D-Day Invasion Beaches

A number off years ago when we visited Northern France, we stopped at four of the five landing beaches. It was all totally unplanned but regardless it left me wanting to finish the quest. This time we did finish. Here’s a shot of the landing spots.

Utah Beach

The westernmost of the five code-named landing beaches in Normandy, undertaken by the United States. Forces landing on Utah cleared the immediate area in less than an hour and penetrated 6 miles inland by the close of D-Day.

This was something I didn’t expect to see…………..

We came upon this monument and inside the fortification we found this.

Interesting enough, we also came across this plaque in the same area. It was one of a series of large-scale rehearsals for the D-Day invasion. Because of the impending invasion of Normandy, the incident was under the strictest secrecy at the time and only minimally reported afterwards.

Another monument was part of this space, having three figures:

~the officer is standing and represents leadership and planning & intelligence for the operation.

~The sailor on his knees represents the naval combat demolition units and those sailors who fought ashore with very high causalities.

~The third sailor is loading a gun for the shore bombardment.

Omaha Beach

The primary U.S. objective was to secure a beachhead 5 miles deep, linking up with the British landings. Ultimately, the foothold at the end of the day was 1.6 miles. Very little went as planned as difficulties during navigation caused most of the landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day.

Defenses were unexpectedly strong and inflicted substantial casualties on the US troops. Ten landing craft were swamped by rough seas and seasickness was prevalent among the troops waiting offshore.

Causalities were most severe among the troops landing at either end of Omaha. Most companies were at best disorganized, leaderless and pinned down with no hope of carrying out their assault missions. This monument was created to recognize the bravery of the medics as they dodged bullets running to injured soldiers along the beachfront – having no way to protect themselves.

On the bluff was a memorial to the Big Red One infantryman as they encountered beach obstacles and fierce enemy fire which stopped their advance at the water’s edge.

The names on the monument remind us of the heavy cost of that victory. Their motto – ‘No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great, Duty First’.

Gold Beach

The objective for the British troops were to secure a beachhead, move west to capture Arromanches and establish contact with the American forces, capture Bayeux and the Port-en-Bessin, linking up with the Canadian forces at Juno. Extremely choppy seas, navigation errors, strong current and a quicker incoming tide impacted the operation – which was still not on point as desired. Bayeux was not captured until the following day.

Above, Adrienne is walking to one of the remaining ‘Mulberrys’. Gold Beach was to be one of the Mulberry Harbors that was brought across the Channel on D+1 to facilitate rapid off-loading of cargo onto the beaches after the Allied invasion. The other two figures below are Connor and Eric. An entire post could be dedicated just to the creation, building and execution of the Mulberry harbor.

Both harbors were fully functional when a large NE storm blew in on 6/19/44. The harbors had been designed with summer weather conditions in mind and the storm was the worst to hit Normandy in 40 years. Damage was so heavy on the other one, it was abandoned. Designed to last for only three months, the remaining one saw heavy use for eight months.

Juno Beach

The Canadian objective was to cut the Caen-Bayeux road, seize an airport west of Caen and form a link between the two British beaches on either flank.

Despite the failure to capture any of the final D-Day objectives, the assault was generally considered – alongside Utah – the most strategically successful of the D-Day landings.

While there are disputes concerning reasons why objectives were not met, weather, timing and congestion on the beach are popular theories.

Sword Beach

The easternmost landing site was the responsibility of the British Army. They were to assault the beaches, and seize the historic Norman city of Caen. Strong resistance, heavy fire and congestion on the beach as more men, vehices and equipment arrived complicated matters.

The British and Canadiens were able to link up the following day and continue the drive to Caen. At this site was a sculpture of a bagpiper.

My quest was accomplished during this trip. The beaches were so quiet, peaceful and treated with respect for any others we came across – so different from that day in June 1944.



The story that captivates a number of Americans involves the one where paratrooper John Steele’s chute snags on the belfry of the town’s church 6/6/44. To this day, there exists a likeness to highlight the story in the town.

