European Tour Part II

We left off on our last post when we were house sitting in the little French village of Lerrain.  We loved that experience and we are hooked on house sitting.  If we could do that long term we would… but we have a boat to get back to!  

After leaving Lerrain we had a 6-hour drive west to Brittany.  We zeroed in on the town of Carnac.  I’d heard some cool things about the ancient standing stones – menhirs and tumuli – evidence of Europe’s early human civilization.  We explored, ate lots of fresh seafood and learned about the largest standing stone formation in the world!  WHO KNEW!  The “Alignments” are a collection of aligned standing stones which stretch over 5 Km in length and are made up of rows of standing stones.  The current theory puts their age at around 4,000 BC and the function of them as a lunar calendar.  It was just lovely to be on the beach as well.  While there we met up with Cameron’s parents!  

Soon after their arrival, we drove a few hours north to the small village of Antrain.  Antrain doesn’t have tons to offer in itself, but the little house we stayed in was so precious and Antrain was a great jumping off point to check out Mont St. Michelle as well as St. Malo and surrounding seaside villages like Cancale. 


On our way to Antrain, we stopped at a very fun Demonstration farm called Poul Fetan where they are keeping the middle ages alive, teaching people about the old ways and preserving heritage breeds of farm animals as well as crops.  I was like a kid in a candy store learning about what everyday life was like.  They had a wonderful interpretive audio guide and we even got to watch butter being made by hand AND we got to eat it… try that in the states…  

Antrain was lovely and mainly because we had a sweet little house, Doug and Barbara are always wonderful to be with and we got to see some pretty great sights.  While I’m glad I got to see Mont St. Michelle, I don’t know if I ever need to fight the crowds up that tiny medieval village road ever again.  The Abby was amazing and we enjoyed learning the history of the place… but the crowds were crazy…. It was too much.  


From Antrain we drove north to Normandy and settled in at a lovely little hotel in Bayeux.  We were all giddy to meet up with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece.  We met up with a total of 20 people (including Doug and Barbara) with whom we were about to embark on an educational and emotional journey through the history of World War II.   Carver McGriff, a close family friend had been in the infantry and fought in the hedgerows of Normandy immediately following D-Day.  Carver guided us on this journey, sharing his personal stories as well as his perspective on the larger story.  He even shared a little ditty he learned in a pub at the time.  The kids weren’t allowed to be present during his rendition of it.  He and his lovely wife Marianne curated our experience beautifully, taking us to many important places related to the war as well as Carver’s own personal story.  I can’t fully express how impactful this time was for all of us.  It was an experience we feel so thankful to have had.  


It was go-go-go while we were in Bayeux.  There was so much to see and learn and we didn’t let any opportunity pass us by.  But, by the end of it most of our family was fighting off colds and we were ready for some downtime.  We headed off with my sister and her family to La Roche-Guyon, a small village near Giverny where we planned to tour Monet’s Garden.  We had several relaxing days, the cousins spent tons of time jumping on the trampoline overlooking the Seine while Karen, Daniel, Cameron and I cooked, rested and made infrequent hikes down to the little village to refill our stores of bread, cider and cheese.  


We all squeezed into a little 7 seater car with all our luggage!  If you look closely, you can see everyone in this fuzzy photo.

Daniel was looking very dapper the whole time and Karen and I happily sipped lots of Kire Normand at every stop.  We had a ball.


Once we’d seen Monte’s garden (amazing), it was time to head back to Paris for a few days to soak up the city, eat some yummy food and drop in on a few museums.  We stayed in the Montmartre district which we loved.  We were in easy reach of the Sacre Coeur and just off of a wonderful little shopping district with great boulangeries, restaurants and dress shops.  The highlight was going to L’Orangerie early in the morning and being first in line to walk in and experience Monet’s huge water Lilly paintings.  

