Everyday People, Uncommon Heroes

Do you know where this beach is? It may look like so many other beaches — beautiful but not distinctive. But when you hear the name, you will probably know of it. This is Omaha Beach in France, the place of fierce fighting on D-Day in 1944. Today it is peaceful, lovely.

Above the beach lie the white crosses, row on row. Here, everyday people died, young men maybe still in their teens, from farms and cities far away. Common folk colliding with uncommon times.

Among the crosses, here and there, flowers have been laid on the ground as a way to say thank you. We may not even know their names, but our hearts feel gratitude.

Down the coast a few miles is Pointe du Hoc, another landing place for the Americans on D-Day. Here again, the scene today is tranquil.

Remnants of war overlook the cliffs here. Craters formed by bombs are clear to see. Chunks of gun emplacements lay where they fell when blown up.

A museum at these beaches displays this note, written by an army colonel from a landing craft out in the channel. He had anxiously watched the attack. Finally, he was able to send a positive report of thanks.

As we walked the hallowed ground of these battlefields, I emerged from a concrete bunker to glance at this young boy, clutching his teddy bear and ambling along what once was a war zone.

This, I thought, is what we can be thankful for. A young generation lives in freedom today, carefree and unaware of what happened in this place to ensure that kind of life. President Ronald Reagan summed it up in a tribute to the men who fought here:

These are the boys of Point du Hoc;
These are the men who took the cliffs.
These are the champions who helped free a continent.
These are the heroes who helped end a war.

My Thanksgiving holiday this year will be a little richer with thanks because of my sobering visit to the D-Day beaches.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Last photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk_2312. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme song this week is “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone.

 

A Pocketful of Sunshine

I got a pocket,
got a pocket full of sunshine,
I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine.
                             — Natasha Bedingfield

Have you noticed how cats love sunshine? They seek it out and completely relax in its warmth. One heartwarming place to see this is in Rome at the cat sanctuary, Largo di Torre Argentina.

This isn’t your average cat shelter. It’s located in an excavated city block that happens to be where Julius Cesaer was stabbed in 44 BC. About a century ago, digging began here, and portions of 4 temples and a theater emerged. Columns and pieces of ancient buildings lay scattered all around.

One end of the block houses the cat shelter.

So cats romp where Julius Cesear walked. They nap on a temple column. They nestle into old brick walls.

They roam about the patio outside the sanctuary.

All of the cats get medical treatment inside. Then, if they want to stay in, they are welcome. They can play and sleep and visit with the stream of tourists who find this place of ancient history.

More than 200 cats live here, and the staff names each one. “I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine.” Every cat is known; every one is loved.

There’s a place that I go
That nobody knows
Where the rivers flow
And I call it home
And there’s no more lies
And the darkness is light
And nobody cries
there’s only butterflies.

The best part of our visit? A French couple picked up a little black cat and I watched them fall in love. They pantomimed to the Italian woman working there that they wanted to adopt the little fur ball. A new family formed on the spot!

If you’re ever in Rome, be sure to visit the cat sanctuary. You’ll get a dose of history, and you’ll find love in action.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Last photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk_312. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme song this week is “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield.

 

 

A Place of Remembrance — the Arc de Triomphe

Today is Veteran’s Day, the day World War I ended almost one hundred years ago. One place that honors those who fought in this war and other battles is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. This arch rises above the middle of the city and pays tribute to the brave souls who went to battle for their country.

Originally designed by Napoleon, the arch was finished after his death. It is 164 feet high. Today the names of more than 500 generals and the places they fought line the tall columns.

At the end of World War I, on November 11, 1918, an “unknown soldier” from the Verdun battlefield was carried to the arch. This soldier rests today beneath an eternal flame lit in a ceremony in 1923. The flame has not gone out since.

It’s fitting that you can climb the interior steps and emerge on top of the arch to view the city. Here is the Champs Elysees, the heart of the city, thriving after coming through wars and occupation. From the Arc you can view other landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower.

The Arc de Triomphe was one of the structures of this elegant city that was fit with explosives during WWII. The order to blow it up was disobeyed. The Arc remains as a symbol of freedom. Every day, people stand in its shadows and say a silent prayer of thanks to those named and unnamed soldiers who gave so much.

How about you? What reminds you to think on those who fought for freedom?

 

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo of the frieze is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk_100.

I Love Paris — 7 Reasons

Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies.
Whether loud be her cheers or soft be her tears,
More and more do I realize:
I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.

I love Paris every moment,
Every moment of the year.
                                   –Cole Porter

Yes, I do love Paris. Here are just a few reasons.

1. Layer on Layer of History

The Louvre once housed kings and queens. Built over several centuries, today it houses an immense collection of all kinds of art.

You can stand in the front yard of the palace, then enter the great halls and gaze on paintings and sculptures from any time in history. And you can imagine when down the hallways of this grand palace walked Charles, Louis, Henri, Catherine de Medici, and Napoleon.