Some buildings in town caught fire that night, illuminating the sky and making easy targets of the descending men resulting in heavy casualties. John Smith hung on the belfry for two hours, pretending to be dead until the Germans took him prisoner. He later escaped and rejoined his division when they attached the village. The village has capitalized on this story made more famous when the incident was portrayed in the movie The Longest Day.

The church was open for any wishing to look inside. Quite a pretty church with a number of ornamentations spread throughout. The day we visited we had to dodge rain showers and the church became a refuge for different reasons. It’s still a working church to this day. I saw a priest coming from behind the alter and an organ lesson occurring while we were inside.

As with most European churches, they had several stained-glass windows. One of the stained-glass windows was dedicated to the paratroopers and their likeness was part of the design when it had been replaced after the fighting.

We also visited the Airborne Museum – quite interesting. They had a number of buildings or ‘stops’ within a fenced in area dedicated to these divisions. I thought it was ironic these bicycles were parked in front of the sign.

One of the first war machines seen was this tank. The white building behind that showcased other operations.

Here is one of the displays seen inside the white-roofed building.

Another building labeled ‘Neptune’ had an excellent montage of events. Upon entering, you were thrust into a dark hallway which led you to the inside of one of the gliders. Recordings and rumbling vibrations truly got you into their mindset while waiting to hit their target. Afterwards you’re walking over a night-time version of the city as seen from the glider. This building was my favorite stop of the area. There was much more after walking through the glider – no photos.

My last shot is a bit hokey. There was a display for photo spots and yes, I got a shot. I couldn’t convince anyone else to step into the spot.

There are a number of monuments and stories that abound in this town. You could spend an entire day here wandering through the village. It was enjoyable even thought it was a repeat for myself and Eric. It was one of the first towns liberated during the invasion.


Pegasus Bridge

The bridges over the Caen canal and River Orne were the first objectives of the Normandy invasion. They were strategically important as they were the only crossings of the waterways between Caen and the sea.

Their capture by gliderborne assault was achieved brilliantly in the first 30 minutes of the D-Day invasion by D Company Group, 2nd Battalion. A number of years ago we came across the museum and wanted to stop by again.

Six Horsa gliders carrying the assault troops were cast off from tug aircraft over the coast, six miles from their targets. Three gliders landed with great precision and courage very close to the canal bridge. Below is a Horsa glider replica found on the grounds of the museum. Today, no Horse glider remains intact. A group of French aeronautical enthusiasts were commissioned to build this copy. The material and method of construction were those used during the war.

The pilots were later said to have performed one of the finest feats of airmanship of the war. The bridge featured below was the actual bridge captured.

It was moved onto the museum grounds upon the roadway being upgraded and the original bridge replaced.

The troops were soon hard-pressed to counterattack from the west but managed to hold them off until reinforced as planned.

There is a tribute on the grounds indicating the first British soldier to die on D-Day.

A plaque and statue honor his sacrifice.

Inside the museum are a number of vignettes of individual Brits that really brings this story to life. A short film shares additional info and footage. This museum is a must visit for those in the area, really bringing recognition to some of individual components of D-Day. I’m glad we could fit it into our most recent Normandy visit.


Highlights from Port-en-Bessin

It could be dicey, staying in a small town, but it was a central spot to visit the number of places on our list. It was a good decision. No surprise, it’s a fishing community and most of the restaurants feature freshly caught seafood.

When Adrienne goes on her morning run, she’s been able to get the lay of the land and find local landmarks. One day we visited their local church, Eglise St. Andrea.

Built in the late 1800s, it was dedicated to men of the sea.

Inside are many ship models and sailer tributes.

Half block away was their local cemetery.

It was multi-level and the upper level had the oldest grave markers.

Behind our rental was this structure, a fortification by Vauban, a French military engineer who worked under Louis XIV in the 1700s and considered the greatest engineer of his time. What you can’t see in my photos are the barricades preventing anyone from visiting. The structure was considered unsafe for visitation.

Walking to nearby restaurants, we traveled over this swing bridge. I finally got to see it in action! Coming in was this fishing boat.

