to France 2009
01/09/2014 09:14:35 AM
When Loraine and I went to Europe in 2008, we brought a
laptop along with us, and I used it to write blogs and
post pictures every day, talking about who we met, what
we saw, and all the things we experienced while
traveling through 7 different countries. We heard all
kinds of nice comments from people who said reading the
blogs was like joining us on a “trip of a lifetime”.
When we went back across the Atlantic in 2009, we knew
things were going to be different. Instead of 7
different countries, we stayed in one place for the
trip. And instead of having a tour guide show us
around, we rented a car and drove ourselves. But the
one thing we KNEW we wanted to do the same was to bring
our laptop along, and write blogs and post pictures,
just like we did in 2008.
So what follows are the blogs I wrote before, during,
and after the trip, with all of the pictures as
originally posted. I’ve also thrown in a few extra
pictures to better illustrate what I’m talking about,
and have also added a few extra comments to clarify what
happened or to update things I mentioned in the original
As with the blogs we put together in 2008, we hope you
enjoy the tale of our 11 days in France in September,
2009. If you have any questions or comments, just drop
me a note--
And one month from today, I leave for France.
That means I’ve entered a very strange phase in my life,
one that we’ll call “The Safe Zone”. According to
Loraine, I can not do anything that would cause an
injury that would not heal in the next month. Get a
paper cut on my finger? That’s okay. Go riding
no-handed on my bike, not see a rock on the bike path,
fall over, and break my arm?
I mean, I always try to be careful, no matter what I do.
I’ve not been in any serious accidents in my life, I’ve
never broken a bone; heck, I’ve never even spent a night
in the hospital. So it’s not like I go out and court
danger. But I do do physical things that could, under
the right circumstances, turn dangerous--I ride my bike
(yes, sometimes, no-handed), I hop over rocks on a
breakwater, and I try to walk across streets in downtown
Marquette, a place where drivers don’t seem to pay
attention to pedestrians.
All it would take is one bad move from any of those
activities, and I’d end up in traction when I should be
driving around Normandy.
Now, I’m not gonna stop doing what I do. I mean, it’s
summer (or, at least, what passes for summer in 2009).
I’m not gonna not ride my bike, and I’m certainly not
gonna not walk across the street (especially when I have
the light AND the right-of-way). I’ll just take extra
care with what I do. I may not ride my bike no-handed
(even if you get more of a workout when you do). I’ll
look both ways--two or three extra times--when I’m
crossing the street.
And, who knows, maybe I’ll avoid sharp knives and
In the next 31 days, I’m sure I’ll be writing more about
what we’re doing to get ready for this trip. After all,
it’ll be a little different than the other trips we’ve
taken over there, seeing as how we’re spending the
entire time in one place, as opposed to being in 7
different countries in 10 days. So the fact that we’ll
have a “home” for the entire time means that you pack a
little differently and you plan a little differently.
Oh, and you only have to brush up on one language, as
opposed to three or four.
So wish me luck, and keep reminding me--pay attention to
everything I do, everywhere I go, and every breath I
And just two weeks to go before I leave for France!
One of the things that I’ve been doing to get ready for
this trip is going through everything I have left over
from last year’s trip. I still have unopened sunscreen
that hasn’t expired, a toothbrush that’s never been
used, and a book I bought but never read, all ready to
make the return voyage across the Atlantic.
I also have over 18 Euros in coins.
Like most people on vacation, I don’t always use all of
my change. You know what it’s like; anywhere you go
someplace out of the ordinary, you’re always buying
stuff, and getting change back in return. A lot of that
change gets stuck in pockets or in backpacks, and it’s
not until you get home that you realize that you’ve
accumulated quite the collection. In my case, it’s 18
Euros worth of a collection.
Now, that’s not chump change; my collection’s worth over
25 dollars US. And a vast majority of that change is
either in 1 or 2 Euro coins (they don’t have a paper
equivalent to our dollar bill) and, for some strange
reason, a TON of 20 cent pieces.
I have NO idea why I have so many of those 20 cent
pieces. I really don’t.
Never fear, though. I do have a use for the 18 Euros in
coins I found in my backpack, As you may remember,
we’re flying into Paris and renting a car to drive to
Bayeux, where we’ll be staying for our trip. To get
from Paris to Bayeux is a 3 hour drive, a 3 hour drive
on one of the best maintained roads in the world. And
why is it one of the best maintained roads in the world?
Because you have to pay tolls every 40 or 50 kilometers.
The French road system is actually two-tiered; all major
routes are actually two sets of roads, running roughly
parallel to each other. One of the routes is highway
that runs through towns and makes a lot of stops. The
other is a pristine freeway with few exits. It costs
nothing to drive along the highway that runs through
towns and makes a lot of stops. You do, however, have
to pay to drive along the pristine freeway with few
In fact, to get from Paris to Caen on the freeway (Caen
being where the freeway actually ends; you then take a
pretty nice 4-lane highway to Bayeux) will run you
around 20 Euros. And how much did I say I found in
change from my last trip?
18 Euros. So it seems, at least to me, that I have a
use for all that change!
The Via Michelin
website actually tells you how much each toll is at each
toll station along the road; that way, I can have the
exact change ready when we go through the stations, and
not have to worry about accumulating even more change.
I’m just hoping I don’t get a lot of strange looks when
I hand over 4 or 5 Euros in 20 cent pieces. I mean,
that must happen all the time, right?
And no, I’m not worrying about how I’m gonna pay the
tolls on the way back. After all, I’ll have 8 days
during which to accumulate even more change. Heck, I
might even accumulate another 20 Euros or so, and then
I’ll be all set.
See? When you go to Europe, it pays to think ahead,
One week from today I’m going to France, and there are
two questions that, I’m sure are burning a whole in your
Have I learned enough French, and will I ever get my box
First things first--no, I probably have not learned
enough French yet. I mean, I’m pretty sure I have
enough words stuck in my brain so that I can read road
signs and newspapers. I’m confident of my abilities in
that regard. But what I’m not confident in is my
ability to carry on a conversation with someone who
speaks French above, say, the level of a 5-year old.
