Madrid, Spain: Going Loopy – by Caleb

Made it to Spain! Only a few days ago we were in London and now we’ve moved on! We’re living in a small apartment in the centre of Madrid, (the Capital of Spain) and it is actually quite nice and serves our needs very well. You know you’ve reached our apartment building when you see a massive wooden door with small metal spikes jutting out of it. Once you get past the two locks and open the door, you will enter a huge corridor that gives you the sense that you’re entering Hogwarts. The corridor has tiled marble floors and painted concrete walls that echo your every step. On the other side of the corridor is a big glass wall with a door in the centre. Past the door is a spiral staircase with an elevator wrapped in the stairs. We live on the third floor. Our room is small and cosy. Right when you enter there is a small kitchenette on your right and a shoe rack on your left. Strait ahead of you is a pullout couch where Connor and I sleep. Past the kitchenette on your right is a small bathroom with a shower and then past that, is a small deck overlooking the small courtyard in the building which is accessible from the first room I described. In front of the couch in our apartment is a tv and left of that is my parents bedroom which can, when in need of privacy, be sealed off from the rest of the apartment by a big, sliding paper wall. And that is it. Our little space. But the main point of this blog is not what fun we had in our apartment, but in fact what fun we had outside.

 We went to an amusement park called Warner Brothers Movie World which was almost a Canada’s Wonderland with movie themes from movies made by Warner Brothers. The park was split into four sections: Warner Brothers studios, DC superhero world, old west territory, and cartoon village. The park consists of 42 rides in total, 6 of which are roller coasters. The list of coasters from smallest to tallest goes like this: The Tom & Jerry kiddy coaster, The Correcaminos Bip Bip, The Batman La Fuga, The Stunt Fall, The Coaster Express, and The Superman Atracción de Acero, all of which I did and had a blast on. Of coarse, I’m not going to describe every tiny detail about the park but I will try my best to describe my top eleven favourites. 

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 11) Hotel Embrujado

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Hotel Embrujado is a haunted house that is more of a ride than a haunted house. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes you enter a library like room with two busts on the top of a shelf (a bust is a sculpture of only the head and shoulders of a person). The busts have faces projected on them that makes them look 3-D and appear to be talking. Of coarse they speak Spanish so I don’t understand what they’re saying but they say something; then a man appears (really just a projection) in the fire place. He then says something in Spanish and suddenly vanishes. As he disappears, there is a loud BANG that makes you jump cause your not expecting it. That was really the scariest thing in the haunted house. The busts start talking again. “Whdud hfubrg hrtsy heggj trdd, ha ha ha ha ha.” After they’re done their maniacal laugh, two book cases open up behind you revealing a secret passage to another room. In the room are two benches parallel to each other with lap bars that come down and secure you in once you’ve sat down. In front of the benches in the centre of the room is a big table set as if there was a festival going on there. Remember that this is a haunted house so this room and the room with the busts was dimly lit to give it a creepy feel. There was a corpse laying sprawled out at the end of the table. After everybody was secure in their seats, the lights suddenly went out. Then a man’s voice came through the speakers. He said something in a spooky voice which wasn’t scary cause I didn’t know what he was saying. Then the lights came on again (when I say on again, I mean back to the dim lighting). Once the lights came on, you could see that the corpse at the end of the table had sat up and was turning it’s head to look at the crowd. The corpse was really an animatronic so it didn’t move its head like a normal human but instead almost jerked his head around. Obviously it didn’t care much about chiropractic adjustments. Then the corpse’s jaw moved up and down  and started to say something I once again, could not understand. After saying something that was probably meant to scare us, the body lifted it’s hand and the platform you were on started to rock back and forth, back and forth. Then it started to go upside down and go around in circles and I started to feel really dizzy. You felt like you were going upside down but in reality, the platform you’re on just tilts back and forth, meanwhile the room around you spins around. Over all, you feel like you’re going loopy but really it was just an optical illusion. The illusion was cool, but like my dad said, “the illusion could have been used for something else, like an outer space ride instead of a haunted house.” But in all, I enjoyed my time at the not-so-haunted haunted house.

