Sunday, April 26, 2009
My good friend from New Visions, Andrew, is here right now. He got here on Thurday night an is leaving in the afternoon on Monday. We are having a really nice time together. Both Friday and Saturday nights we went out to the city and we did hours of sightseeing during the day yesterday. The more time I spend in the city the more I like it.
I don’t recall meeting on Tuesday ecause I had class in the afternoon with a class on Wednesday morning. They told me they went shopping and walked the streets more.
On Wednesday, we EVENTUALLY met up after my class in the morning (long story-miscommuntication). We went to the train station and caught the metro to Sweden. It was only a half hour trip, on a new, long, beautiful bridge called the Oresund Bridge (crosses the Oresund Strait). Then, we were in Malmo.
Malmo reminded me a lot of Copenhagen. It was a similar atmosphere. Lots of shops and squares with plenty of people. We walked around exploring for a couple of hours and had a nice time. We went into an old church and that was really pretty. Then we went and saw a famous old castle, but, we didn’t go inside. After that, we went back.
The most interesting part of the day came at dinner. We chose to go to the Hard Rock Café in Copenhagen. This was a good decision. First of all, it was closeby and the food was delicious. When we entered, it was happy hour at the bar, so we spent some time there before sitting down to eat. I started talking to a guy at the bar in a Danish soldier’s uniform. His name was Dennis and he was probably 35 years old. He told me that he was a driver for a prestigious political figure. We started casually talking. In a little while, Mom and Aunt Nancy joined me and we spoke for a wile at the bar. When we were hungry to eat, to be polite, we asked him if he wanted to join us. He did and we had a nice time. He was interesting and he was able to answer a lot questions from Mom and Aunt Nancy that I could not. He also paid for dinner which was cool.
After dinner, I went home because of class in the morning.
We met up after class on Thursday. However, while I was in class for the morning, Mom and Aunt Nancy went to a special event at the Amelienborg Palace. This is the same place we went on Sunday to see the changing of the gaurds, but, this time, they were celebrating the Queen’s birthday. They said it was a nice ceremony. I was proud of them because they found their way across the city and back on their own.
On Thursday, we kinda took it easy. I think we went for a nice stroll through some other parts of Copenhagen and then we went to the notorious Tivoli Gardens. This is the oldest amusement park in Scandinavia, dating back to 1843. It is located right in the center of the city and close to our hotel room. It is not a large park, but, it did have a bunch of roller coasters and rides. We could see the tall rides from the hotel. I didn’t do any of them because they were expensive, but it was beautiful to walk around. We went in the afternoon, but, apparently it is even more beautiful at night because they light over 120,000 lamps every night and it is open till midnight on the weekends. It also has about 30 restaurants, including some of the best in Copenhagen. It was a nice blend of an amusement park and a beautiful garden/park. In fact, there were as many older people just strolling around as there were kids.
We walked around for a little while and then made our way to a 30 piece orchestra. It was a nice little concert, right at the gardens. It went on for a half hour and we stayed for the entire thing. I enjoyed it a lot.
After the concert, it was dinner time, so again we made our way to the Hard Rock Café. After another great dinner, we went back to the hotel room and hung out together for the last night. I stayed again that night so that I could see Mom and Aunt Nancy off in the morning. After they left, I went back to bed an did my own thing in the morning.
Overall, we had a great time together and I’m really glad that we had this opportunity.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I spent the night on Sunday so that we could get an early start on Monday. We got the train to Hillerod, which is where the Fredericksburg Castle is. I’d never been there and this place was fantastic. Not only is it a unique castle from the 16th century, but, it is now the Danish National Art Museum so it had lots of artifacts. I didn’t bring my camera so all the pictures are on Mom’s, but, here are a couple from the internet.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Last full day in Paris. In the morning, we went to the airport to pick up another friend of Pierre's. Like me, she knew Pierre through DTU. Her name was Gosia, from Poland. She was staying for a week in Paris as well, but, with a different friend. However, her friend couldn't meet her at the airport, so we did.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
After a long day yesterday, we took it easy. Pierre wanted to run some errands so he went out. At about 2pm I went for a bike ride around Pierre's neighborhood. His neighborhood was beautiful.
Friday, April 10, 2009
After touring Normandy, we continued west to Mont Saint Michel. We chose Mont Saint Michel over Sainte-Mere-Eglise (the church where the American paratrooper’s chute got caught on the steeple) because Mont Saint Michel is a much larger attraction. It dates back to the 10th century. Pierre told me I would really like it.
