Tour de Bond

Utilizing Michelle’s maiden name for the title – sounds cool don’t ya think?
And don’t think I didn’t at least look…but the nearest stage that this year’s Tour de France to our location was 2 hours away (on Fri 7/5). So we kept to our schedule and did our own 25+ mile route. As luck would have it, an offshoot of the tour (complete with their own support vehicles and team cars, etc.) moved through a village where we had paused for pizza. Check out Le tour de Dordogne.

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It did take us 8 hours to complete, but finish we all did, and without a SAG wagon! Yet with the assistance of a local man who stopped along the side of the (busy) road, with us off-kilter and about a quarter-mile off our map. Though not speaking a word of English, he sketched out the way back for us on the road with a rock and soon we were back on the bike path. I was very proud of both kids, particularly Aubrey who hasn’t ridden a bike in years. Gabriel did have the luxury of a tandem extension, but he too was called into action on some of these hills we ascended.

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We extended our trek a bit to include a walk-through of a medieval castle, still privately owned but now open for tourists.
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On Saturday, we took a break from cycling and took in ‘market day’ in Sarlat.

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Heard about the rain back home. None in sight here! On to Bordeaux.

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Napoleon, et al

Trivia of the day: what’s the most visited city in the world? No, not my hometown in Tennessee but that other Paris. Tuesday and Wednesday here were spent with a guide who escorted us on tours of both the Orsay and Louvre museums. Skipped the lines, saw the highlights, and moved on out. Did the same with the Eiffel Tower.

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There is really no other way when you’re on a fairly tight schedule.
The culinary recommendations by the same guide service was spot-on. We found the French to be friendly and willing to help us navigate the city. The beautiful Seine River, the storied history, detailed architecture, and delectable pastries and breads served at every meal made for a fine if brief visit to this lovely city of lights.
Michelle and Aubrey delighted in finding the Gallaria de’ Lafayette, which was a multi-story mall with fantastic Parisian shops and restaurants.
Next stop, Souillac, in southern France. Au revoir!

20130704-220211.jpgNotre Dame Cathedral

20130704-220542.jpgthe Louvre

20130704-221546.jpgview from the Eiffel Tower, outdoor cafe, along the river Seine.

20130704-222621.jpgthe river Seine from museum Orsay terrace, the doors of Notre Dame, the court tower where Marie Antoinette spent her final days, a Parisian “rue”

Normandy

We embarked on a day long tour to the Normandy region of France on Monday. Pictures really are worth a thousand words here, so I’ll allow them to.

20130703-011009.jpg The American Cemetery here has some 9000+ soldiers within, some of which are known only to God. Some 14,000 more were transported back to the U.S. for burial.

20130703-012350.jpg Omaha Beach, which saw almost 5000 killed, 10 times that of the other American-led beach assault (Utah).

20130703-012641.jpg German artillery position atop Omaha Beach.

20130703-013017.jpg Gabriel standing in an Allied bombing crater, one of many in this area of German defenses.

The locals here display flags of all of the allies (American, British, Canadian) that landed on Normandy, adorning their churches and town limits, leaving a perpetual show of appreciation. We join them in saluting the greatest generation, and all veterans past and present.

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Cheers, and Bonjour

The final 36 hours in London were spent hopping around to a couple of the most famous locales (Big Ben, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace) as well as a Sunday morning mass at Westminster Cathedral.

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Gabriel enjoyed some play time at the Princess Diana Playground in Kensington Gardens.

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London is abuzz with the impending arrival of the eventual heir/heiress to the throne: Prince William and Kate’s baby. The royal family here has a very high approval rating, probably in part due to their apolitical stance. It provides a diversion from real world issues; a sort of fantasyland escape.

The Eurostar train to Paris was a quick 2-hr zip, and the half-hour tunneled portion beneath the English Channel was imperceptible to being underwater. Incredible technology.

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And, arrival in Paris.