Followed by this shipping vessel leaving the port.

BTW – the real truth……………..we were stranded on the wrong side of the water. We had a lunch reservation and we had to wait until the boat traffic cleared. Which gave me a chance to see the swing bridge in action.

Did you notice the dog at the very end of the video? We decided it was the town mutt. We saw him periodically throughout our visit and he was obviously very comfortable with the swing bridge.

I won’t take credit for the next photo – its Adrienne’s shot.

Port-en-Bessin was a great jumping off point for our adventures in Northern France. Here’s one last photo from our veranda.


Fabulous meals in (northern) France

No surprise, Eric found some great places to eat and made reservations before we departed the states. Not all meals had been planned, but several of his selections were ‘Michelin recommended’ and not the type to show up at their door and ask for a table.

Several options were within walking distance. One lunch was at Le Bisttrot da Cote. Wine, oysters and langosteens started the meal.

Eric ordered the first of his seafood tower meals – basically a large selection of protein from the sea.

Local fish were the selections of Connor and ADrienne.

While not glamorous, the goat cheese salad sounded great to me.

One evening Connor had a craving for ‘frites’ which dictated our restaurant selection – not a bad thing. Le Table des 2 Marcel made it happen. Local cider and red wine were the drinks of choice.

Another round of oysters were ordered for the table.

Our selections were: Chicken Supreme (mine), Turbot (Adrienne), Lamb (Eric) and Veal Capaccio (Connor).

What about the frites? Yep, we ordered 2 plates for the table. Not a single one was left at the end of the meal. Now that’s why we’re all smiles!

Other fresh seafood meals were created in-house, literally, in our house. Eric walked to the seafood market half a block away and picked up oysters and scallops, prepped with lemon juice, shallots and pears – excellent. Not a recipe he had prepared before, but sometimes those are the best kind. He pulled together what we could find at the grocery store nearby. I can tell you the scallops were a definite hit.

A walk to the boulangerie and nearby market for local cheeses, fruit, dried meat and pate were other hits for our in-house meals.

Two more to go for this post………………….

The next one may have spoiled me for oysters. I have never, and I mean n.e.v.e.r tasted oysters this good. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our plan was to stop at all of the D-Day beaches, so Eric and Connor found restaurants nearby our travels throughout the week. The Restaurant de L’ile was one of their choices and another ‘Michelin recommended’ spot.

Wine and amuse bouche started the meal. Tuna mousse, topped with golden cavier in a french pastry arrived before we ordered.

No surprise, oysters were part of this meal and OMG! Perfect size for me (small), nice texture, super salty and could also be topped with lemon or mignonette. ‘Ginny-size’ was on the left. These oysters may have spoiled me for all other bi-valves. YES, they were that good.

Man! loved these oyster spoons.

Eric enjoyed his choice of Fois gras and we all loved the bread. Might have been several baskets (or more) brought to the table. The little lavender flowers were also edible.

Adrienne selected a local fish while Connor and I had duck. All were satisfied with their choices.

Then came the desserts – another true winner. Three sweet selections chosen to end the meal: Puff pastries, sorbet (passion fruit and strawberry) and chocolate molten-lava cake.

Last restaurant for this post ……….. La Trinquette Bar Restaurant with once again, wine and oysters. These were just as good as the ones from the restaurant above.

I had a very tasty Cesar salad and they selected the fish soup – they loved it. It came with a few bowls of ‘add-ins’ as they so desired: gruyere cheese, garlic butter and toasted bread points. Everyone was happy.

Everyone had the fish selection.

Three of us had the most fabulous trio of caramel treats (caramel cream, caramel macaroon and caramel ice cream. Eric selected a cheese plate – we won, just saying.

More posts to come as we traveled through northern France.


Longues-sur-Mer & Bayeux

Having a rental car gave us more freedom to sight-see while it expanded our adventures. One trip involved German pillboxes and 11th century propaganda. Let’s start wih the Germans.