2. Art Everywhere

Along with historic architecture, Paris is home to an array of art that spans the ages. This Bernini sculpture catches your eye while you wait to enter the Louvre.

Once inside, you can find light and beauty such as this.

3. Parks

The city is known for its parks. This one, the Tuileries Garden in the “yard” of the Louvre, is an oasis of green.

4. Bridges

More than 30 bridges link the banks of the Seine. What beauty and elegance you find on these bridges.

One contains many locks of love, put there by couples to declare their undying devotion. Part of the bridge actually collapsed under the weight of the locks. Authorities have requested that no more locks be added.

5. Fascinating Details

The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Crowds flock to see this 12th Century masterpiece.

Close up, you notice the endless intricate carvings, the curves of the architecture.

Even the back of the building is a study in detail.

6. Signs of Gratitude

Paris remembers. Fresh flowers today decorate a memorial plaque for a brave soul. War may be a distant memory, but gratitude lives on.

7. The Eiffel Tower

What’s more Parisian than the Eiffel Tower? I love glimpsing it from all over the city.

How about you? Do you have memories of Paris? What would you like to visit if you go?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. First photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Happy Heart. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where we can choose the theme this week; my song is “I Love Paris” by Cole Porter.

At the Candy Counter

What were your favorite childhood candy treats? A general store in the mountains stocks some candy that instantly transports me back to my grade school days. Neccos and Smarties and Moon pies, oh my!

My friends and I would hop on our bikes and race down to the corner store after school. I saved up the coins from my allowance to buy goodies. Junior Mints and red vines and wax bottles with a thimbleful of sugared drink inside.

Oh, look! Cracker Jacks! Did you go for Cracker Jacks? I didn’t eat them. I just dumped them out to get to the prize. Great fun.

This general store does have what you need to get by, like soap and candles and bowls.

Then I found this train case.

Today we choose luggage for its air travel features. We consider whether to buy a carry-on, what size will fit in the overhead bin on the plane, and whether the wheels will allow us to dash madly from one airport gate to another trailing our rolling bags. Train cases, on the other hand, are boxy and awkward. They are not really practical, but they fill me with nostalgia. My mom had one I still remember–tan with blue edging and a removable tray. I used to play “packing” it up at home in between trips. Old luggage stirs up a wanderlust in my heart.

I kept coming back to the candy section, though. I love remembering those carefree days pedaling around the neighborhood, laughing with friends, counting our coins and venturing to the candy counter. One of the blessings I enjoy is that I’m still in touch with some of these friends. We may have progressed from train cases to wheeled carry-ons, but inside we’re not so different. We still love to laugh together.

How about you? What candy brings back memories?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Opening photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Lilly.

 

Romantic Streets of Water

The streets of Venice carry boats, not cars. And oh, what a romantic, unique place that makes this ancient port.

Sometimes the canals shimmer quietly, waiting for the next vessel to stir up the water.

Other times, you witness a traffic jam.

The side streets have no names, but the main highway is known as the Grand Canal. This is the Venice depicted in art and photos. I believe it looks much the same as it did when Venice was the trade capital of the world centuries ago.

We arrived on the day of the annual regatta (totally by happy coincidence). Crowds cheered, boats of all shapes and sizes raced along, and a riot of color decorated Venice.

The ambulance motored up and down the canal, on call.

Of course the most famous vessel on the watery streets of Venice is the gondola.

With all the waterways come dozens of bridges, all sizes and styles.

The sun sets, our Perfect Day in Venice ends, but the charm continues.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Laura. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “Perfect Day.”

Enchanting Manarola

Well I was born in a small town,
Live in a small town,
Probably die in a small town.
— John Mellencamp

The small Italian town of Manarola hugs the mountainous rock face above the Mediterranean. This may be the most picturesque small town I’ve ever visited.

The clusters of houses cling to the land and lean into each other. Behind them, the green of gardens and vineyards reaches to the sky. You can hike up into the hills and take in the view.

The tiny downtown with its one main street goes from the sea up the hill. It’s lined with markets and restaurants that offer handmade pesto and fish caught that morning.

We stayed in a clean, inviting B&B. The friendly desk clerk chatted with us about the place. It was a home and shop, now turned into a hotel, run by the same family for generations. The grandpa tends to the garden. He takes pride in growing flowers — and giant lemons.

His son served us breakfast in the pleasant day room. He bustled to bring our cafe au laits and kept our basket filled with freshly baked breads.

We asked who tends the winding hills. The answer? Everyone who lives in this town. Each property comes with a plot of land far above the house. So each owner builds stone stairways and plants and harvests.

The problem, we learned, is that the older folks of the town aren’t able to climb the hills and keep up their gardens. What our friend yearns for is for more young people to move to Manarola and put their energy into balancing in the dirt and growing the grapes and tomatoes that help sustain the town.