But I’m not surprised about that.
There are good things and bad things about trying to
teach yourself French out of books and computer
programs. You get to learn at your own pace and when
you have the time (which, with a schedule like mine, is
a great thing), and you can always go back and go over
things again and again until you think you know that.
It’s a great way to learn how to read French, which,
like I said, I think I can do pretty well.
The bad thing about teaching yourself French out of
books and computer programs is that you get little to no
experience actually speaking French to someone else who
speaks French, someone like a tutor or a French 4-year
old. You don’t get the experience of having someone say
something to you, you having to process it, and you then
having to figure out what to say back. And that is
something entirely different than reading French.
So it seems I’m good at one thing, and bad at another.
Will it be enough to get us through France? We’ll see,
but I’m hopeful. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered
in my travels through Europe it’s that if you at least
make an effort to speak in someone’s native tongue,
they’ll make the effort to meet you halfway in your
After all, many Europeans seem to enjoy showing off the
fact that they know English!
The answer to the second question? Yes, I’m going to
get my cereal.
Now, for those of you who don’t remember what happened
last year, here’s the story--there’s a cereal that you
can get in a French grocery store that’s an amazing
piece of work. It’s a chocolate cereal with chocolate
cream in the middle, a cereal that not only melts
chocolate all over your mouth but turns the milk in your
cereal bowl into chocolate nirvana.
By the way, did I mention the cereal’s chocolate?
Anyway, I was supposed to get a box of it last year
during our 4-hour stop in France. In fact, it was one
of the two reasons we were making a 4-hour stop in
France. Unfortunately, at least for the purposes of the
chocolate cereal, that whole “Loraine & Jim Get Honored
By A French Village” thing popped up, and the search for
the cereal went by the wayside.
Oh well. It was a sacrifice I was happy to make.
This time around, though, I won’t have to sacrifice at
all. Not only are we spending 8 days in a city with a
grocery store that sells the cereal, but we’re also
going to be visiting SEVEN other towns that have grocery
stores that also sell the cereal.
I’m now thinking that my only problem might be buying
too MUCH of the cereal to bring home with me.
Oh, the problems you face when traveling, huh?
Anyway, we’ll deal with that problem when it pops up.
And if that’s the only problem we run into while we’re
over there, it’ll be a great vacation. Actually, I’m
sure it’ll be a great vacation no matter what, no matter
how much I mangle my French or how many boxes of cereal
I find myself buying.
And it all starts a week from today!!
Do you guys recall last year, when Loraine & I went to a
small French village and had this ceremony where the
whole town turned out to honor us just because,
apparently, we were American and we wanted to visit
their town memorial? If you remember, it all started
because Loraine got in touch with someone, who got in
touch with someone else, and it grew from there.
Well, don’t look now, but it might be happening again
this upcoming Sunday.
One of the first official things we’re doing when we get
to France at the end of the week is meeting a very nice
guy by the name of Jean-Paul in the little French
village of St. Georges-de-Bohon. It was there that a
guy from Marquette named Ludvic Steinberger was killed
in the days following the invasion of Normandy.
Jean-Paul has helped Loraine find out information about
the area, and we thought it would be nice to say “hey”
to him in person.
That was a couple of months ago. Since then, Jean-Paul
has graciously offered to spend an entire day showing us
around the area, including the town memorial honoring
people like Marquette’s Ludvic Steinberger. And even
though we’re anxious to explore the area on our own, we
figured a day like that would be something we couldn’t
turn down. So we said sure to that, as well.
Then Jean-Paul got in touch with the mayor of St.
Georges-de-Bohon, to whom, it turns out, he wants to
introduce us. Having had that certain little experience
with a small French town last year, I then can’t say we
were surprised when the mayor sent this e-mail to
“Nous sommes prêt à vous recevoir le Dimanche 06
SEPTEMBRE à 10h30 à la Mairie de St
GEORGES de BOHON.
Une cérémonie toute simple; j'ai invité le conseil et
les représentants des anciens combattants ; les
Présidents d'association communale;et la presse”
Loosely translated, the note from the mayor of St.
Georges-de-Bohon says that he’ll be glad to meet us at
the town’s church on Sunday at 1030. And afterwards,
the ceremony will be simple; he’s invited the town
council, all the town’s old veterans, the President of
the town’s memorial association, and the press.
The ceremony? The town council? The press? For us?
It’s happening all over again!!!!!
I keep joking to Loraine that I have no idea how she
gets us into this stuff; she doesn’t know either, if
that’s any consolation. So we fly to France Thursday,
sleep Friday, drive to Bayeux Saturday, and then go to
St. Georges-de-Bohon--for whatever--on Sunday.
And that’s just the first few days of the trip. I can
just imagine what it’ll be like when it’s all over.
Just three days until we go to France!
Over the past week or so, both Loraine and I have had
scads of people come up to us and ask if we’re gonna
blog again about whatever mischief we get into over
there. It seems like a ton of people followed along
with us last year, and are curious as to if we’re doing
it again this year.
Well, of course we are!
I’m hoping to send stuff back here every day, and when I
say “stuff” I mean both blogs and pictures. We’re also
thinking of posting little updates on
unlike the blogs & pictures, I can do that from my
phone, providing, if we
want, real-time updates.
And yes, we DO realize we’re going on “vacation”, but
what’s the point of going a quarter of the way around
the planet if we can’t share it with you guys, right?
Yesterday, I mentioned about the little “ceremony” in
St. Georges de Bohon that seems to be growing by the
minute. What else do we have planned? Well, that’s one
of the interesting things about this trip. . .because
we’re staying in one place this time, and not traveling
day by day from city to city, we have a lot of things we
want to do, but don’t necessarily know WHEN we’re gonna
do them. A couple of things we hope to do depend upon
the weather; a couple of other things depend upon us
doing other things first. So we don’t necessarily have
a “set-set” itinerary; we just know what we need to do
before we leave.
