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NewsletterSeptember 2004

Liberation of Paris

This story was recounted by Dominique Lapierre co-author along with Larry Collins of 'Is Paris Burning' on French TV August 25, 2004, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris: On August 25, 1944 a German officer with a few hundred soldiers under his command was stationed in a building in Paris - next to a major boulevard. Looking out one of the building's windows he saw a French general in car coming up the boulevard. The German officer pulled out a rifle and took aim. He had the French general in his sights for a few seconds. He was thinking that the war would soon be over for him and killing a French general would be a good way to end the war.
Just as he was about to fire, people in mass came out to welcome the French general. Soon there was a celebration. The German officer then thought it wouldn't be such a good idea to kill this French general. If he did, the people on the street more than likely would turn on him and his men. Possibly burning down the building they were in. The German officer didn't want to die just yet; he did not fire.
The German officer was taken prisoner and sent to the United States. A few years after the war ended he saw a newspaper with a photo of the French general. The French general, saved by the celebrating masses was none other than Charles de Gaulle.


I spent most of August, as most French do, on vacation. During this time I had the chance to visit Normandy, including Mont St. Michel and some of the D-day Beaches.
Mont St. Michel really is amazing; it looks like something out of a movie. Almost like a castle rising out of the water. I believe it's much nicer to drive or walk around the area where Mont St. Michel is located and enjoy the view than to go inside. I say this, because Mont St. Michel has an astounding number of tourists in a very limited amount of space. The island that St. Michel is located on is very, very small and the streets are but a few feet wide. Once you make it to the top it's much nicer, with a wonderful view and much less people. Another word of warning, to get to the top of St. Michel you need to climb up a lot, I mean a lot of stairs. I didn't count but was told over 300!
Our visit to the D-day Beaches was very moving; it's hard to imagine how beaches so peaceful could be the scene of so much bloodshed. We visited Utah and Omaha beaches along with the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Also Ste-Mére-Eglise, the first town in France liberated during D-day. John Steele, an American soldier, had his parachute catch on the church steeple. He hung from the steeple for over two hours. The church bells were continuously ringing a few feet from his head. In memory of this, a dummy US soldier hangs from the same church steeple.
By far the most moving part of our visit was the Caen Memorial. In particular two movies being shown, The Battle of Normandy and Hope for the Future, both without words, only images and music. The Battle of Normandy showed film footage from both sides during D-day and how the battle played out. Hope for the Future, was a recap of major events during the last fifty years including the fall of the Berlin Wall, creation of the United Nations, Declaration of Human Rights, Cold War… The idea being that by exploring the past we can together build hope for the future.

Down on the (French) farm

The other day for the first time in my life I went mushroom picking. I've eaten wild mushrooms before that were picked at my in-laws farm and really liked them. They have a strong but not overbearing mix of tastes, nothing like a 'store bought' mushrooms. Wild mushrooms have much more 'body' than the ones you buy in the store.
Wild mushrooms are in 'season' in the fall, normally after a rainy few days and can grow very fast, sometimes over night. There are of course wild mushrooms that can kill you. The ones we were looking for were brown underneath. The lighter the brown the better the quality I was told. Mushrooms hunt photos.

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