I loved staying in Manarola. Our friend at the hotel called his friend at the best restaurant in town and asked to reserve a table for us. So we got the prize place by the window and enjoyed fresh seafood and local wine. Everyone knows everyone else here and they look out for each other (and guests!).

So much that’s good in a small town can be found in Manarola. If you have a chance to visit, you’ll love it. And you just may bump into our friend, who will still be looking for newcomers to put down roots.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Unscripted. Also linking up with a song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “Small Town” by John Mellencamp.

The hotel we stayed in is Hotel Ca D’Andrean. It’s simply perfect.

True Colors

I see your true colors . . . shining through.

Have you noticed how often it takes a while to see the true colors hidden behind the humble exterior? Take my visit to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. This is a smaller cathedral a short walk from the famed Notre Dame. My first glance showed a gray, dirty building almost hiding in the trees.

Built in 1248, the stone church appears past its prime. It does not impress as you head toward the entrance.

Inside, you can tell that at one time care and color were put into this building. After all, it adjoined a palace and the king attended here.

Chips and faded floors echo better days.

Ah, but then you enter the church proper and the beauty renders you speechless.

The light shines through, and the colors soar above you, up and up, their jewel tones sparkling, surrounding you with breathtaking beauty.

Sainte-Chapelle boasts more than 6,000 square feet of intricately colored glass. Each little piece lights up as the sun moves. During the French Revolution, this became administrative offices. Tall cabinets hid the glass. So when the choir stalls and other parts of the church fell victim to vandalism, these windows weathered the war. The rainbow of colors survived to be enjoyed hundreds of years later.

The surprise of the true colors of Sainte-Chapelle reminds me that too often I judge by outward appearance with people, too. I don’t make the effort to converse with someone because I’m preoccupied or in a hurry or don’t take notice. Beyond a tired, maybe humble exterior, though, most of us have a story just waiting to shine through.

The words to the song, “True Colors” say it well:

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small.

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow.

Here’s hoping you’ll take the time this week to discover the “true colors” of someone in your world.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Mary. Also linking up with a song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper.

 

The Magnificent Eiffel Tower

These are days you’ll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.
—10,000 Maniacs

One day I’ll remember forever is my recent visit to the Eiffel Tower.  All my life I’ve seen images of this icon of Paris. To come face to face with this immense tower–oh, my. What a wonder!

It is gigantic. You  hear that it is 1,000 feet high and the statistic flits right out of your head. But when you stand dwarfed underneath it, you experience how tall that really is!

The design is complicated and intricate, far more than it appears from a distance. The metal is held together with more than 2 million rivets. These metal pieces, each so small, work together to hold up the massive structure. And it’s been standing since 1889.

The tower affords a 360-degree panorama of Paris.

Look at the Seine flowing along, with its tiny toy boats.

The tan U-shaped buildings make up the Louvre, once home to kings and queens.

Can you find the Arc de Triomphe?

You see from up here the jumbled layout of the streets of this amazing city.

The Eiffel Tower is currently three shades of brown. When presented to Paris to commemorate the French Revolution, the tower was painted red. As much as I love it today, I think a return to  red would make it really “pop” in the sky.

Did you know that a park spreads out from the Eiffel? Parisians loll on the lawn, picnic, stroll. I suspect this scenery never grows old, even for those who live here.

The magnificence, the history, the universal recognition of this symbol of the City of Light — being in its presence touches something in me. If you get the chance, hang out at this tower. Marvel at the design. Travel up in it and take in the vistas of Paris. I think you’ll find it to be a day you’ll always remember–and treasure.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture May. Also linking up with a song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “These Are the Days” by 10,000 Maniacs.

 

 

 

 

 

FInding a Place in Paris

Planning a trip to Paris? One of your first decisions may be what neighborhood to stay in as your home base. Twenty arrondissements spiral out from the island in the center of the sprawling city. After some study, I chose the 4th, also known as the Latin Quarter. And we felt at home there on arrival.

Here you’ll find the Sorbonne, a university system that dates back to the 1200s. The school today is spread over different campuses, but the stately buildings in the Latin Quarter house the heart of the school.

We stayed across the street in a tiny, clean hotel with a friendly desk staff.

Every time we ventured out, we were treated to views like this.

Around the corner from our hotel you’ll find the Place de la Sorbonne. This is a square flanked by sidewalk cafes out of storybook Paris. People living here walk their dogs, take their kids to school, and rush to work.

We enjoyed a breakfast of croissants and cafe au lait outside, watching the neighbors plunge into their day. In the evenings, we dined in the same restaurant while around us local friends met and students held animated discussions.

The Latin Quarter holds layers of history. For example, during World War II, resistance workers built barricades of furniture in these streets to defy the Nazis. But today, it is home to Parisians whose lives may be much like mine. And for a few magical days, we were a part of life here.

No matter where we ventured each day, when we walked around the corner of the Place de la Sorbonne in the evening, we knew we were “home.”

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk-BB1.

 

 

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