This was part of the German defense along the Atlantic coastline. Their guns had an effective range up to 14+ miles. BTW – that’s Adrienne in the photo below.

Some of the pillboxes still had their gunnery.

Connor and I walked to the edge of the coast, finding other ammunition spots still in the fields.

One lookout point was still intact.

From there the coastline was easily seen.

Afterwards it was on to Bayeux and the Bayeux Tapestry – a short distance away. Bayeux was located four miles from the coast of the English Channel and founded in the 1st century BC. It was destroyed a number of times through the years and re-built by various peoples.

No photos were allowed of the actual Tapestry, and they had a very organized viewing process. Audio guides (available in a multitude of languages) were part of the entrance fee and automatically started upon entering the display. There was no stopping, pausing or going backward on the audio guides. Everyone kept moving forward through designated stopping points.

To this day, some mystery continues.

One can’t visit the Tapestry without stopping at the Bayeux Cathedral – it could be seen from most everywhere in the city. This was left virtually untouched from Allied bombing due to the German forces defending Caen, further away. Bayeux was the first city of the Battle of Normandy that was liberated.

The site is an ancient one and was once occupied by Roman sanctuaries. The present cathedral was consecrated in July 1077. Following serious damage in the 12th century, the cathedral was rebuilt in Gothic style.

This photo gives some perspective. Those are massive doors.

Quite a bit of the stained glass was still in place.

Entry was in the back of the cathedral.

We kept moving towards the center of the cathedral.

One of the architectural features intrigued me.

More stained glass was at the very back.

A crypt and treasury was still in place and after a short flight of stairs onewas able to imagine the history that took place.

There was just enough light to take a photo.

Had to chuckle when I saw scaffolding. Usually seen on the outside, this time work was being done in multiple places – both inside and out.

One group shot before leaving Bayeux, taken along the southside of the building.

So far………the group has been patient with my photo requests. Not sure how long that will last, but I’ll keep going.



We headed out of the country – but this time as a party of four. After getting the luggage checked in and made it through security screening, our next stop was the MCO Club Lounge. Food is filling and most importantly………nothing costs extra with our membership. We were there early enough to catch breakfast offerings and lunch offerings.

Our connecting flight was through Atlanta. Originally the layover was 45 minutes – WHAT? That was tight! And totally dependent upon all the stars aligning and pieces falling into place correctly for us to make the connection. Not going to lie, had some grey hairs growing just thinking about that situation. One week prior to departure, Delta notified us the flight was being changed……….we now had a 3-hour layover- yeah. ~Happy dance~.

Eight hours later, we were in France.

After picking up a BMW rental car, we headed north to Port-en-Bessin along the northern coastline in Normandy. What is special about this city:

~This site has been occupied since protohistory.

~Hosted the shipyard of William the Conqueror.

~In the 1970s, the town became the first Normandy fishing port with the creation of its own fish market.

We typically reserve AirBNBs for our accommodations. With this town being along the coastline, Eric was able to find a location right along the waterfront. Here was the view from our veranda. Yep, a little cloudy but so far, the rain held off.

We were met at our rental and given a quick run-down of the place and expectations for when we depart.

Three bedrooms, two toilettes, one shower and a small kitchen. That’s all you need.

First order of business – lunch, Normandy style. walking along the waterfront, this was our pick, starting with cidre – a specialty in this region with all the pommes (apples) grown here.

Seafood salad, a savory galette and pizza (shared) were our selections. You’ll have to guess who ordered what. 🙂

Walked to the shore to checkout the tides. There was a large tidal range. My photos were at the ebb tide.

Going up and down these ladders looked challenging and not for the faint of heart.

Connor and I walked out a little further to check out the English Channel.

As expected, we came across a number of memorials. This was at the end of the breakwater.

This port was not suitable for a large D-Day landing, however it was important for another reason – P.L.U.T.O. Pipe Line Under The Ocean.

We came across this info walking back to our rental.

This was the first of many more memorials.


Crystal River with Friends

We had a chance to share a special part of Florida with California friends. Even better…… we were able to give them a ‘water’ view of Florida.

