair had been gratified all over by boys who were part of the Westminster Abby Boys choir in the 1800s. There were also other artifacts that contained similar graffiti. I though it was funny how the view of these objects were so different back then especially with the young boys who I am sure did not care about the historical significance of the object and wanted to leave their mark. Yet it also gives the object a sort of charm and greater historical value rather than pristine economic value. Another strange part of the Abbey to me, was the burial of Charles Darwin inside. For the man who came up with the theory of evolution, which denies that God had any part in creation of the world, to be buried in a church was just strange.
After the Abbey we went to Piccadilly Ciricus to meet up for dinner. After an interesting Indian meal, some of us headed to the Jack the Ripper tour with our tour guide Stuart. We began at the Tower of London and walked through the east side of London where the murders took place. One of the most interesting places we went to on the tour was a former religious mission that had a separate entrance for men and women. I did not really know anything about Jack the Ripper before the tour and I really loved the approach that Stuart took with it. He gave us the facts and the theories, letting us really make up our own minds about what happened. As a history major, I appreciated not having a crazy embellished story told during the tour. We also got a sense of Nineteenth century London with some of the narrow streets we went through. The tour was one of my favorite parts of our time in London.
D-day. We woke up, loaded up, and headed to Portsmouth. After a several hour drive we arrived and dropped off our luggage at the ferry. We went to the D-day museum and saw the World War II tapestry which is called the modern day Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry was really amazing and detailed. It traced from about 1940 to 1944 and was full of the major events of the war. I looked through the tapestry and then it was time for the presentation of the Secrecy of the Preparations for Dday and how they kept it secret. The talk had interesting information that I did not know, such as the allied forces used clever camofalughe paint as well as wood and rubber decoys and misleading messages. All of these tactics were employed and the speaker gave good information, but he reminded me of a British Mr. Tingley which totally distracted me from the presentation. I wish I had instead talked with the veterans that were there, especially after I found out that there was a British Army Nurse who was there. That would be my biggest regret of the trip, not talking to the Veterans. After the talk we sped through the exhibit that the museum had set up. It was a pretty good exhibit, and even though some parts were better than others, the overall effect was awesome. I thought it was really cool to come out of the exhibit and see many of the vehicles used in the D-day invasion. The most poigniont for me was the transportation boat that was used for the soildiers in the Channel. I was standing inside and got the amazing sense of the conditions and what they were feeling as thousands of young men headed to the beaches of Normandy. I got to see the cramped quarters they piled dozens of men into for a very wet journey that day.
Unfortunatly for me the group I was with rushed out of the museum and wanted to head to lunch, but there were still many sights to see. We wandered around Portsmouth and just took in the scenic town while take our time heading to the Spinnaker Tower. We stopped inside a very small church that had the roof bombed off during World War II. It was really small and pretty with just a few volunteers inside. The part that was left intact was the alter and where the choir sat. The stained glass was interesting because it showed many of the important Kings and a Queen ofEngland. After we left the church we found a statue that was dedicated to those who decided to leave England in search of a better life in the United States. I was not expecting to find something like that in the middle of this small town, but I believe Portsmouth was one of the main ports for those leaving to the United States so it does make sense. The statue was of a family packed and waiting for the ship and was set in an area that I believe used to be the port from which they would depart. There were also other interesting areas of the town that I saw from a distance but was not able to investigate further because of time constraints. I was surprised by how much there was to do in such a small little town. From the historic dockyards, to the boardwalk area, and the various historical monuments and buildings, Portsmouth was definitely one of my favorite places of the trip. I am really glad that we were able to add it to our itinerary and spend time there.
We boarded our ferry that night and began our journey to Normandy, France. The ride over was much shorter than I and most others anticipated, and for many of us it was a short night.