 

10) The Tom & Jerry Kiddie Coastertom&jerry

 Yeah, I went on a kiddie coaster but it wasn’t that bad. Usually the kiddie coasters are super slow but this one shot along the track like it was trying to outrun a missile. The cart you sat in was shaped to look like a train and the track was a bright blue. Like almost all coasters, at the start, you go up a little to gain speed for the rest of the ride. On the roller coaster, you go shooting through a massive orange juice container, (I have no idea how that has any resemblance to the Tom & Jerry show) and go whipping by a huge ant hill with massive plastic ants crawling out of it. As I said before, this coaster is super fast so in order to make a turn, the track has to tilt. This coaster had to tilt the track so much that you were literally sideways! I was saying to my mom that tilting that much was kind of hazardous because you tilt so close to the ground that if you wanted to, you could reach out your hand touch the ground. So, go to the Tom & Jerry coaster if you go to WB movie world but don’t stretch out your hand, (and don’t go if you hate going fast).

 

9) The Acme Rapids

 Again, another ride based off of a children’s cartoon, and again, not so bad. The acme rapids are like the rapids at Canada’s Wonderland except in my opinion, you get one heck of a lot wetter. You sit in this big rubber tire like flotation device and hold on to the wheel in the middle of the tire. The tire can hold a maximum of six people. At the start of the ride you go up about three metres and then head down the raacmerapidspids. Multiple times throughout the ride there is a big wave and everybody gets soaked. Other times you pass under a fountain or a waterfall drenching you in water that has got to be colder than the water in the ice pool at Centre Parks. After the ride, you can barely move because you’re so cold. Thank heavens that there is one of those massive dryers to dry you off after the ride! (Of coarse if you want to use the dryer, you pay about five bucks.)

 

8) Joker

 When I heard that there was a ride named Joker at Warner Brothers Movie World, I thought it might be like a haunted house or a stunt coaster or drop. No such luck. Joker is a ride very well known as the bumper cars. I’m pretty sure you know what bumper cars are but these had a slight twist. Instead of having those metal poles that touch the ceiling and power the cars using electricity, these bumper cars actually use gasoline. It didn’t make a difference at all during the ride though. You still broke your neck and put your spine out if alignment as usual. Unlike dizzy world where the ride lasted about eighty years, this bumper car ride lasted all of two minutes, and yoJoker_s_bumper_cars-Madrid-Spain-2a039bab355f462cbab4181a5741a677_cu wait in line for about ten times longer than you actually ride. It was fun though. Almost knocked some people out cold, I almost got knocked out cold, and sometimes I would almost sent people flying out of their seats. For me the name “Joker” was kind of deceiving but I still had a good time. 

 

7) The Correcaminos Bip BipBip-Bip-Correcaminos-la-atracción

 What is it with the rides based on cartoons here! This roller coaster is a good way for me to start to introduce the bigger coasters. This coaster was medium sized, and a good size for a family with an older child, not a baby. But it was fast! Super fast! (I think it was based off of the road runner cartoons.) Everything about this coaster was red. The track was red, the cart you sat in was red, the workers wore red. The only thing not red was this brown plastic bunny sitting on the front of the cart, (and you’re a bit green after riding the coaster). This coaster was like a bigger version of the Tom & Jerry coaster. Once again you tilted so much when whipping around the turns you could touch the ground.

 

