Good morning! Man its been nonstop for a while. Today was our field lab to the Dday beaches and museums. Up early since we had to get the whole class together and prepped before getting on the bus. One student was dead asleep and after calling her on the second time we got her up and to the bus, so everyone was accounted for.

Our guide was 15 minutes late, as he got stuck in traffic, so we were given the OK to come back to the ship after the 6pm due time.

We had a 2 hour ride where most of the student slept, I might of closed my eyes for an hour ;)

Our first stop was the Point du Hoc a cliff hold out that the US Rangers scaled thinking their were big German guns there (they had been moved earlier). From that point you could see Omaha beach to the south and Utah beach to the north. They had left the place as it was after the war so their was giant bomb craters and the cemented gun bunkers.

It was amazing to be living through history at a place and you can imagine the Rangers climbing the cliff to take it over, or even look out at the ocean and see just a wall of ships and men sailing at you.

That pretty much was the theme for the day, living history and imagining what it must of been like.

Next top was Omaha beach and reflection time. Now it just looks like a beautiful beach but I had a vivid image from Saving Private which was playing on repeat the last 3 days, when they storm the beach at the beginning of the movie. They just got mowed down and there were so many obstructions on the beach.

We then headed to the American Cemetery where over 9000 us soldiers are buried and a wall with names for 1550 more who lost their lives but could not be located or identified. It was sober and amazing to walk among the graves and know we benefit today with what these men lost their lives for.

At the memorial part they also had some of the best maps of the invasion I’ve seen. They were huge, maybe 40-50 feet tall and showed the Normandy invasion and also the invasion of Europe.

The last stop of the day was the Arromanches where the artificial harbor was built to bring in supplies to support all of the troops. The Germans had fortified all the other major ports so they only option was to build their own. Churchill came up with the idea and then US and British engineers designed it. They floated over the huge pieces from England and then put them into place. Absolutely amazing! We are able to see the remains of the harbor and watch a couple short films on its workings.

Finally it was a 2 hour ride back to Le Havre and the ship. We arrive 15 minutes late to ship time, but since we were a field lab, and it was known the ship wasn’t actually leaving till Tuesday we weren’t in trouble.

Went to bed early as it has been a long couple of days.

Today we had our Cider and Calvados tour.

We were at the bus at 930 to head to Normandy. We had an awesome tour guide who had actually sailed on Semester at Sea in 1967 and because of that she fell in love with France and moved to Paris.

First stop was Pierre Huet a cider, pomme, and calvados producer. Cider is 2-5% alcohol product, that can be dry or sweet, pomme is 3 parts apple juice and 1 part calvados around 17%. Finally calvados is an apple brandy around 80% alcohol. Strong stuff! Sipping stuff.

We went on a tour of their facilities and then we go tot try their pear cider, pomme, and calvados. I liked all 3 in different contexts. We knew we were heading to lunch next so many of the students bought bottles of cider and so did I. I got their brut apple cider to have at lunch. The students are not allowed to bring alcohol on the ship so they had to drink it during the day.

We had lunch at a great little crepe shop a 5 minute walk from Pierre Huet. We each got a crepe with ham, egg, and mushroom and a dessert crepe with delicious chocolate, yum! On all the tables were bottles of cider to go along with our meal. it was great! And they allowed for a whole hour and a half for lunch so we were able to relax and meet everyone who was not the trip.

Next we were suppose to go to a small family owned place called Le Manoir de Grandouet but after driving around for 20 minutes we couldn’t find it. Phones didn’t work that well there and we tried calling and there was no answer. Our awesome guide suggested we hit the next place then on the way home to go Honfleur a great little town across the river from Le Havre. Apparently Sundays are the day to visit and all the shops are open and its very lively.

She convinced us so we stopped at Chateau du Breuil next to try their pomme and calvados. I liked their calvados better than the one earlier. This one was an example of a large production place where you can get a label made just for your event.

By the way meant to mention Normandy, where we went was about 1.5 hours from the ship, so a bit of a hike but not bad. So we were working on making our way back all day.

