This year, my family is taking a trip to France to celebrate the 64th anniversary of D-Day. What makes this trip so special is that we’re going with my grandfather who hasn’t been to the beaches of Normandy in 64 years. He was a communications specialist in the 111th AntiAircraft Artillery group which landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. We have heard stories about the war for years, but when we asked my grandpa about 10 months ago if he ever thought about going back, he said, “I’d love to go, but never figured I’d get a chance to see it again.” Thanks to accumulated frequent flier miles over the past 8 years, the tickets are booked and we leave tomorrow.
Me, my dad, and grandpa leave out of Austin tomorrow and arrive in Paris on Tuesday. My sisters leave out of Dallas and arrive a couple of hours before us. Dad and grandpa are flying first/business class which should be an experience all by itself. We all meet up in Paris for 24 hours of sight-seeing around the big city. Our only agenda item is the Eiffel Tower. The rest will happen on its own. Wednesday we drive to the Normandy region and spend three nights in the area. Then it’s back to Paris for one night and then we’re on our way home. Since grandpa turns 90 this year and isn’t quite as spry as he once was, we’re going solo and guiding ourselves around the region. My sister picked up a book that has a self-guided tour. We’ll pick up some tours, museums, etc. as we can throughout the trip.
My wife and I have been to Normandy once before. 7 years ago we took a European vacation and spent a day in Normandy. It was quite moving and happened to coincide with the D-Day anniversary itself. There were original soldiers in uniform participating in various ceremonies, bag-pipers playing taps, and hundreds of tourists visiting the thousands of gravesites. I can only imagine how moving it will be to be there with my grandpa. We realized that the last time he was there, his objective was to put the beach as far behind him as possible. Having the beach as a destination is certainly a different objective from before. I don’t know how much time he has spent in his life thinking about that day, but I expect a few memories will come back to him on our trip. We picked up a Belkin TuneTalk adapter for my iPod so we can record the audio of his stories and I know there will be a few hundred pictures taken as well.
I’ll post more during the trip (if I can) and certainly when we get back. It will be the trip of a lifetime and something I’m sure I’ll cherish for the rest of my days.