Not going to lie, we had an experience that while it was a first for them, it was a first for us. Yes, we usually see dolphins while on the boat – but not like this.

This small pod of juvenile dolphins was putting on a show for us but was watched from afar but their older dolphin babysitter to ensure nothing serious happened. They kept swimming around our boat, diving underneath and generally stayed very close to us.

My photos were always a second too late with the dolphins back in the water, but between the entire boat, was able to gather a few good shots.

Coming back to land, lunch was in order and included a stop at our local favorite eating establishment: Seafood Sellers. The owners were from Louisiana and a big draw was fresh crayfish when they are in season. They were during our visit.

Naturally, Eric ordered 5 pounds.

There were plenty to share for all at the table. Me, not so much. I’ve had them in the past, not my thing. I tried to stay away from the ‘splash’ zone and gave Eric plenty of table space.

One of my favorites are their tomato ‘chips’ (center plate). Oysters were also fresh and two dozen ere ordered for the table.

Fresh grouper was another one of their specialties. Truth be told……..not all ‘grouper’ is always grouper. This restaurant has their own fishing fleet and will only serve grouper when they catch it.

Alas, I didn’t capture a photo of dessert – beignets, white powdery, sweet puffs of goodness. It was great taking CA friends to see a uniquely viewpoint of Florida.


My (Ginny’s) 40 years at WDW.

1982 was the year I packed my meager belongings and headed south to Florida. Never, I mean n.e.v.e.r, expected to be here forty plus years later. We celebrate milestone service anniversaries at work beginning at the 5 year mark and WOW, did I celebrate my 40th . Let’s just say for one reason or another, this ‘celebration’ took place over a number of months – actually years. Ha!

Let’s get started………

Part 1 of my celebration was several days before my anniversary date in July. There were a few events to schedule around and ultimately found a date at the end of June when most could attend. This was hosted by my leader and included her peers, the Park VP, my team and my requested invitees. I was ‘surprised’ when I walked into the room.

I brought in a few of my early Epcot mementos: articles & magazines that I was in, some of the Eyes & Ears from my Disney volley ball days (we won our league!) and early Epcot guide maps along with special photos.

What’s a celebration without cake………

LOVE the mickey-shaped sprinkles on the cake. 🙂

Just for kicks, adding in some throw-back photos from those early days when I worked at The Land. Yep, it was the 80s.

Part 2 of my 40 years was the Park’s anniversary on 10/1/23. All those that were working at Epcot on 10/1/82 are considered ‘Legacy’ cast members and several events had been planned for us. Unfortunately, a little thing called Hurricane Ian made a visit that week, so all events were rescheduled, some more than once. One event was a early morning photo before a catered breakfast. It occurred later in October. I’m in the front row, seated, 4th from the left.

A few photo spots were created around the park for cast to highlight the 40th anniversary…………

At the same time, we were able to capture a photo with my team and our VP, Kartika (2nd from the left).

Part 3 of the park festivities for the Legacy cast was a special Dessert party and preferred viewing for Fireworks. Yep, it was rescheduled several times and ultimately my sister and her husband was here (December!) and could be part of the magic, along with Adrienne. BTW – Eric was working. He sees the fireworks several times each week.

It was a little damp that night but the rain held off and the group walked over to the Italy viewing spot for fireworks. That bright white ball in the background……….Spaceship Earth.

Finally, part 4 and the finale. All cast celebrating a milestone anniversary attends a cast-exclusive part at the Magic Kingdom.

A bus was scheduled to pick us up after getting our credentials and when dropped off, were greeted with special libations.

We have staggered times for arriving and once you hit 40, a catered dinner is involved instead of a buffet.

Our dinner was at Be Our guest.

Wine along with our meal kept the celebration going. Chicken for me and prime rib with lobster for Eric. Desserts were very colorful.

After eating we walked through the Park seeing lots of cool things.

Part of the evening involves ‘walking the red carpet’ with lots of screaming fans.

Those fans…………….my leader started a chant ‘Ginny, Ginny, Ginny’ which caused quite a stir.