I think I’ve shared this picture with you before—
It’s a picture I took 5 years ago (5 years ago?) during
our first stop in the French town of Bayeux, which will
be our home base this time around. It has about half
the people of Marquette (making it, I guess, about the
size of Escanaba) and was one of the few towns in
Normandy spared any major warfare (in fact, the British
liberated it on June 7th, 1944). Because it was spared
major action in World War II, the entire town kinda
looks the way it’s looked for centuries, up to and
including a MASSIVE cathedral that they started building
in the 1040s.
That, by the way, was NOT a typo. They started building
the cathedral in Bayeux almost 1,000 years ago. Oh, and
they finished it 600 years ago.
Digging around my laptop, I found a picture I took of
the cathedral in 2006. This picture, by the way, was
taken from almost a mile away. Did I mention that the
1,000 year old cathedral is also HUGE?
Just think—we’ll have 10 days of looking at architecture
like all around France. Kind of almost makes Loraine’s
war research and my choco-holisism seem secondary,
Notice, by the way, I said “almost”.
And in just 48 hours, I’ll be driving in a foreign
When we first decided to do this trip on our own, with
no tour guide/driver, I have to admit that I was a
little. . .nervous about the whole thing. After all, I
barely drive here in the U.S., and the thought of having
to maneuver through a country where I barely read the
language was, well, daunting.
But I think I’m okay with it now. In fact, I have a
feeling that by the time we’re done with the whole
thing, I may consider chauffeuring people around France
as a new, lucrative career!
As with many things in life, it’s the uncertainty of the
unknown that probably led to the “daunting” feeling I
had a while back. After all, like I said, I’ve never
driven in a foreign country before. But I’m sure that
once I’m behind the wheel, and can navigate out of
Charles de Gaulle Airport to our hotel in a nearby
village (probably the most troublesome drive of our
whole vacation) I’ll be fine.
Heck, I’ll be more than fine. Like I said, I’ll be
ready to consider it as a second career!
I’m actually quite looking forward to cruising around
Normandy for the week that we’re there. Driving around
that section of France is much like driving around some
of the roads of Marquette County; you have a main
thoroughfare heading through the region, and all kinds
of little back roads here and there that wind through
small towns & villages. In many ways, many of the roads
we’ll be driving on remind me of driving from Marquette
to Big Bay on 550, or from Negaunee to Gwinn on M-35.
Minus the iron mines, of course.
And, to be honest, driving on those little French roads
will be actually be easier (and nicer) than driving on
some of the same types of routes here. Like I wrote a
couple of weeks ago, the French pay almost 8 bucks for a
gallon of gas, but that 8 bucks buys them some of the
nicest roads in the world, even between little towns in
the middle of nowhere. They know how to build roads
over there, and they know how to take care of them, as
Not only that, but the roads over in France are
incredibly well marked. Every time you go through a
roundabout or an intersection, you have signs telling
you not only which towns are coming up next, but also
pointing you in the direction you need to drive to get
It’s almost like having GPS, but without the little box.
Or the satellites.
So we won’t need to worry about getting lost. Aside
from the detailed road signs, I was given a very
detailed map book of the region last Christmas (thanks,
Mom & Dad!) and we’ll also have a compass with us so
that, when we’re out in the middle of nowhere, and
Loraine’s trying to find the exact road we need to be
on, we’re set. Besides, there are so many little towns
set so close to each other there that all anyone needs
to do is drive a kilometer or two, and you’re in the
So by the time we have to turn the rental car back in a
week from Saturday, I’m sure I’ll be an expert at
driving in France. In fact, I’m sure that after we
return, I’ll have a moment of complete disorientation
the next time I jump into my car to drive somewhere
here, if only because the road signs won’t be in French,
the speedometer won’t be in kilometers, and I’ll be back
to dodging potholes and cracked pavement again.
And as you read this, I am probably in Chicago, en route
That’s right; unless something horrid and/or
earth-shattering happened, we left Marquette right
before 10 this morning, arriving in the Windy City also
right before 10 this morning (ah, the magic of crossing
a time zone). Since our flight to Paris doesn’t leave
until 5 or so this afternoon, we get to do one of our
favorite things in the world—
We get to play in downtown Chicago!
After flying into O’Hare, we grab our carry-ons
(backpacks and my laptop case) and jump on the Blue Line
train into downtown, where we kill several hours eating
pizza at Le Appetito, grabbing cornbread and cookies at
Whole Foods, and paying one last visit to the giant
Borders bookstore on Michigan Avenue before it closes
for good in a month or so. We then hop BACK on the Blue
Line in mid-afternoon, go back out to O’Hare, go through
security again (oh, what a joy) and then board American
flight 42 to Paris, which leaves at 530 and arrives just
outside of the City of Lights at 840 tomorrow morning
(ah, the magic of crossing SIX time zones!).
After we get to Paris, we grab our rental car, where I
hope I don’t hit anything, and we drive a whole 3
kilometers into the small town of Roissy, where a hotel
awaits for a short nap. When we wake up, we walk into
the town, marvel at the “French-ness” of things, buy
some food, eat a picnic in a very nice park they have
there, and then grab some more shuteye before waking up
Saturday morning and driving to our home for the next
The reason I’m telling you all this now is that, based
on past experience, there won’t be a blog posting
tomorrow. After all, it’ll just be us flying over, and
trust me, NO ONE wants to read a posting about what it’s
like flying for 8 hours overnight, when half the people
in the plane are trying to sleep, the other half is
trying to carry on a conversation, and the third half
keeps jostling you around by either kicking your seat or
kicking you as they move down the aisle toward the
See? I’ve spared you tomorrow’s blog entry.
I will, however, be doing an on-air report tomorrow
afternoon, probably around 3:35 (and 5:35) or so, thanks
to the fine folks at
AT&T Wireless. Like
last year, they set up my phone so that it works in
Europe, allowing me to call in each day with live
reports. If anything else exciting happens, things may
be posted on my
Facebook pages. You’ll
probably have to sign up to be my friend to see the
stuff on Facebook, but we can all use more friends these
Wish us luck on the flight over tonight, remember to
keep checking here, on air, and on Facebook & Twitter,
and have yourself a great holiday weekend while you’re
Here's a quick note from Jim's phone in France, saying
that we made it okay, except for one, uhm, interesting
adventure. And to no one’s surprise, I'm sure, it
I've written a whole blog about it, which I'll send as
soon as I can find some way to get my laptop online. Or
to get my laptop and phone talking to each other.
