BY NICK WILDER
My wife, Keven, and I recently returned from eight days in soggy Normandy and sunny Paris. A three-hour drive from Charles DeGaulle airport took us to La Cheneviere, an 18th century chateau-hotel situated in a 30-acre garden only a few miles from Omaha Beach.
Keven’s father, the late William Carney, landed at Omaha Beach two weeks after D Day, so we were looking forward to tracing his steps.
We hired a guide through the hotel and took a full day tour of the D Day sites including the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach which was a moving site and is exceptionally well maintained. No matter how you feel about the current leaders of our country, visitors to the quietly beautiful landscape of the cemetery are left with feelings of awe and pride for the sacrifices made by our brave soldiers 74 years ago.
We also viewed the German cemetery, which is less elaborate. We got the feeling that not many people are interested in preserving the memory of the German soldiers who are buried two to a grave site.
Nearby is the medieval city of Bayeux, known primarily for its cathedral and tapestry (actually an embroidered cloth), which is 230 feet long and 20 inches tall. It tells the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and has been called the world’s first comic book.
Another day trip from our hotel took us to the industrial port city of Le Havre, where a sculpture made entirely of empty containers was placed next to the docks, and to Honfleur, a charming medieval town on the coast.
We drove to Paris and after struggling to find the Avis rental car return point, were glad to reach Howard Krane’s stunning apartment overlooking the Champ de Mars and Eiffel Tower, where Chinese tourists were taking selfies and the nightly light show drew gasps from strollers.
Paris in April lived up to its reputation with beautiful weather, reaching up to the high 70s, with the flowers in the Luxembourg Gardens in full bloom.
We rode on the Ferris wheel set up in the Place de la Concorde and got a birds eye view of the Arch de Triumph in the distance.
A highlight of this leg of the trip was visiting the Vuitton Foundation building in the Bois de Bologne. This cutting edge structure, filled with cutting edge art, was designed by Frank Gehry, which will remind Chicagoans of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.
Our last stop was at the Louvre which featured a large Delacroix show. The museum was crowded but well worth fighting for views of the masterpieces including Rembrandt’s self portraits.