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Traveling north -
Spain - France - Belgium - Holland

When we left Portugal, we drove through the province of Castilla (which means Castle), in Spain. True to its name, we saw fortresses on many hill tops.   The doors and facades were decorated with intricate Coats of Arms.
In Bilbao, they took a modern twist on 17th Century art. . . and created a huge floral sculpture known as the "Pupi" (pronounced "poopie").
The outside of the Guggenheim museum was fantastic, but we wouldn't want to be the window washers!
The town of Hondarribia in the Spanish Basque area was beautiful in the city and the port.
When we arrived in San Sebastian, the whole town was celebrating the festival of San Isidro with bands, singing and visits to the tapas bars.   The next day we drove to southern France (also in the Basque provinces) and the village of Carresse was celebrating their festival with a petanque tournament.
A bistrot in the town of Cadillac served huge shrimp in a cassolette with a cognac cream sauce. Paul had an andouillette sausage; and we split the small pitcher of
local Bordeaux wine.
  On hot summer days, the sidewalk of the river promenade in Bordeaux sends up mist, then becomes a bubbling fountain and a shallow pool that both
kids and adults enjoy.
We each had a large bowl of mussels in a cream sauce, steak and strawberry shortcake for lunch
at this café in Vitré, one of the oldest cities in Brittany.

Our B&B, Ker Leon, 5 minutes from the beautiful Emerald Coast of France was like most of the houses -
tall and stone, with a beautiful flower garden.

John & Audrey Emmett couldn't have been nicer hosts at their lovely B&B in Trévron.   We saw acres and acres of oyster beds
off the coast in Cancale.

Where to stay:

Near Bordeaux-
La Gabare
(owner Claudy Perinelle), 10 Rue Emile Combes, Ambares et Lagrave - Tel. 33 05 56 77 52 61 - perinelle.claudy@neuf.fr - The house, with pool and lovely garden is located just outside of Bordeaux - Claudy served a lovely breakfast and really went out of her way to make us feel welcome

Near Dinan, Brittany-
La Priquetais
(John & Audrey Emmett), Trévron, Tel. 02 96 83 56 89 - priquetais@orange.fr - We were welcomed with drinks and cookies in the atrium/breakfast room and spent time visiting with the friendly owners and hearing how they have created this lovely place for guests. Great breakfast and huge, comfortable rooms with timbered ceilings.

In Dol-de-Bratagne, Brittany-
M. Dubois
, (owners, Mireille & Jean-Yves Dubois),1 passage du Tisserand, Tel. 02 99 48 12 58 - nice rooms in a two year old home 5 minutes walk from the city center - wonderful, friendly people; spent the evening visiting with us over hot tea

Where to eat:

Near Dinan, Brittany-
L'Auberge de Granit, in Le Hinglé - delicious Brittany style home cooking - 10,50 € menu includes buffet of salads & patés, main course choices, cheese course, home made desserts, a bottle of wine and coffee

In Vitré, Brittany-
La soupe aux Choux, 32 rue Notre-Dame, Vitré - www.soupe-aux-choux.com - Tel. 02 99 75 10 86 - wonderful Brittany cooking located between the Eglise Notre-Dame and the Chateau. Good prices and great food.

In Montebourg, Normandy (near Utah beach)-
La Charlolais, across from Hotel de Ville, Montebourg - good, plentiful, regional food - 11,50 € menu of entreé, main dish, cheese course, dessert, bottle of wine, coffee and chocolates - lot of locals, no tourists

Some of the towns in Brittany had half timbered buidings like these in historic Dinan. . .   but nearly every yard and garden
was filled with beautiful flowers.
We walked out to Mont-Saint-Michel during low tide. It was like a abbey floating on the water!   We saw the church steeple where American paratroooper, John Steele, landed and dangled. He was eventually lowered to the ground by a German soldier, who took him prisoner. He escaped three days later.
At the German Battery in Azevillle, we walked through long, underground tunnels of thick concrete
and looked through the narrow holes that snipers shot through.
The artillery bunkers were above ground, but they were camouflaged to look like ruined buildings or covered with grass plantings.   Utah and Omaha beaches, where so many men died, are now vacation spots - full of sunbathers and swimmers.
La Pointe du Hoc still has huge holes in the ground from the bombs fired at the German camp. Over 200 Rangers scaled the cliffs here. Only 90 made it out alive.   The German artillery is still in place at Longues-sur-Mer.
Standing at the top of the cliffs above the beach made us realize just how tough it was to fight to the top.   9,387 men are buried at the American Military Cemetery that overlooks Omaha beach. The free museum there has wonderful displays explaining the Allied strategies and personal stories of the soldiers that fought and died.
This is the cottage with a kitchen in Bayeux we rented for a week - about the size of a one car garage -
but with a comfortable bed.
  Paul shopped at the outdoor market for some great meals he prepared at the cottage.
The village and gardens at Giverny were lovely.   Friends, Barb & Bob Kelley, invited us to stay with them in their lovely Paris apartment, where Barb prepared some fabulous French dinners for us.
We visited the Rueil Malmaison area with them. . . and, of course, the heart of Paris.
Less than 3 hours drive from Paris, we were in Ghent, Belgium. The architecture, language and food had changed.
Somehow we got lucky and were bumped to an Executive suite room in the NH Hotel
right in the medieval city center.
  This is the view from our hotel.
Yes, we're in Delft, Holland.   Look out for the bicycles. They are everywhere -
more than pedestrians or cars.
They even have their own stop lights!
Holland is known for its tulips; but along with bulbs, the Thursday morning Flower Market
had beautiful, inexpensive bouquets for sale.
We found Ultrecht seating arrangements strange in both the Domkerk - where worshipers face each other instead of the front of the church -   and in the street side cafés -where everyone faces the street instead of each other!
Women still wear traditional clothing every day in small towns like Spakenburg.
The Flower Market in Amsterdam had hundreds of bins of bulbs for sale.   We tried a local favorite, bitterballe, served with pickled onions, pickles and mustard sauce at Café Hoppe in Spui.
We had met a person from Amsterdam on the Camino who told us about a secret door in one of the city's plazas. It leads to a large inside courtyard
with 2 small churches and 90 apartments.
We didn't knock and just went in.
Thank goodness it was the right door!
  The city is filled with outdoor cafés and canals, which we loved; but the prices were outrageous - $7.00 for a soda (no refills) and $7.50 for a beer.