Technology. You gotta love it.
Tonight we sleep. Tomorrow, we drive to Bayeux.
Au revoir from Roissy, France!
Listen to Jim’s phone call from
France on Friday
You know, I did not see THAT coming.
We arrived in France Friday morning an hour or so late,
thanks to a delay in taking off from Chicago and a delay
in landing in Paris. That’s not that big of a deal;
after all, we had a GREAT time playing in downtown
Chicago Thursday (bemoaning the fact that Steely Dan was
performing “Aja” in its entirety at the Chicago Theater
that night. D’oh!!!) and just wanted to get our French
Which we did, in the strangest possible way.
Those of you who read what I wrote Wednesday about
driving in France for the first time may remember that I
guessed getting from the airport to our hotel here in
Roissy might be the hardest drive of the whole trip.
You’ll be happy to know that, for once, I was right.
We picked up the rental car, and pulled out our
directions for Via Michelin to get to the hotel from
which I’m writing this, the Ibis in Roissy-en-France.
Driving out of the airport, we’re getting ready to look
at the directions when we see a sign that says “Ibis”.
Knowing that Roissy-en-France is right outside the
airport, we figured that our drive is already over.
So we follow the sign, and see a big block of hotels in
the distance, including the Ibis. However, the area
around it (an area in which we’ve stayed before) didn’t
look familiar, which I just chalked up to the fact that
they’re building stuff around here ALL of the time. So
we drive up to the Ibis, and notice that there’s some of
that construction all around it. So much construction,
in fact, that we can’t seem to find a driveway to get
into the hotel anywhere.
So we circle around the big block of hotels again, and
still don’t see a way in. We circle a few more times,
and finally see a back way into the block. Asking a
nice gentleman on the side of the road, he does indeed
indicate that you get to the Ibis through the street
We finally (FINALLY) find the Ibis parking lot which, of
course, is a paid underground lot. We bring the car
down into depths of that beast, park it, and haul our
luggage up to the reception desk to check in. Now,
remember that we’ve just flown over from the U.S.,
haven’t slept in about 24 hours, and just spent the last
of those 24 hours trying to get into the parking lot of
the hotel into which we’re about to check in.
And that’s when we realize we’re at the wrong hotel.
That’s right; apparently, there are several Ibis hotels
and (here’s the kicker) also two towns with Roissy in
their name right by the airport. The Ibis hotel we
tried to check into is the Ibis in Roissypole, while the
Ibis hotel we’re supposed to check in to is in Roissy-en-France,
the next town over. So we haul our luggage back down
into the car, and pull out of the lot, which then
thoughtfully charges us 3 Euros for parking for the 15
minutes it took us to found out we were at the wrong
hotel. We ignore the signs on the road that say “Ibis
Hotel, turn here”, and we instead look at the Via
Michelin directions I printed out, directions that had
us going to the right hotel in the right village, and
make it there in less than 3 minutes.
If only, if only if only. . .
You know, though, if that’s the worst thing that’ll
happen to us on this trip, then I have the feeling we’re
in for a GREAT time for the next nine days. After all,
didn’t I say that getting out of the airport would be
the hardest part?
We have slept for a whole two hours now, and are getting
ready for our trip tomorrow to Bayeux, our home base for
the next week. It should only take a couple of hours to
get there. Assuming, of course, we actually follow
directions this time, and don’t drive off after being
led astray by a mischievous hotel sign.
Bayeux, like Marquette, is full of surprises.
We’re now in our home for the next week, the beautiful
French town of Bayeux. The drive up from Paris was
uneventful, at least once we got out of Paris. We
arrived here a little after noon, and as I write this at
10 pm Saturday, it’s the first time we’ve slowed down
THAT’S the kind of a place Bayeux is!
As soon as we got into town we headed down the road to
the city market they have every Saturday, a market where
they sell everything from fresh produce to live ducks to
Bob Marley sweatshirts (they love their Bob Marley here
in France). We then stopped at, uhm, four bakeries,
checked out the menus of several dozen restaurants, and
just strolled up & down one of the most wonderful
streets in the world,
a mile-long wonderland of every kind of shop known to
humankind (including at least a half-dozen that make
sausages while you wait!) We also stopped at the Super
U to buy chocolate and this great little 6-pack of bite
sized cheeses to try for dinner (the cheeses, that is,
not the chocolates), and then headed out for another
very long stroll. What did we see and/or hear on this
We saw a football game (that’s a soccer match to you
guys) in the municipal stadium across the street from
our hotel. We saw kids practicing American football
(complete with pads & helmet) at a school, which caused
Loraine to crack, “I bet they’re better than the Lions”.
We saw hundreds of pieces of impressive architecture
(some stemming back 4 or 500 years). And we went to one
of our favorite places here, a place that no one who
knows us would be surprised about—
This is actually a British military cemetery (the Brits
liberated Bayeux the day after D-Day) and we’ve always
admired one cool thing about British military
markers—they let the families of the deceased put a
little, personal saying on the bottom of each headstone.
It’s really touching to read some of them.
Now, we must not have been paying 100% attention the
previous two times we were here, because this time
around we noticed that there are not only people from
Britain buried here, but from former member states of
the British Empire as well. We saw the graves of
Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, one American
(who was flying in the British Air Force), and many
others, including one who section of graves that
surprised the heck out of us.
You see, along with all the allied soldiers, there are
about 100 Germans buried here, as well.
It’s kind of funny; there are many German cemeteries
that dot the French landscape, so you don’t expect to
see German graves in a British facility. Yet there they
were, gravesites tended with the same care as those of
soldiers from Britain, Canada, and Australia. I guess
it speaks wonders about how far the world has come in
the last 70 years.
And, perhaps, how far we still have to go.
After that, Bayeux held one more surprise for us. Right
across the road from the British cemetery is a memorial
put up by Reporters Without Frontiers, honoring every
journalist in the world who’s been killed in the line of
duty from Ernie Pyle in 1945 to Daniel Pearl in 2003 and
all the way up to 2008. It’s newly built, and why it
was newly built in Bayeux , we have no idea. We’re just
glad we had the chance to see it!