Monet’s Water Lillies at l’Orangerie

While in Paris we ran into a celebrity!  While walking down to the market we ran into the YouTube star Alice, from Alice in Paris.  After binging several episodes of her show in preparation for our time in Paris it was so much fun to see her on the street and say “hello”.  She was so sweet and seemed rather pleased to have been recognized.

Fun things we learned along the way: 

  • Monet was a huge collector of Japanese prints… well, that makes sense!
  • There is a large subculture in Europe of veteran groupies who dress up like they are American soldiers in 1944, drive around in vintage army jeeps and chase after 95-year-old veterans asking for their autograph.  We didn’t expect that.  
  • If you can afford the airfare, a rental car, and your food, you can live for free by house sitting around the world… more to come on this in future blog posts. 
  • Rick Steves is the bomb… I love his walking tours 
  • Not all HomeAway/VRBOs in Europe have TP and garbage bags.
  • Kir Normand is my new favorite aperitif.


  1. Douglas Vawter says:

    Anne, another great post with amaziing pictures. I missed the pigs — where did you see them?!?! It was great to be with you for a portion of the journey and it was fun to experience time with a “rock star” when traveling with Carver. It was our third trip to Normandy with Carver and Marianne and it truly gives one pause to realize what so-o-o many did and gave for the rest of us. The surprise is to see that after 75 years the French still recognize and celebrate the allied forces for their sacrifice in restoring France’s independence. Visiting the Onaha Beach and Utah Beach American cemeteries illustrates it did not come cheaply. Enjoy your summer in CA!

  2. Joyce Beery Miles says:

    Loved your post about your time in France. We were also in Paris and Normandy — just ahead of you. Your family always manages to make a travel adventure out of every where you go. Love to travel vicariously with you. The girls are getting so, so tall!

  3. Jane Middlekauff says:

    Beautiful photos of your trip. Thank you sharing!
    Doug, I saw the pigs about 1/2 through this post. They are much lighter in color to pigs here in Indiana.

  4. Jane Middlekauff says:

    Enjoyed seeing photos of your trip. Did you see any pillboxes in/around Normandy? There were some on French side of Rhine River on my previous visit.
    Doug, I saw pigs about 1/2 through this post. They are much lighter in color to pigs here in Indiana. Perhaps different breed?

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Jane, The pillboxes were everywhere. We saw several of them and they stood in stark contrast to the beautiful architecture in the coastal village. The “Atlantic Wall” was pretty impressive and it really is amazing that we overcame their defenses​.

  5. Marianne McGriff says:

    Thank you for your lovely post and splendid photos. It was such a Joy and a Privilege to travel with you, Cameron, Adelaide and Isa. We, especially, loved meeting Karen, Daniel and Jolie. Of course, your parents are such a Blessing in our lives. I really enjoyed reading about the places in France that you experienced along the way. I do not know ‘Kir Normand’, so I’m putting on my list to try on our next visit to Normandy! I, totally, agree about your visit to Mont St. Michel. Once is plenty…and Orangerie was a favorite on our trip a year ago…there were so many people though that I like your idea about going first thing in the morning!!! Yes, Rick Steve’s Walking Tours are splendid…and I didn’t know about « Alice in Paris! ». I’ll look her up!!!! Sometime, if you return to Paris, you might like a friend of mine who writes a blog: David Lebovitz. You might know him from Chez Panisse where he was a pastry chef for many years. Well, praying our paths will cross again soon…love and Blessings to all of you, Marianne

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Oh Marianne, There is no way we can thank you enough for that experience. You are a master organizer and it was such a gift to all of us who were there that you took the time and energy to shepherd all of us along. We are eternally grateful. It was so fun!

  6. Chris Cooney says:

    Looks like you all are having a great time. We just got back from two weeks in France and might even have been in Paris at the same time! Love the pictures and reading about tall the exciting adventures you are having.


  7. Ruth Esther Vawter says:

    Your experiences in this blog are incredible. Am pleased you share your stories with us. Blessings for more great adventures with good health. Love you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.