France and Holland
In France, our itinerary took us over 3000 km of driving, starting from Grenoble (southeastern France, in the Alps), traveling down through the wine country of the Rhone valley to the Mediterranean, then across the bottom of France to Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, then up through the Bordeaux wine country, and finally to the windswept Normady coast. While this was a lot of territory to cover in 7 days, we managed to pack a lot in; every day was filled with memorable experiences and helped paint a vivid picture of French life.
I've been asked what was the highlight of the trip...it's hard to pick one thing. Probably the most moving experience was visiting the D-Day landing beaches and the associated American Cemetary along the Normandy coast. It's hard to put into words the historical and emotional resonance evoked by retracing the footsteps of the brave soldiers that sacrificed their lives for freedom during the bloody battles of D-Day; at the same time, the experience brought home the immensity of the slaughter and personalized the senslessness of war.
On a lighter note, the other things that will stay with me always from the trip include the stellar wine and food, the hospitality of the people (especially the winemakers who invited us in to their caves and wineries and treated us like family), drinking champagne on the patio in Pau at 2:30am, the sunset over the ocean at Biarritz, the colors of the countryside, sleeping under the full moon on Mont St. Michel, the smell of the herbs perfuming the air in Provence, the blustering winds of Normandy, and the brilliant color palette of the tulips at the Floriade show in Amsterdam.
I hope that these pictures convey even a small sense of the excitement that this trip brought to me!
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