6) Mr. Freezefreeze

 Just like the Joker, the name Mr. Freeze is kind of deceiving considering this ride pretty much had nothing to do with the DC character Mr. Freeze, besides the fact that the ride was decorated in paintings of icicles. Mr. Freeze was a ride that is pretty much a replica of the swings at Canada’s Wonderland. You sit in these chairs that are meant for one person. The chairs are hung from chains that are connected to a big metal plate (the metal plate is covered in fake icicles).  The plate is held in the air by a big motor covered in fake icicles. The motor spins making the plate spin, therefore, moving the chairs and making them revolve around the motor. You are held in place in the chairs by nothing but a skinny metal bar that just rests in your lap. The bar isn’t even held in place by anything! If you wanted to during the ride, you could lift the bar off your lap and hop out of your chair! Gravity makes it a bit more difficult to hop out though. You’re kind of spinning at such a fast pace, you’re being pushed against the bottom of the chair by gravity’s pull. The ride is seriously just swinging around in circles. At points through out the ride though, the big metal plate tilts sideways slightly, making the chairs on one side of the plate go much higher. That is what made this ride fun. You go really high up in the air and plus, this ride is situated so close to some trees, if you were pretty tall, you could stretch out your leg and kick a branch. The ride lasted about three minutes, before you had to disembark. This was a fun ride to go on but if you get sick from “spinny” rides, I guarantee you that you will at least feel a bit nauseous after riding (that is, if you even ride it at all). 

 

5) Coaster Express

 This roller coaster is the longest wooden roller coaster in Europe. Also, I think it is the oldest roller coaster in the park. From the outside, this coaster seems quite short, but from an aerial view, you can see inside the outer track, there are lots of loops and swirls, explaining why this coaster is the longest. For those who have been on wooden roller coasters, they are very rickety. The coaster was an awesome ride,  fast, steep, turney, made the people scream behind me, but by the time the ride had finally finished, you were so rattled because the coaster was so shaky. Your neck went limp, making your head jolt around, and I’m sure someone looking at usCoasterExpress from a distance could have mistaken us for bobble heads. My brain was bouncing around in my skull hours after riding this coaster. Thankfully this was the second last ride I did before we had to leave, so my head wasn’t pounding on other rides. My mom who rode with me on the Coaster Express agreed with me that the coaster felt like being dead centre in the middle of a huge earthquake! Maybe even the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. I worried I’d wake up in the middle of the night shaking a lot because of after shock. Anyway, my neck hurt a lot after that but it was fun and an experience. A fun experience!

 

4) Lexcorp machinelexluthor

 Once again, nothing to do with Lex Luthor besides the fact  that Lexcorp was written all over the ride. You’re sitting on a big platform with two rows of seats on the platform. The platform is connected to two metals arms, one on each side of the platform. Once you’re strapped into your seat, the platform is pushed by the arms making the platform go back and forth. After swaying for a few seconds the platform shoots up into the air and does a loop-the-loop, making the passengers go upside down. It keeps going around in circles them stops and starts doing circles again, only this time, backwards. Then after going around in circles again, you stop when you’re upside down in the air. Suddenly, it’s as if the locks that once held the carriage in place released, and the carriage sways while going around in circles. Then at the end of the ride that lasted about two minutes, the platform locks in place again and you do upside down right until you’re almost touching the ground. Once you almost touch the ground, the carriage unlocks and the platform shoots backwards and then sways until it comes to a complete stop. 

 

3) Stunt Fallstunt-fall_4

 The stunt fall is pretty much an exact replica of the bat at Canada’s Wonderland, only with one difference. The bat is a coaster where you go up diagonally on a track, then you go back down the track, do a bunch of flips and loops then go up diagonally again. Once you’ve gone up again, the cart releases and you go shooting down the track, doing flips and loops, backwards. The difference with the stunt fall is instead of going up the hill diagonally, you go strait up! And for quite a ways too! I’d say, oh, fifty metres. After you go strait up, you drop, doing flips and loops like the bat and then you go strait up again! Then you drop again, doing flips and loops, backwards! This ride in my opinion was mixing a roller coaster and the drop together to make one thrilling ride. (For those who don’t know, the drop is a ride where you go strait up really high, then drop.) 

 

2) Batmanbatman

 Batman is another roller coaster that is really thrilling. Only instead of rolling on the track, you dangle underneath. The batman has not much to explain about it. You go up a hill, drop, do bunch of spirals, flips, all that stuff and then the ride is over. The thing that can be explained is the entrance! The entrance is like a house in Gotham city. For those who have seen the batman movies, (I haven’t, lol) at the beginning of the entrance, there are the two graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Then you enter this house that is dark and in it is a soundtrack playing screams and laughing. There were doors that were hanging off their hinges, plant pots that were knocked over and broken, window shades the were looking a little worse for wear, pretty much looking as if a war broke out there. There was graffiti that was painted all over the walls (it was meant to be there, the place wasn’t vandalized) with glow in the dark spray paint of question marks and joker’s face with big “ha ha ha’s” written in graffiti letters. And there were bullet holes in the walls. They were kind of hidden but if you found them, it added to the effect. This was a fun ride (and wait).