We drove for another 2 hours from Normandy through a lot of farmland. Finally we approached a little city, and once we passed the city, you could see this HUGE castle (actually a church), all alone on an island, in the distance; about 20km away. It looked like something out of a fairytale. The only thing in sight is this huge castle sitting alone atop an island. It was very surreal.
The church in the distance.
We parked and walked to the castle. We went through the main gates. There is a little town below the main structure, but, still in the city walls. It was very touristy. We walked through the town and climbed to the entrance of the church. We didn’t go inside because it was expensive and the little town itself was cool enough. After taking more pictures, we left for home.
Walking the streets.
Notice that there is nothing around.
Notice the "elevator" on the left of the pic.
Monday, April 6, 2009
7am: Pierre and I wake up. I head inside and eat two eggs over easy with some ham. Pierre finishes his shower, we grab some fruit, and we are off; to Normandy. The drive took us about 3 hrs to get to the beach, including one pit stop.
On our way there, the weather was nice as we left Paris. It was very promising for most of the ride. It was beautiful to see the French country side bathed in sunlight. The country is all farmland, like driving through Argyle or Harford, NY. However, as we got closer to Caen, the weather got worse. It became very foggy, but, that was expected because we were getting closer to the ocean. I was okay with the weather because that would make the visit seem more realistic.
The first stop was Juno beach, which was dedicated to the Canadians because they took that beach. There was a Canadian tank on display that had actually landed on the beach on D-Day and was knocked out of service. The beach was rather unimpressive. After a couple minutes we were anxious to move on towards Omaha.
The drive to Omaha took another 30 minutes or so. I didn’t realize the beaches were as spread out as they are. The small towns we drove through to go from beach to beach were amazing. 95% of the buildings are original. You can tell that they have been through a fight. It was intriguing knowing that, at some point many years ago, American soldiers walked the same streets and liberated each town, house by house. Most buildings looked very weathered, and not in a natural way. In some, you can see bullet holes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to spend exploring the countless towns. One could easily spend days going from village to village and discovering all the unique liberation stories.
It was too easy to picture German MG-42 squads waiting in any window/alley of the small towns to ambush the American soldiers. You know that each village had to be liberated and you can see how hard that task is as you drive through these towns. Their layout is windy and very close quartered. Directly across the street from these little towns are huge green fields, just like are displayed in the movies/videogames.
Originally, I thought the trees/bushes/downed trees and ditches are made in the videogames so that they would be more fun to play. Not the case at all. Just like in the games, each field is distinctly bordered by tree /brush lines or small rock walls. Some even had debris in the field. In fact, there was one place in particular (besides the beaches) that I know I played in Brothers in Arms (a game that supposedly recreates the battle fields). It was easy to imagine the skirmishes that must have broken out in these towns/fields. You could picture gliders landing in any of them, or soldiers walking through them. It was really cool.
Finally, we made our way to my number one destination; Omaha Beach. At this point, the sun had come out and was shining brightly. After parking, we walked in and went straight to the cemetery. Wow. All those graves…The cemetery is gorgeous and tear jerking. We walked through the entire cemetary, paying our respects. I didn’t know this, but, the cemetery lies directly above Omaha beach. It offers a great view of the beach. Then we headed down to the beach.
Once we got to the bottom we walked on the beach for a while. The beach itself is huge. It was low tide when we were there, just like when the landings began on D-Day. Soldiers had to cover hundreds of yards of sandy beach, all while running low with a 50lb backpack on and getting shot at from all angles. It was amazing anyone survived. Then, they had to climb up a huge steep hill; one that took Pierre and I a good 5min to climb up and we were walking up a trail with nothing on our backs and no one shooting at us. That is one thing Pierre and I commented on. We couldn’t figure out how the Germans lost. They had such a stronger position. The forces and obstacles that the American’s had to overcome are even more apparent to me now.
At the end of the trail, finally at the beach.
Standing in the middle of the beach.
From the middle of the beach looking toward the cemetary.
After taking our time at Omaha, it was off to Pointe du Hoc. The trip took about 15 min by car, again, through the classic Normandy landscape. Upon entering the cliff top from the parking lot, the first thing you realize is the terrain. It is full of huge craters; some about 50 ft in diameter and 25 ft deep. They are everywhere. All the bunkers remain, some in better condition than others. It was really cool to finally see some real bunkers.
Entering Pointe du Hoc.
After a couple hours at Normandy, it was back in the car for Mont Saint Michel.