Saint Malo, Mont St. Michel, Dinan

Eight of us (the Kurlands, Brechers, Papkas and Irene and me, all close friends for many years) decided in advance to use the services of Descouvertes, an Ensemble On Location provider in France to plan a full day excursion to Mont St. Michel and Dinan. Our terrific guide met us at the tender pier at 8:30 and we immediately drove to Mont. St Michel.
Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel

After a gorgeous drive through the Breton countryside, we had a sudden, totally dramatic view of the abbey of Mont St. Michel off the coast. Rising over 500 feet above sea level, Mont St. Michel rests on sand banks, where the daily tidal changes can be as much as 4-6 feet. The visit to the abbey and walking up the steep narrow cobblestone streets was truly a trip highlight. After, we drove to the picturesque town of Dinan, one of the best preserved medieval villages of Brittany. Had a fabulous lunch of Moules et Frites.
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Honfleur

My friend Ben Papka and I decided to tour the Normandy beaches, famous for the June 6, 1944 landing of Allied troops. Irene opted to tour Honfleur and Deauville with friends. The beaches were fascinating. An excellent guide provided just enough detail to put the events of that fateful day in proper perspective.
Arromanches

Arromanches and the pre-fabricated harbor carried across the Channel.

Our first stop was at Arromanches, the site of an amazing engineering feat — an artificial harbor pre-fabricated in England and transported here (600,000 tons of concrete and equipment), enabling the Allies to bring supplies ashore. We visited the Landing Museum before going to the Pointe du Hoc, where a heavily armed German battery was destroyed by American troops in a heroic assault on the first day of the invasion. The troops had to climb steep, forbidding cliffs to get at the German batteries. The view from here also provided a unique perspective of the rugged terrain of Omaha Beach. We then visited Omaha Beach, the scene of the bloodiest battles of that day. We went on to St. Laurent — just behind Omaha Beach — where 10,000 American are buried. This is a very beautiful spot, so peaceful today and so moving.
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Getting there was the hardest part.

Things started on a sour note when our American Airlines flight from JFK to Heathrow was delayed 2 1/2 hours. I was "hosting" a group of 30 and I wanted to board the ship early to handle any issues that might come up as our travelers arrived — but, with the delay, this was not to be.
Marina christening

We were at the Marina's christening 1/2011.

On arrival, I also managed to grab the wrong bag from the carousel (a first in all my years of travel!) and didn’t realize it until I received a phone call from the airlines alerting me. We were only 1/2 hour from Dover when I got the call so we decided to continue to the ship and have my driver return to Heathrow to return the wrong bag. My bag was put on an Oceania bus to be brought to the ship along with some other passengers, and got to me without a hitch. We arrived on the Marina without further delay and met with the concierge, Javier (who was extremely helpful to me and our group for the entire sailing) to go over the Alice Travel cocktail party planned for August 12.
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Paris with Josh

We're having a wonderful time. Great travelmates. The kids are all making friends, our hotels are terrific. It's an interesting mix in that some families here have three generations represented but more have just grandparents/grandchildren. It's a special time and I'm so glad we're doing it. Josh is now “into” exotic and expensive cars, so seeing an Aston Martin and Bugati was a real treat for him.
Josh at Versailles

Josh at Versailles

I think he was very moved at the Deportation Memorial near Notre Dame, marking the Jews departure to concentration camps during World War II. There is not much publicity about this memorial but very worth seeing. The Eiffel Tower, being such a recognizable landmark, was exciting for the kids. We "elevatored" up and walked down the whole way — the trip down was certainly not to Irene's delight! The gardens in Versailles were in full bloom and Josh found them even more exciting than the public room which are always crowded. He was impressed with the Hall of Mirrors. How could you not be? Ah, and he loved the food. Had crepes several times, ice cream almost every day, a most impressive Grand Marnier soufflé, and his first battle with escargots.
Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

We enjoyed our quiet time in various gardens specifically the Tuilleries, Luxembourg, and Versailles. The last night’s cruise on the Seine was a magical ending to a fabulous trip. There is no more beautiful city in the world than Paris, it is truly the City of Lights. I'd move here tomorrow if I could convince Irene to come with me. Au revoir for today. We've only got a little over a week before we leave on Oceania's new Marina for a Western Europe cruise. Speak to you from there!
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London with Josh

Josh with Beefeater

Josh with Beefeater

We're here is London and this is working out really well. Josh enjoyed the London double-decker bus tour, the speedboat ride on the Thames, and the Tower of London — particularly the Royal Armouries at the Tower. As expected, the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel which gives you a great view of the city, was popular with the kids in our group. With all the history, art, and beautiful gardens London has to offer, I was surprised — and somewhat disappointed — to learn that the "eye" is now the city's most popular attraction!
Good Friends at Windsor Castle

Good friends at Windsor Castle

Tauck knows just how to plan a trip with events and sightseeing that appeals to both the children and adults. Josh enjoyed our time in Windsor Castle, where the changing of the guard was even more interesting than at Buckingham Palace — much more intimate, and he got right up close. We had a great afternoon at Covent Garden. What's not to like? The mimes and magicians, the food hall, ice cream and crepes. Irene and I are very pleased that Josh is such a good traveler. He's always ready on time, tolerates all the walking and museums, and has been very enthusiastic.
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Getting Ready for London and Paris

I must say, I'm very excited about taking my grandson Josh on a tour in celebration of his Bar Mitzvah. We knew without a doubt we would travel with Tauck Bridges (Tauck's family trips designed for multigenerations) and, after some consideration, we decided on Castles and Kings touring London and Paris. We're getting ready to leave and don't know quite what to expect. We've never had the opportunity to spend much time alone with Josh so it will be a new experience for us as well as for him.
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