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Spring Break

April 6, 2003 (Written May 24)

Dear Friends and Families,

With Marianne's Spring Beak coming up, we discussed where we could go for that week. In past years we've gone to Turkey but with a Middle East war pending, we thought that wasn't a good idea. With an early April schedule, we didn't want to go North but with only one week, driving way south didn't seem to make sense either. Our geographic compromise was to drive west into France until we hit the Atlantic. Here are our stories.

I use the plural because we ended up with two themes. The first was normal tourism. You know, castles, churches, and squares as well as markets, bakeries, and restaurants. The second theme was war, from the French invasion of Britain in 1066, up through the made-for-TV show currently running on BBC and CNN International. We'll split our tale into these two parts because the themes are not compatible.

First, tourism. But here we will take a short cut and just provide a gallery of a dozen pictures.



Verdun is mostly famous for the nearby 20th Century battlefields, but it's a pleasant place all by itself. The Meuse River runs through town and provides a pleasnat place to sit and sip wine and watch folks stroll by.


Out of Verdun, we chose to avoid the high-speed toll roads in favor of the country roads. Along the way, we ran across a small town church with what may be the best gargoyles we've seen - and by now we've seen a lot of gargoyles.

Our next goal was Epernay, the home of the only French wine allowed to be called "champagne". Above ground, the million-dollars-an-acre vinyards cover the slopes of the hills. Below ground are miles of caves, like these we saw on our Moet-Chandon tour.


Another benefit to small roads in France are the wonderful restaurants that popo up in some of the remote places. We stopped by for lunch here and had a wonderful meal. Definitely not "road food".



Our goal on the Normany coast was Honfleur. It's a cute tourist town surrounding a protected harbor that's been used for a thousand years or more. In our off-season visit, we thoroughly enjoyed the peace and tranquility. (However, shortly after this picture was taken, John's back went out so badly he was immobile for a day and not much better for the rest of the trip.)


Mont St. Michel was as impressive in person as it had been in books and treavelogues. That's the good part. The bad part was that John could barely move from the car, much less climb the eight flights of stairs to our reserved hotel room. We had to settle for a look from the outside and a promise to return.

In Brittany, we stayed in the old town of Dinan. It was another picture-postcard place, with ancient downtown buildings - and more good restaurants. France is terrible for diets!


Dinan's river port was a picturesque as the town center. Our visit in a quiet moring made us promise to return here too. How can we possibly work in all the return visits - and all the new pkaces besides.



Some places just make the car and the driver look better.


(Not that the driver needed any help !!!!)


We broke up our Brittany-to-Frankfurt return with a visit to Chartres and it's famous cathedral Inside there were soaring ceilings and marvelous stone carvings.


The jewels of the Chartres Cathedral are the windows. These were probably the best we've seen so far.

But, whio knows what the next trip will bring?


We hope you've enjoyed our bit of Spring Break.

Take care and do your back exercises.

John and Marianne


ps: some websites for more information



Epernay (in French)


Moet-Chandon Champage.




Our hotel in Honfleur


Dinan, in English - sort of.Worth a read




Model of Chartres Cathedral.


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