Tomorrow, Sunday? That’s the day we head to St Georges
de Bohon for whatever awaits us there. We know it
involves, among other things, a mayor and the press.
Can’t wait to see what else happens!
Another year, another ceremony in a French village.
While Sunday morning’s gathering in the little French
village of St. Georges de Bohon was nothing like the
town-wide festival that our journey to Grand Failly
produced last year, it was still a nice chance to meet,
greet, and see Loraine in all her glory. About 20
people from the village turned out to say “hi” to us,
show us around their new church and the bombed-out
stones that remain from their old church (one built in
the 13th century, sadly), to hear from the town’s mayor,
and to have a little gathering at their town’s warm
memorial, and to then have a little reception in the
town hall (complete with champagne), covered by
reporters from three local papers.
Don’t believe me? Here’s Loraine talking to them!
Now, you may ask yourself why 20 people, a mayor, and 3
reporters would willingly give up a couple of hours to
greet us on a nice Sunday morning. I know that WE asked
ourselves why 20 people, a mayor, and 3 reporters would
willingly give up a couple of hours to greet us on a
nice Sunday morning. Well, as it turns out, we were the
first Americans to actually show up there.
Even though it’s been 65 years since the town was
liberated by Americans.
One of those Americans was Ludvic Steinberger of
Marquette, who died somewhere on the hills around the
little village of St. Georges de Bohon on July 7th,
1944. If there’s one thing the people of this town have
never forgotten, it’s the Americans who gave up their
lives so that their little village could be free. But
in the 65 years since the town’s been liberated, no one
from the U.S. has apparently stopped by to visit, so the
people of the town have never had the chance to say
So that’s what they did when WE stopped by.
Like last year in Grand Failly, we personally had
nothing to do with the liberation of the town. We
weren’t there in 1944, our grandfathers weren’t there in
1944, our uncles weren’t there in 1944. But because we
come from the same city as someone who WAS there in
1944, someone who gave up his life in that town, the
people of St. Georges de Bohon, even after 65 years,
turned out to say “thanks”.
So on behalf of the extended Steinberger family of
Marquette, who provided us with pictures and documents
to give to the people of St. Georges de Bohon, we
accepted those thanks.
I did get a chance to practice what little I remember of
my French while we were in St. Georges de Bohon. Hardly
anyone there spoke English (a rarity for this country),
but between several of us, we were able to communicate.
And I have to give a big shout-out to my new friend
Ingrid, a very charming 11-year old who decided that
Loraine and I couldn’t leave until she made up and gave
us little trinkets in the colors of the French flag—
So thanks, Ingrid! Hope you and your mom enjoy looking
at the map of Marquette County we gave you!
After the ceremony, we then spent the afternoon driving
around several sections of southern Normandy, where the
fighting was taking place about a month after D-Day,
which was right before the Allies broke through into the
main portion of France. While we did take a wrong turn
or two, even those wrong turns led us to memorials out
in the middle of nowhere. I mean, you can’t swing a
dead cat (pardon moi, “chat”) around here without
hitting a memorial of some kind to the Americans or the
British or the Canadians, and we were actually able to
see a few that we never would’ve found if we hadn’t
taken those wrong turns.
Finally, after about 10 hours, we came back to Bayeux,
and chowed down at a local restaurant. Here’s my
It’s a Tarte de Normandy; basically, it’s a custard and
apple tart with vanilla nutmeg ice cream on top of it.
And yes, it tasted as good as it looks!
On Monday, more driving around with the guy who set up
the ceremony today in St. Georges de Bohon. His English
is about as good as my French, so I’m thinking things
will quickly devolve to the level of one of those Jerry
Lewis movies they love so much over here. It should be
quite the day. . .
Monday, I got to do something I’ve never done before.
Monday, I got to crash a French wedding reception. Not
only that, but I was driving around a French town’s
mayor while I was crashing it.
So, technically, I got to do TWO things Monday I’ve
never done before!
First things first, though. While you guys got to spend
the holiday enjoying the nice weather (and as an aside
to daily blog reader Sandra of Marquette--yes, we
should’ve come over here in July and given you guys nice
weather back then. Sorry we didn’t think of it
earlier!), we got to enjoy the first day of a work week
here enjoying equally nice weather and exploring more of
the area around where we had our little ceremony
yesterday; specifically, the area centered around the
town of Sainteny, the home of Jean-Paul Pitou. Jean
Paul was the guy who talked yesterday’s mayor (yes, we
apparently are quite big among French mayors) into
putting together the little ceremony at St. Georges de
Bohon, and today he wanted to show us around more of his
little neck of the woods. We couldn’t necessarily say
no, and as it turned out, we were glad we didn’t!
The touring stuff was pretty much the same as we usually
do, except for the fact that my co-pilot wasn’t the
lovely and knowledgeable Loraine; instead, my co-pilot
was the excitable and knowledgeable Jean Paul, a man
who, like I said yesterday, speaks English about as well
as I speak French. And despite that, we did not get
lost once today, and as far as I can tell, we only made
two wrong turns, which is actually a lot better than
Loraine and I did on our own yesterday.
What made today special were two things, the first being
lunch. At his insistence, Jean Paul invited us to his
home, where his wife Christiane and her mother were
waiting to make us lunch. Now, mind you, this was not
any ordinary lunch; no, this was a traditional Normandy
lunch, circa 1944, made on a circa 1944 stove with circa
And here, I’ve been thinking Loraine’s a World War II
geek. She’s a piker compared to these guys!
Back in 1944, the people of Normandy didn’t have much to
eat except what they had on their farms. They had
grain, they had eggs, and they had a few pigs. So after
the Allies liberated this area, the people of Normandy
ate what was basically a ham and cheese crepe for every
meal of every day. And while I probably wouldn’t have
wanted to eat for every meal of every day, I have to
admit that the ones we had today were tres bien. Very
tres bien, in fact.
