Europe: Week Two

Thursday, June 13, 2013
Florence, Italy

Dear friends,

Doug and I have had more wonderful adventures this week.  When we left Paris, we headed first for the French region of Normandy.  We rented a car for four days…Doug was the driver, and – as it turned out – the prime navigator as well, since I had difficulty deciphering the maps and the roads.  Between the maps, the GPS, some wrong turns, and some very helpful French citizens, we managed to find our way to our destinations, which included:

Stained glass windows at the Joan of Arc church in Rouen, France

Stained glass windows at the Joan of Arc church in Rouen, France

One of our favorite stops so far was the French beach town of Etretat, where Monet painted many pictures of this rock formation which comes out of the water. We hiked above the town which is on what is called France’s alabaster coast. This town is a little off the beaten tourist track:

When we first began planning this trip, it was just coincidence that we were arriving at Omaha Beach on June 6. This was not one of the major D-Day anniversaries, but it was special to be there on that day nonetheless. Many, many events were taking place in the area (in fact the road to our hotel was blocked for several hours).

From Omaha Beach, we saw Mont St. Michel, then drove to the Loire Valley in France and toured some of the chateaus, including this one:


After four nights, we returned our rental car to the train station in Paris and took a night train to Italy. We both fell in love with the Cinque Terre region on the northwest coast…five little villages connected by train, boat or walking trail. We hiked six and a half hours one day, all of it up and down. Here I am about halfway through the hike, which was spectacularly beautiful: P1000749

These five villages are all old. Buildings look as if they’re built on top of one another. The climb to our hotel room was 100 narrow winding steps, but we were rewarded with a view of the Mediterranean out of our window. Here’s the town of Vernazza, where we stayed: P1000615

For the next five days we’re staying in Florence, Italy. Today we took a walking tour of the city, then a tour of the Uffizi museum (paintings by DaVinci and Michelangelo, among others) and saw the statue of David. This is the Ponte Vecchio bridge: P1000855

Churches, museums, lots of walking, wonderful food…the Lilly Foundation, which awarded me my grant said that this part of the sabbatical is for “rest and renewal”, and I’m doing my best!

And I send my best to each of you…

2 thoughts on “Europe: Week Two

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