I was able to capture a photo with my vice president – Kartika. So excited, happy and proud to be working for her.

We got a selfie with the castle in the background as we walk the red carpet. It was a fun evening, highlighting 40 years at WDW.

Last photos shows tangible momentos that will always be mine. Can’t believe………..still here after 40 years.


Three eating 3 cuisines.

Huh? What the heck do I mean with that title? Three of us selected three different cuisines in Central Florida: German, Spainish and Chinese Sichuan. Not so long ago, that would have been impossible. Being a melting pot definitely had a positive effect on our food options. Let’s see how that turned out for us during our Sunday jaunts.

Das Essen – German for food

We repeated a fan favorite in Sanford, Hollerbach’s German restaurant but this time had a new experience.

While they have various themed rooms for eating, along with the outside area seen above (our usual choice), they now have a rooftop Biergarten. When we travel both inside and outside of the U.S., al fresco dining is the preferred option. On previous visits this had not been available but when the hostess mentioned it ………….we jumped on it.

The day of our visit was great for being outside and great for drinking a few brews – of course. There were only a few other patrons this day but service from our (German – really!) waiter was top notch.

When eating German, it’s a mandate to order a pretzel, which we did accompanied by a beer cheese spread and sweet mustard. The pretzel comes to the table piping hot, which we know, but still can’t wait to tear off a chunk and start eating! Ouch! Burned my fingers again.

Something new on their menu was Kasepatzle. Basically house-made, freshly sauteed spaetzle, topped with cheese and crispy fried onions, served with a salad. Delicious! However, V.E.R.Y filling. I brought half of it home.

Adrienne’s choice was a house salad with sliced chicken. definitely the healthiest choice at our table. Eric took a deeper dive into German cuisine, selecting pork schnitzel with a hunter sauce & red cabbage.

We made a great choice eating on the rooftop for this visit. If available the next time – we’re there.

Spanish Tapas – refers to a style of serving food rather than specific dishes.

This felt like a throw-back to our May 2022 trip to Barcelona. Eating (then and now) was tapas-style, ordering small pates to share periodically, then add more if still hungry. Two quick choices were the tomato bread and mixed olives. Both of which we ordered several times on our trip. Both were good, but truthfully, the tomato bread tapas in Barcelona won out. What a surprise, ha!

Another Barcelona favorite was octopus and Toro’s did not disappoint. Add in the thinly sliced Iberian ham and great memories were coming back.

While never seeing the tapas below in Barcelona, it was reminiscent of a selection that Adrienne and I had ordered in an Iceland gastropub: dates, wrapped in chorizo, + goat cheese + honey. Very tasty!

We were just (un)lucky enough to be there with live dancing and sitting next to the stage. Nothing wrong with the dancing, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of live entertainment – call me a fuddy duddy.

There was one unfortuante aspect of this place – its located on I-Drive, a heavily populated tourist area in Orlando. Another aspect………….the food was excellent. We’ll stop by again however during the off season.

Sichuan – refers to a province in Western China, usually incorporates the spicey Sichuan pepper.

This place was located south and west of downtown Orlando.

As you might image with a name like ChiliSpot combined with Sichuan……….yep, food was mighty spicey. We ordered a number of small plates to share – only a few at a time. We knew we would be ‘safe’ with fried rice and pot stickers as starters. Both were good and hit the right pace.

A little further into the heat with spicey cucumbers and sliced lamb with green peppers.

We saw this on the menu and had to try it: Farm Wood Ear Mushroom Salad. When the two adventurous eaters comment that the ‘texture’ was odd, nope, not going to try it.

Totally jumping into the Sichuan heat was this selection: sliced chicken hot pot. Yep, those are Sichuan peppercorns along with other spicey pepper ingredients. Interesting thing about Sichuan peppers………..they tend to number the tongue. It’s not noticeable if Sichuan peppers are an occasional ingredient – like me. But, the first time you experience it, kind of unnerves a person.

There you have it. Three cuisines from 3 countries eaten between the three of us.