Day two started early in the morning because sleeping for 12 hours meant we had a lot to make up for. We hopped on the metro and headed towards Sacre Coeur. We went one stop too far, but it was okay because it gave us our first view of Notre Dame, and it was not a far walk to get from there to Sacre Coeur. This day was our first experience with the fact that Europeans are not really early risers. Nothing was open, there were very few people walking around, and it was oddly quiet. By the time we reached the top of Montmartre the sun was beginning to rise. It was gorgeous! Even with all of the beer bottles on the steps, it was a sigh to see.
From here we walked back down to the city streets and ate at our first corner cafe, with a great view of Notre Dame of course. The cathedral is magical and there is just something about walking around inside that helps you to understand why religion was, and still is for many, such an important part of life. There was a Mass going on as we walked the interior of the church, so we decided to sit down and really take in the moment. While we did the bells began to sing. I got chills while C was teary eyed. It was the first of many moments when the trip seemed unreal. From here we walked over to the Fountain of Saint Michel. The water was not on, did I mention the city does not come to life until around nine, but it was still a true work of art. C and I had a good laugh because at one point a pigeon perched atop the devil’s head and began to defecate. We found it to be quite appropriate.
From there we made our way over to Sainte Chapelle. Walking up to the chapel it was not particularly beautiful, especially after seeing Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, but do not let the exterior fool you. Some of the most beautiful stained-glass is located inside across 1,113 windows depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament. It was now time to make our way towards Normandy, our main stop for the second day. An hour long train ride got us to Bayeux where we met our tour guide. It is possible to see the D-Day sites without a tour guide, but it does require a car. Once again we lucked out because our tour was only 5 other people. First, we went to see a Pointe du Hoc. From this location you can see Utah and Omaha beaches, which lead the Germans to fortify the area. You can still see remnants of the life the Germans created there, as well as giant holes in the ground from the Allies weapons. There is a memorial there, in the shape of a dagger, for the Rangers that took possession of it on D-Day.
Next, we were taken to Omaha beach. I warned C before we even left for our trip that I was going to cry the day we went to Normandy, and I thought that seeing the beach would be the moment that made the tears come. Our tour guide parked the van, we got out and walked towards the beach, and my eyes stayed dry. I was in complete shock for a few moments though. You see although Omaha is a historical site, it is still a beach. There were people laying out, swimming in the water, enjoying a normal day at the beach. For them, it just so happened to be Omaha; for me, it was a sacred place. Our tour guide could sense that we were all in shock to see the beach as such, and reminded all of us that those who fought and died on D-Day did so to allow people the freedom to do just what those people were doing. This made what I was seeing a little easier for me, but it was still difficult to get over. Then we got a bit of time to ourselves. C and I went down to the beach, a little bit away from everyone else, and it was in that moment that it became real to me. I was sitting on Omaha beach. The blood, sweat, and tears of the men who fought there were under my feet. If the tide was low remains of the harbor could be seen, just a few miles out were tanks that never made it to shore. The tears made their way to my eyes, but it was not until our next stop that they began to flow.
The final location on the tour was the American cemetery. We arrived close to 1700, which is when they perform their flag ceremony. We stopped and watched as Taps played as the second flag was lowered and folded. From there, C and I walked through the area. Touching as many graves as we could, paying our respects, saying thank you, and sending up a quick prayer. The graves are in no particular order, and many of the tombstones are soldiers known only to God. Those graves had a prayer sent to their families as well. It was an experience that touched me deeply and I will never forget being there.
After our train ride back to Paris we decided to walk around and go see the Eiffel Tower at night. Check number two on my bucket list for this trip. We let the light at the top be our guide and as we walked up it hit the hour mark, so the tower danced with light. As we approached it, the size of the tower became apparent. It is huge and really is a wonder to see! There were a good amount of people around, but because it was later at night the crowd was not so bad. As we began our walk back to the hotel we saw a new piece of art being constructed in line with the tower. It is a monument of peace and I found it very cool that we were able to see it before it was officially done.
The day was long, but incredible. I would not have changed a second about this day and I am so glad that we decided to sleep as much as we did to make this amazing day happen!