Jean Paul’s mother-in-law sure knows how to wield a mean
Then after more touring, we were brought back into
Sainteny to meet that town’s mayor (our second mayoral
meeting in two days), as well as a member of the town’s
council. They wanted to share their memories of the
Nazi occupation with us, and show us into their town
council chambers/hall of flags, where they have the
flags of all 50 U.S. states (plus the District of
Columbia) either flying high or on display. Like the
people of every French town we’ve ever been in, they are
very appreciative of the sacrifices made by Americans 65
years ago, and will never forget their love for their
After our meeting with the mayor, we had one last stop.
Jean Paul said we needed to do a very French thing, so
that’s now we ended up driving the town’s mayor around
and crashing a French wedding reception.
Well, okay, maybe “crash” isn’t the right word. The
town’s butcher was married a couple of weeks ago in his
bride’s home town, and they hadn’t had the chance to
celebrate in Sainteny yet. So the entire town,
including Jean Paul and the mayor, were invited to a
little gathering held in the back yard of the town’s
restaurant after all the shops closed for the day.
Because we were visiting Sainteny, I guess we were
considered part of the town for the day. And since the
mayor needed a ride. . .
That’s how we crashed a French wedding reception with a
French mayor in tow!
Tomorrow’s our first day in several that doesn’t involve
any mayors, any ceremonies, or any wedding receptions.
It’s supposed to be a beautiful day, so we’re driving
down into Brittany (akin to driving from Michigan to
Wisconsin) and visiting the American military cemetery
in St. James, to say “hey” to four people from Marquette
and Alger Counties who are buried there. We also have
several stops planned along the way, in places we want
to visit just so we can say we visited there.
Yes, I know we’re living a hard life over here. We
When I was blogging during our trip last year, I know
something that stuck in some people’s minds were the
pictures I took of animals! We’re in farm country here,
but instead of sticking in a picture of a cow (like I
did several times in 2008), here are two things I found
interesting today. The first was taken on Omaha Beach
(yes, THE Omaha Beach)—
Yup, that’s what you think it is. . .it’s a horse
pulling a man in a sulky. They have harness races
around here, and give the horses a good workout running
up & down the beach. (I, personally, especially like
the ferry boat in the background).
And today’s other animal was found while we were stopped
filling up our gas tank—
No, I have no idea what that it. I do know, though,
that you can see the reflection of the dork taking the
picture right next to the bug!
That’s all from France today. . .
Listen to Jim’s phone call from
France on Tuesday
WEDNESDAY, 09/09/09 (!):
1,000 kilometers, and still accident-free!
That’s right. . .a very long day of touring Tuesday
pushed us over the 1,000 kilometer mark after 5 days of
driving in France, and like I mentioned in a blog before
we left, whatever apprehension I had about driving in a
foreign country has now entirely disappeared,
disappearing to the point that Loraine and I keep joking
(well, at least I think we’re joking) that we should
quit our jobs and move over here to become tour guide
Well, we’ll have to see about that. Although couldn’t
you see us driving around every day in scenery like
Speaking of Americans, there seem to be a lot of them
over here right now, and we’ve started playing this game
between us called “Spot the Obnoxious American”. Sadly,
it seems like some of our countrymen who come over here
are disappointed by the fact that France is not like the
U.S. And when I hear that, I just shake my head and
think to myself, “Well, why it’s called France, and not
When we’re here, we try to fit in with local people and
local customs. After all, we’re visitors in their home.
And I’m guessing many other American tourists try the
same thing. There is, however, a subset of Americans
who seem to, well, act American. They speak loudly
about everything. They push their way through lines,
loudly. And they complain loudly, especially when
things like food or the local language aren’t the way
they are back “home”.
That’s because you’re NOT back home. You’re in France.
And you wonder why some French people think all
Americans are loud and obnoxious? That’s because those
of us who try to fit in aren’t noticed. It’s only the
ones who ARE loud & obnoxious getting noticed. So
that’s why we play “Spot the Obnoxious American”. .
.because, sadly, it’s an easy game to play.
Okay; got that off my chest. Here are three Americans
who are neither loud nor obnoxious.
Loraine’s on the left, some dork is on the right, and in
between us is Alan Amelinckx, a Louisiana native who’s
the assistant superintendent of the Brittany American
cemetery near the village of St. James. Visiting the
cemetery was the main reason we drove over 300
kilometers today, through some of the most beautiful
countryside I’ve ever seen anywhere (travel hint—NEVER
take the freeway if you want to see what any place is
really like. Always stick to the side roads for the
most amazing views). In the cemetery we visited the
graves of five men from Marquette and Alger Counties who
were killed during WWII; Alan was kind enough to sand
each of them for us so that the names of our local
heroes would stand out like this—
Then he and Loraine spent some time talking about war
stuff while I went off and shot a bunch of pictures;
around 180 for the day, I think. Alan was also kind
enough to open the chapel tower at the cemetery for us.
It’s about 120 feet tall, and on a clear day (like
today) you can see all the way to Mont St. Michel, which
is a world famous monastery built on a hill in the
Atlantic Ocean about 10 miles from where we were
I guess it was just a day for great views all around.
Finally, when we got back to Bayeux, we were planning on
going to an Indian restaurant for dinner.
Unfortunately, there was a gas leak on the main street,
which shut down both traffic and the gas that that the
Indian restaurant uses to cook the White Curry Chicken
we were planning to eat. Instead, we just grabbed
cheeses and several other things, and had a little
picnic to celebrate the end of a very nice day on the
By the way, you know how Americans will always stand and
gawk whenever something out of the ordinary is going on?
Well, it’s no different over here--
That’s the news, live from Bayeux. Now, back to you!
who was incredibly happy because it was 88 degrees here
For us, Wednesday in France was a day of work.
Tuesday, lots of sun and the area’s warmest temperatures
of the year (88 here in Bayeux, in fact) made for a
great day of sight-seeing. Wednesday, with clouds,
mist, strong winds off the Channel, and temps only
around 60, made for a perfect day of research work.
