Friday, May 24, 2013

Work Trip | Road Trip

THIS is what Eva does at the beach! "Put me down, Mom!"
When we first arrived in Italy, Cole's boss mentioned sending him, along with is colleague Giovanni, to another facility located in Ortona... along the Adriatic coastline, near the beach! Naturally, Anna (Giovanni's wife) and I heard and immediately started trying to figure out how we could go, too! Well... Cole's boss made good on his promise. A few weeks ago, we took a six-hour road trip and stayed in Pescara. Giovanni and Anna drove on another hour and stayed with his parents in his hometown, Termoli.

The spring weather has been extremely rainy and cool, which most of our friends tell us is abnormal. Typically by now, the weather is warmer, sunnier, and just plain nicer. So our beachy vacay was a little windy and cool at times, but we still managed to fit in lots of sand and sun.

She loved the sea so much, she just wanted to.. put her face in it... ? Weird kid.

We were excited to see how Eva would act at the shore, so we headed straight to the beach Wednesday afternoon when we arrived. We weren't prepared for her to "jump right in." We didn't change into suits - just planned to hang out in the sand for awhile. She was really entertaining... it wasn't long before we had her stripped down to a diaper and there was sand everywhere. In her ears, eyes, mouth... She wanted to run straight into the sea! This little girl was definitely not holding still for photos.

Our hotel in Pescara was right along the shore and there was a wide sidewalk that stayed busy with walkers, runners, roller bladers and bike riders. We rented bikes from our hotel on Saturday morning and went for a nice ride. Pescara has a pedstrian/cyclist bridge over the inlet, which was really cool. We stopped at the top, out of breath, and took a few photos.

Then we headed back to the beach and I got a few more photos... This time with her swimming suit! :)

Saturday evening we drove to Giovanni's hometown for a quick tour of the city center and dinner with his parents. Termoli was a beautiful little town, the city center looked down over the beaches - an awesome place to grow up! Giovanni and Anna spend a few weeks back in Termoli each August, lucky them!

This band was exiting the entrance to Termoli's city center... right when we arrived!

Fishing hut along the shoreline...

We headed back to Giovanni's parents just in time to miss the storm!
Tomorrow we're off on our FINAL Italian adventure. It's bittersweet to be wrapping up our time in Italy, for sure... We are heading to Sardinia for a relaxing few days at the beach. Hopefully the rain stays away!

More Normandie: Bayeaux and Mont Saint-Michel

At the top of Mont Saint-Michel.
During our stay in Normandie, we chose the small town of Bayeaux as our home base. A good friend had recommended staying there, and we are so glad we did. It was a beautiful, quiet small town and very near the D-Day sites. The cathedral in Bayeaux was incredible and we also stopped to see their famous tapestry.

Check out the lower left corner... this was a graphic tapestry! :)

I didn't get any photos of the amazing cathedral in Bayeaux, but it was pretty awesome... You can see the steeples here.

We spent one of our days on a trip to Mont Saint-Michel! It was gorgeous... We climbed to the top of the abbey (stroller and all! Ugh!) and used some audio guides while at the top. It's amazing that the structure could even be built on this little island. The tides determine if the island is connected to the mainland or surrounded by water and the views are spectacular all around! My photos do NO justice to this portion of our trip. For some amazing photos of Mont Saint-Michel, click here!

Neat story about this photo... Our driver stopped here to see if there were any sheep in the fields - there were not, but we did see a few chickens along the road. Anyway - a popular local dish is "salted sheep." I can't remember the French name, but the sheep graze on grass that's growing in and around salt water from the English Channel. They go out and graze all day, and return to their farm homes nearby at sunset. We just missed them! The view was beautiful, not a spectacular photo - but it was so green!

Normandie & The D-Day Beaches

A view overlooking Omaha Beach.
I don't know if any experience has ever made me feel as patriotic as our visit and stay in Normandie, France. Seeing the D-Day landing sites in person and getting a much-needed refresher of history lessons on WWII left me feeling so proud of our country and thankful for the contributions our soldiers have made, and continue to make, worldwide. It was gut-wrenching to hear stories of those who laid down their lives in battle, to look at the gorgeous beaches, sparkling waters and know that so much blood has been shed in that very place.

Of course, the battles took many, many lives, but some men drowned before they even reached the beaches. Others died of mistaken friendly fire. Residents of Normandie have not forgotten the American sacrifices made to liberate their country. It was awesome to see so much honor and respect, even still today.

We started our tour day with a stop at a German cemetery. Our guide was very knowledgeable (although hard to follow at times because she had a thick accent). The youngest buried at the cemetery was only 16 years old. Many Germans died fighting for a cause that they didn't necessarily believe in... they were simply ordered to fight.

The first beach we visited was Utah, the most "successful" of the landing sites - meaning that fewer lives were lost here than the other beaches... and the landing overall was more accurate. Our guide talked us through some of the D-Day landing strategies and intended targets for both boat and paratrooper landings. It's amazing that we were successful, considering the percentages of landings that were off-target. She even had some handy visual aides.

Next, we moved on to the small town of Sainte Mere Eglise, the first town liberated. During the time paratroopers were landing (they were supposed to be under the cover of nightfall) there was a house fire in this town, so the troopers were easily visible as they landed. Many were shot before they even reached the ground. One well-known story is about a trooper whose parachute caught on the steeple of the church. He hung there for hours, playing dead. Sainte Mere Eglise has a great little Airborn Museum that we spent about an hour visiting, as well.

This is not a metal plane! It's a glider lined with thick canvas... I wouldn't have wanted to land in one of these!

We also visited Pointe du Hoc. Grass has grown over the mounds and indentations from sea and air attacks, but the terrain still shows obvious signs from the battles. Other than monuments being erected throughout the various sites, they all remain pretty natural.

It was incredible to look down toward the sea and realize the overwhelming odds (of both nature and of battle) that faced soldiers climbing up to take the Pointe.

Our final beach stop was Omaha, followed by the American cemetery. Did you know that France gifted a small piece of land for the purpose of the cemetery? For a brief time, we were back in the USA!

Looking out over Omaha Beach from the American cemetery.

Gone, but never forgotten.