So Honfleur was our last and final stop and so glad our guide suggested it. It was packed with people and was a great small old little town. Le Harve was completely destroyed during WWII because of its large port, but Honfleur was spared as it was in a small cover and didn’t have port. Because of that we say houses from the 15th century.

Our guide led us to a few notable places, mostly a very old completely wooden chuch that was for the fisherman, and the town hall and a place to buy local good and ty a bit more cider. Then we were on our own for about an hour. I wander around the small cobblestone streets and got some delicious cheese cut off the block, a bottle of cider and a bottle of wine.

Then it was back to the bus and to the ship. It was a great day! I had dinner on the ship and then relaxed since we had to be up early for our Dday field lab the next day

 

 

Today we had to make our way back to Antwerp to make the on ship time of 1pm. Another hour train ride back. We ran into so other staff folks on their way to the train station to go to Paris. This was one of the ports where you could travel overland to Le Havre to meet the ship. I had to stay on because tomorrow we are going on a cider and calvados tour in Normandy. Should be awesome!

I got a few beers to bring back on the ship – Rodenbach a flemish red is one of my favorites. Had some lunch on ship and then watched the ship disembark at 3pm.

Worked in the lounge the rest of the afternoon trying to edit videos so we can upload them tomorrow after the tour.

We set said around 3pm with a local band even sending us off – neat!

We started running into rouge seas around dinner time. It wasn’t too bad at first just had to really balance yourself with your plate. But then it got worst. Maybe 8 foot seas? It doesn’t seem like much but we were rocking pretty good. I went to my room and watched Saving Private Ryan since we are going to the Dday beaches on Monday. The ship was rocking side to side so for me that meant my head would come up off the pillow as my weight shifted towards my feet then back again.

Luckily it subsided a bit around midnight and I was able to get some sleep since we have the Cider and Calvados tasting tomorrow. Should be fun! We get into Le Havre around 8am, then our bus leaves at 9:30.

Photos from Belgium:

Today, we headed back to Brussels because we were unable to film anything yesterday with the strict schedule. We walked to the main train station in Antwerp which is beautiful and took a train for 7 euro to Brussels. Took about an hour and it was nice to see the country side. We had lunch at a awesome beer bar with 40 awesome Belgium beers on tap.

Next was filming in front of the European Commission. We did a few takes since it was windy and hopefully they came out good.

Then onto Cantillon Brewery! They brew Belgian Lambic and Gueze still of beers in a dry sour way. Soo good! The brewery was neat to tour and do a tasting at the end. I got my first souvenir – a T-shirt thats pretty cool.

We decided to spend the night in Brussels and grabbed a couple cheap hotel rooms. Went out to dinner and met some awesome locals who we hung out with for the rest of the night. I did have an awesome steak and didn’t realized how much I was missing proper protein, lol.

IMG_3231We were on the bus at 9am this morning to Brussels. Our tour guide was great and told us the history of the area and Belgium on the hour bus ride to the city. We got to stop at the Atomium, an atom looking structure left over from the 1958 worlds fair that was held. Pretty neat.

Then we parked at the EU and made our way in to our meeting. We were allowed to bring cameras which allowed for lots of photos. We had a great guy Giovanni tells about the EU and how the European Commission part it works, the overall goals, and the future of the organization. We eat our box lunches there, which for me was an onion roll with cheese and the tiniest amount of veggies. They don’t give you much from the ship. Then a capris sun which I gave away and a granola bar and 2 mealy apples. Pass!

Next was NATO headquarters. What a stark difference. No cameras were allowed, including cell phones. We had to go through security and our bag checked and even a bomb sniffing dog checked out our bus. We had a couple people talk to us there, but it was after lunch and a bit tough to stay focused.

One of the students had an uncle who worked there and he came and chatted for the last 15 minutes and was very interesting. The students were most interested in his career and how he got to work for NATO from the US government.

beer and mussles

beer and mussles

Another hour bus ride back and then John and I had to work on setting up a flash quiz for the VT students. After that I went out with some other staff folks for a delicious dinner of mussels, frites and beer. The serving of mussels here is like 5 times what you get in the US. I did my best to eat them all but left about 8. Beers were delicious though.