And research work we did. We logged another 250
kilometers on the road, this time tracking down the
locales where several of the men from Marquette County
Loraine is studying were killed. In fact, in the case
of paratrooper Arthur Lemieux of Marquette, we think we
narrowed it down to the exact field. When we were here
three years ago, we had a rough idea of where he died;
now, armed with new information from people he was with
the day he died, and with several hand-drawn maps, we
know for sure that he died in this field—
Much of our day was spent playing historical
archeologist; at times, I felt like I should have a
fedora and bullwhip with me, and change my name to
Indiana Koski. However, there were then times when we
saw something like this—
And realized that while this “work” may be fun for us,
for gentlemen like this one (who we saw in Sainte Mare-Eglise),
it’s also part of his past. Everywhere you look around
here, you see WWII vets coming back, probably for one
last time, to visit old haunts and to pay their respects
to fallen comrades.
That, by the way, is why Loraine does the work she does.
. .to make sure gentlemen like the one in the picture,
and the one whose field we found today, are not
We did have time for a little fun and a little
sight-seeing today. Remember how I said it was cold and
misty and windy today? Well, hopefully, this picture
will give you an idea of what it was really like—
It was taken at Colleville-Sur-Mer, right on the English
Channel. Colleville is the home of the Normandy
American Military Cemetery (the one from “Saving Private
Ryan”), which is rapidly becoming the Disney World of
military cemeteries. It’s filled with busloads of
people, interactive videos kiosks, and, believe it or
not, metal detectors you have to pass through before
It’s weird—no other American cemetery we’ve visited over
here is anything like that.
Finally, big news—
I have my box of cereal!
If you were listening on the air when I called in
yesterday, you may have heard that I was doing it from
the inside of one of those Super U grocery stores I’m
always babbling about. In fact, I was calling in from
in Port-En-Bessin. While working hard Wednesday, we did
manage to stop in THREE different Super U stores, buying
chocolate or baked goods or stuff to drink, or the
legendary box of cereal I’ve been trying to get my hands
on for three years now.
In fact, I think the tears are welling up in my eyes
even as we speak. So on that note. . .
Listen to Jim’s phone call from
France on Thursday
It’s been eight years already?
Anyway, Thursday in France was another long
distance-driving, hard-working research day, although we
did allow ourselves time for a little sight-seeing and
fun. First, the hard work—
This is the end result of my actually using the French I
learned (and thought I forgot); a nice French woman
understood enough of what I was babbling to take a
picture of Loraine and me at the grave of Ishpeming’s
William Richards, buried at the Normandy American
cemetery (you know; the Disney World of American
military cemeteries). Those of you who read this on a
daily basis have heard the story of Major Richards
before; he was the engineer killed on Omaha Beach as the
first wave of American troops landed, and was
posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for
When he was killed, Richards was surrounded by 12 or so
of his subordinates; what we didn’t know is that they
all (or so we think) are buried along with Richards at
Normandy, so one of our side projects for the day was
photographing the graves of each of the men Richards was
commanding that fateful June morning. We have no idea
what we’re gonna do with all the pictures; we just felt
like it was something we had to do.
Now, like I said, we also played tourist for a small
part of the day. Remember how, right before I left, I
told you about the cathedral here in Bayeux? The one
that’s almost 1,000 years old, and can be seen from
something like 10 miles away? Well, this is what it
looks like from the inside—
This picture really doesn’t do it justice; in fact, I
don’t think ANY picture can really do it justice. I
mean, we’re talking ceilings that are over 100 feet
tall, little chapel-like spaces surrounding the main
part of the church, and wall paintings that date back to
Oh, and there are catacombs under the main altar, too.
Cue the creepy organ music (provided, of course, by the
18th century organ they have, still in working
Yup. . .it’s an impressive place.
Okay, here’s today’s animal picture—
Bakers here do wonderful things with meringues; in fact,
next to the pink pig you’ll notice a partially obscured
green frog, and just to the left of where I took this
picture was a brown cow. No, I didn’t try any of them;
it seems like a shame to actually eat something that
beautiful. Instead, I tried something that was so good
my mouth wept for joy (mouths do that over here, you
know). It was a slice of a loaf of candy. . .the
outside of the loaf being a white almond pate, while the
inside was an almond/cognac mix, with little chunks of
pistachio mixed in.
With confisserie that heavenly, it’s no wonder Bayeux
has a 1,000 year old cathedral!
Speaking of great food (which I seem to have done a lot
of in the past week), we finally got to eat at that
Indian restaurant we’ve been eying. And I have to
admit, the Poulet Taj Mahal (chicken in a mild
curry/cashew cream sauce) was as good as it sounded.
The walk back from the restaurant also provided me with
an opportunity to update a story I first reported
Remember the gas leak that shut down part of Bayeux
(including our Indian restaurant)? Well, it wasn’t just
a gas leak; turns out, it was a gas explosion—
The top floor of the building was blown out, tossing all
the stuff you see above into the street. As far as
we’ve been able to find out, though, no one was injured.
Updates as we get them in.
Listen to Jim’s phone call from
France on Friday
Sometimes, when your plans go awry, that’s a good thing.
Friday, we were just gonna playing tourist for once on
this trip, driving back part of the way to Brittany (the
place where we went Tuesday) just to look at some of the
incredible views one more time, and to see if we could
see things we’d not seen yet.
And that’s when the phone message came into play.
I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but we were
supposed to meet a local gentleman named Thierry at the
Normandy American cemetery yesterday. However, mixed
signals prevented him from showing up. When we got back
to our hotel Thursday night, there was a message from
him, asking us to call back. Since it was late, and
since he’s a dairy farmer by trade (dairy farmers being
early risers, you know) we didn’t call him back until
That’s when he wanted to know if we still wanted to meet
We had kind of been looking forward to driving to
Mortain and seeing what there was to see, but decided
that we could make an abbreviated trip to the area
(literally driving there and back), and still make it in
time to meet Thierry. So we drove there (and back),
oohing and aahing the entire way to sights like this—
That’s where we stopped for five minutes and ate lunch,
at a roadside turnoff just north of a town named Percy.
I’m thinking that, if the cows wouldn’t mind, we could
make a regular habit of it!
