We recently returned from spring break. One week in Paris chasing 2 eleven year olds and a second week storming the beaches of Normandie.
It may not sound like the ideal way to celebrate 14 years of marriage, but we took Oscar and his friend Tony to Paris to tour the parks and children’s museums and to cross paths with Oscar’s cousins from California. It was a change of method for us, as we have spent our lives mainly as adult tourists, doing whatever we wanted and recently dragging an only child around wherever we wanted to go. Traveling with two boys however was a different story, which involved a faster pace, more snacks, and much less time for reflection and it seemed everywhere we went a ball was involved.
It was Tony’s first time to Paris, so we hit a bunch of A-list sites, Tour Eiffel, Louvre, Versailles, Pont Neuf, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triumph. For Pat and I, it was a new view of each of these, always welcome, but the attention span of an 11 year old is truly a thing of wonder, incredibly long on one hand and a mere figment on the other.
The silver lining was that they entertained each other much of the time and we could stroll like young lovers in a new Paris, forgetting about them entirely for minutes at a time….
We left Paris after a week and went of to explore Normandie. Oscar had researched the 26 WW2 D-Day museums, and selected the 22 he wanted to go to! Incredibly, he stuck to it and would have gone to all of them if I hadn’t used my parental veto and insisted on a few hours for sitting in a cafe or playing in the sand!?!? The history of the landings in Normandie is amazing, and the sacrifice of so many to give their lives for a foreign land and cause is inspiring to say the least. The endless rows of headstones perfectly aligned in the war cemeteries is a sobering sight, as poignant for our past as it is concerning for our future.
Every beach, battle and bunker needs to be remembered for what passed there, and almost each one has a memorial or museum to guard that memory. For me, each was another personal mission, commemorating a cog in the war machine with someone’s collection of the tools of war. The message is neither hopeful nor subtle but rather humiliating proof of our baser instincts as a species, which we have proved over and over again yesterday and today. I was done after about 5 of these museums and took to sitting on the beach reading while I waited for the historians in the family to read and re-read a history I feel I know well enough. Pat read every plaque (I think in English and then in French) and Oscar and Tony ran from diorama to diorama and tank to landing craft with incredible speed and absorption. We continually got frustrated at the speed with which they coursed through these expensive museums, only to be amazed at the knowledge they picked up and the observations they made, smashing the rules of quality v. quantity as we went.
It was fun to travel with Oscar's friend along and change the dynamic, but I think it left us all wanting for the consolidated POD again, just a glimpse of the inevitable future as friends replace parents and our boy grows up.
Normandie was lovely, we had nice weather, really enjoyed the architecture, and were happiest upon returning to our peaceful existence in Martel!