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All You Need Is…

MUSIC! Well all right Love too. Thursday here was our rock and roll heritage day. Quick: what do these classic tunes have in common: ‘Space Oddity’ (Bowie), ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘Crocodile Rock’ (Elton John), ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (Queen), ‘You’re So Vain’ (Carly Simon), ‘Carolina In My Mind’ (James Taylor), and ‘Hey Jude’? All recorded at this small studio (Trident) tucked away in an alley in downtown London. Talk about being a fly on the wall in the early 70’s here…
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Neither what I’d call ‘magical’ nor with ‘mystery’, the Beatles tour was nonetheless worth the time spent waiting in London traffic for the photo walking across Abbey Lane (despite the impatient car drivers):

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Other points of interest on the tour included the middle red bricked rooftop where the Beatles played their last impromptu ‘gig’ (formerly the Apple Records HQ, now privately owned):

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Who’d have thunk that these two musical giants in their day would’ve lived next door to each other:
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And here is where Ringo, John Lennon, and Hendrix all lived at one time or another:

20130630-004015.jpg Whoever lives here now can brag a bit, but also has to deal with nosy tourists like me.

Earlier in the day, Brad and Gabriel took in the Churchill War Museum. This was enthralling (for Brad at least) as the underground bunkers and war rooms have been preserved in their form since the bombing raids of 1941. Here’s G next to old Blood, Sweat, and Tears himself.

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Finally, we saw “We Will Rock You” on West End that night. While the story was about some weird futuristic fantasy world (cheesy); the music (by Queen) was splendid.

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Friday was spent at Legoland. We figured if Gabriel could tolerate both Churchill and a Beatles tour, the least we could do was to provide equal time.

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And in “The End”…Beatle fans may know it’s the next-to-last song on the last album recorded by the Fab Four (Abbey Road, of course).

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A Castle, a Bath, and some rocks

We arrived in London mid-morning Tuesday the 25th, and warded off jet lag by taking a walk through nearby Regents Park with its beautiful gardens and wide open spaces. Did you know (or care): the same person designed both Hyde Park in London and Central Park in NYC.

Wednesday, we took a day-long tour to Windsor Castle, the town of Bath, and Stonehenge. Gabriel and Aubrey got a kick out of the changing of the guard at Windsor, and we toured around the Queen’s sometime residence (not there that day).

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Bath is a quaint town established by the Romans as Britain’s only natural thermal spa. Aubrey enjoyed visiting the museum of one of her favorite authors, Jane Austen, who was a resident there in her day. For Les Miz fans – the bridge scene where Russell Crowe’s character (Javert) jumps off the bridge was filmed right behind us in this picture.

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Our final stop of the day was Stonehenge; more impressive in lore than in person perhaps, but good for a photo-op:

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We capped the night with a (somewhat breezy) outdoor dinner at a trendy area called Covent Gardens with boutiques, street performers, and actually decent pizza. No one got lost, or left, so we call that a great first day.

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Europe – A 20 year return…plus

Hoover Fam

A 35 day, 8-country traipse through Europe by, that’s right, planes-trains-automobiles (and a bus and bicycle thrown in) takes a bit of planning.   Like 2 years.  But we decided that 2013 would be the year we would combine our return there with some “bucket list” items.  Nuremberg (actually, Pinder Barracks in nearby Zirndorf) was Brad’s first duty station as a general medical officer after his internship concluded in 1990.  He and Michelle had been married a little over a month when they landed in Frankfurt unsure of what the future held.  In August of that year, Saddam Hussein decided to add Kuwait to Iraq and the VII Corps was ordered to go and change his mind.  Brad left in December with the 1st Armored Division for Desert Shield (later Desert Storm), and returned in late April of 1991 safe and sound (PTL).

We remained in Germany, with Brad at the Nuremberg Army Hospital after Desert Storm, until June of 1993, a short 3 weeks after the birth of Liam at that same hospital.  We are looking forward to revisiting our old neighborhood and post, as well as some good German bier and schnitzel.  In addition, we decided to expand the trip and visit some other areas, to include some we had been to before but wanted to do again with the kids and see some other things.  These include 1) walking on Abbey Lane in London, akin to the iconic photo of the Fab Four doing the same,  2) a visit to Normandy, where I’ve been told that there will not be any dry eyes,  3) a 3-day bike trip through the Dordogne River region of France , 4) attending (not participating, I don’t think) the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona,  5) touring the Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camps while in Krakow, 6) a return (for Michelle and Aubrey) to Aubrey’s country of birth – Latvia, and 7) a visit to the majestic fjords in Norway.

You are welcome to come along on our journey, and we will share photos and insights along the way.  Departure is Monday, June 24 and return is Monday, July 29.  We appreciate the Godspeed prayers as we will witness His astounding creation as well as relive parts of history, both personal and global.