Make-A-Wish sent Babygirl a list of potential activities to select from in anticipation of her trip to Paris. It included tours of Giverny and Monet's gardens. Tours of Versailles, Flanders, Normandy, the Louvre. Dinner cruise on the Seine. Paris Disney.
She didn't know what a lot of them were. So we Google'd, and Bing'd, and made choices: A general tour of Paris by bus, a trip to Versailles, and a trip to Normandy. Yup, my kid is smart enough to skip Disney.
We left for our tour at 6 AM in an 8-passenger minibus. The other four passengers were American tourists from a different hotel, and our tour was designed with Americans in mind. We spent the two-hour drive conversing with our tour guide and learning some much-needed background history.
At one point one of our traveling companions asked our guide, "Have you ever taken any famous people on this tour?"
"Not so much famous, no. But I have taken many IMPORTANT people. The soldiers, you see, they come back, or their wives come. They bring their children and their grandchildren and tell them the stories, to make sure that they do not forget."
I will never forget that, never. It brought the entire tour into sharp relief for me.
We stood on Pont du Hoc http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=pont+du+hoc&id=63E28217988487347BCAE26A031F3035F12A817C&FORM=IQFRBA and learned of the amazing courage of the handful of Rangers who scaled the cliffs to take the guns. The ground is pocked with 25-foot-deep craters from the shelling.
We saw Omaha, Juno, Utah beaches and memorials. And we saw the American Cemetery http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=american+cemetery+normandy&qs=IM&form=QBIR&pq=american+cemetary&sc=8-17&sp=1&sk= and the beaches below.
We had a lovely lunch in a chateau that pre-dated the invasion. And we drove back to Paris through the lush French countryside, seeing parts of the country that we would have missed entirely if Babygirl had limited us to Paris alone.
My uncle fought in WWII. He wasn't at Normandy, but I wrote his name in the sand there. He wasn't famous, but he was IMPORTANT.
Babygirl learned that history isn't just something you study in school. By the time we returned to our hotel at 6:30 PM we were exhausted in the best possible way. We all stretched body, soul, mind and spirit that day. And we are all the better for it.