Alas, we couldn’t stay too long, and were soon dodging
detours and slow moving tractors to meet up with
Thierry. And once we did, it was like Loraine found her
doppelganger from France—
Like Loraine, Thierry’s been doing some research into
American soldiers who were killed; unlike Loraine, he’s
been researching soldiers who died on his mother’s farm
and near the church where his father lived. You see,
his mother, who was 12 at the time, lived in a manor
that was right across the road from one of the fiercest
battle of the days following D-Day, the battle for the
La Fiere Bridge (long story short—only one bridge was
available to get tanks off of Utah Beach into France.
Both sides wanted to control it; for four days, it went
back & forth). So we were able to hear the story of how
his mother lived under the Germans for four years, then
how, in the matter of four days, found her house under
American control, then German control, then American
control, etc, until the Americans finally prevailed, but
not before her home was reduced to rubble.
After showing us several other things, he took us to his
home to meet his mother. And when I say “home”, I mean
“HOME”. This was one of those stereotypical French
manor houses, beautiful in both size & design. And not
only did we meet his mother, but one of his brothers was
there, bringing along a friend, as well.
That’s right; it was another day of people who wanted to
“meet the Americans”. But we were glad to do it. Both
Thierry and his brother had worn T-shirts purchased
during a previous trip to the US; I guess they wanted to
show us a little bit of home, or just how grateful they
still are—after all these years—to people from the
country that helped liberate their mother a couple of
All in a day’s work over here, I guess.
Thierry did have one more surprise for us. Waiting in
his kitchen was a copy of Le Manche Presse, the local
newspaper, which featured an article about and pictures
of Loraine and her geeky sidekick Me during our little
visit/ceremony at St. Georges de Bohon Sunday.
I guess those journalists the mayor of St. Georges de
Bohon invited weren’t just there for show!
After that, we drove back into Bayeux one last time, and
just had to take a picture of this—
You see these all over the place; in France, Michigan is
nothing more than a chain of dollar-type stores. Or, I
guess, in this case, they’d be Euro stores.
Amazing what you find over here.
Finally, I really do have to give a big shout-out to
Kristi and the great people at
AT&T for setting up my phone to work over here. Not
only did they enable me to call back and report to you
guys on the air every day, but I was able to check the
weather and update Facebook and Twitter with my phone.
Thanks, Kristi. You rock!
Like many French couples, Loraine and I had a routine.
We’d get up in the morning, eat breakfast, hop in the
car, drive to work, do our work, come home from work,
discuss our workday, and then steal soaps and shampoos
from the hotel before dinner.
Well, okay, maybe not all French couples live in a hotel
and can steal the soaps & shampoos, but aside from that,
we lived a fairly normal life over here.
And now, sadly, it’s come to an end.
I’m writing this from Roissy-en-France (yes, the Roissy-en-France
that played a large part in our big driving “adventure’
from last week) where we’re staying Saturday night
before flying back to Marquette on Sunday. We sadly
left our recent home of Bayeux France this morning, but
not before we were able to partake in another Market
I don’t know if I talked about Market Day last week, so
forgive me if I’m bringing up something I’ve already
brought up. But every town and city in France has a
Market Day, when local farmers and craftspeople get
together in a town square to sell everything from fresh
produce to T-shirt to live chickens.
Think I’m kidding?
Then after Market Day (where, by the way, we bought an
amazing little container of just-picked raspberries), we
took one last walk along the streets of our French
The drive to Paris was uneventful, except for the maze
of confusion that is getting into Charles de Gaulle
airport. We finally made it in, returned our rental car
(with, apparently, a little scratch that appeared out
of nowhere) and took the shuttle bus to our hotel here,
where we’ll pack, sleep, and ponder the fact that our
little journey is now over.
Hope you’ve enjoyed these little missives from the road;
reading a couple of e-mails from you makes me think that
it wasn’t all in vain. Unless I decide to not get on
the airplane tomorrow, I’ll be back on the air as normal
on Monday. I may be dead tired, but I’ll be back on the
air as normal on Monday.
That’s it from France; au revoir!
Just a very quick note from my phone to let you know
that, while late, we did make it back home safe and
sound (well, at least, as sound as we can be). More to
I think it’s just the speed of the turnaround that gets
you the most.
I mean, one day you’re having breakfast in the sun
outside of Paris, and then the next you’re staring at
your office computer, wondering what you need to get
done. It’s like there’s no transition, no time for a
I guess you might call it cultural whiplash, if nothing
Anyway, that’s how I felt for a while Monday morning
upon returning to work. It was kind of surreal for a
while; like I wasn’t supposed to be back here, or
something. I forgot several things at home, several
things I routinely bring with me without even thinking
about it. I keep seeing big honking pickup trucks &
SUVs instead of tiny Renaults or Citroens. And a couple
of times when my coworkers asked me something, I,
without even thinking, answered them in French.
Needless to say, THAT got quite the reaction.
Some people have always expressed amazement that I go
right back to work right after spending a week and a
half on one of these European adventures, and I’ve
always wondered why they were amazed. But after this
sudden turnaround (I mean, we get into Marquette at 10
Sunday night, and 10 hours later, I’m at work) I guess I
can kind of see where they’re coming from. But,
unfortunately, time (and radio) waits for no one.
So despite the cultural whiplash, onward we move!
By the way, I did a little math in my head (and we all
know how dangerous THAT can be). I ended up driving
2,237 kilometers in France; that’s approximately 1,400
miles. And you know what that means? I drove more in 9
days in France than I have over the past year here in
Marquette! Yup; I usually average100 miles a month on
the roads here, so when you compare that to the 1,400 in
France, I’m actually set through the end of next
Amazing how that works out, isn’t it?
Finally, Loraine and I want to acknowledged everyone who
acknowledged us during the trip. Aside from these blogs,
Tweeted and posted on
page, and we really appreciated the comments, best
wishes, and sarcastic remarks left by many of you. It
seems like many of you enjoyed sharing what we did; we
just hope you weren’t too bored with our babbling!
Now, like I said, it’s back to the real world, and all
the adjustments therein.
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Have a highly above average Week !!!