 

1) Supermansuperman

 Last and definitely not least, Superman. This ride was my favourite ride in the park. This roller coaster again has not much to describe. It went up really high, dropped at quite a speed, and then shot along the track. It was like the Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland, only this one went upside down and did multiple swirls and loop-the-loops. This was by far my favourite. 

 

So there you have it. Our day at WB movie world and my favourite eleven rides. Of coarse there were more than just eleven rides but those were my favourite. The whole experience made me think of Canada’s Wonderland which made me think of home. I’m pretty excited to go home, but I’m not done with travelling quite yet. This was a great experience that I will not soon forget (especially if we to to Canada’s Wonderland sometime)!

Madrid, Spain: Last Stop in Europe – by Barb

The best place for us to fly out of Europe and into Peru was from Madrid, Spain, so we got super cheap flights from London to Madrid and stayed there for a few days. We loved our quaint apartment that had windows overlooking a central courtyard. We were able to walk to the well-known Plaza Mayor and Puerto del Sol. We all enjoyed sampling the tapas at Mercado San Miguel. The boys (especially Caleb) were keen to check out the Warner Bros. Park so we let Caleb plan a day trip there. (Check out his blog that follows.) Now it’s off to South America!

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Walking to Plaza Mayor

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In Plaza Mayor

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The Royal Palace

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Looking onto the Royal Palace

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The street beside our apartment

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Mercado San Miguel = tapa tasting!

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Watching roller bladers jump over a group of people at Puerto del Sol

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London, England: An Unplanned Side Trip! – by Barb

We had planned to stay in Luxembourg to celebrate my sister’s 50th birthday. When we arrived, however, we learned that she had booked a trip to London, England for the weekend of her birthday. We somehow got our communication mixed up and she thought we would be flying off to South America before her special day. So, we decided the best thing to do was to join them in London! Part of the reason we had not planned to go there was because it can be so expensive. However, we found incredibly cheap flights since we were able to fly midweek and thanks to good ol’ airbnb we managed to find an apartment not too far from them in central London. We ended up staying 5 nights in London, celebrated my sister’s 50th with her and her family, and managed to see 2 shows (Phantom & Comedy About a Bank Robber), along with a few other sites. It was a great side trip!

At the Science Centre

Around the City

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Happy 50th Kim!

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Touring the Globe Theatre

At the British Museum

Normandy, France: Juno Beach – by Clay

While in Normandy, France we had the chance to visit one of the beaches that were so prominent in WWII – codenamed Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Being Canadians we chose Juno Beach. We learned more about Canadian troop involvement in the war and how the Allied Forces co-ordinated to fight against Hitler’s grab for world domination. The experience was very interesting and sobering at the same time.

01 Juno centre

01b plaque

02 bunker

03 bunker entrance

04 inside bunker

05 inside bunker 2

06 exit

07 tunnel

08 turret

09 escape hole

10 lookout

11 gun1

12 gun2

13 boys jeep

Zermatt, Switzerland: Skiing in the Swiss Alps – by Connor

We took a cable car from the town of Zermatt up to the first station, partway up the mountain. Then we walked to a second cable car at a station.

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We got off. I could see nothing but white fluffy snow covering the mountains around us. Feeling both nervous but excited about the fun we were going to have, I started to ski down the small hill toward the t-bar. Once in front of the T lift, I clutched onto the handle and leaned back. It was very windy so I pushed against my ears to keep them warm. It was a long ride. 20 minutes maybe. Up down up down. Not so relaxing when you have to lean back and bend your knees and keep your skies parallel to each other and keep your head straight and not hit the person beside you.

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When we eventually got to the top, we had a long way to go. And I was not ready to ski 200 meters. I didn’t even go 20 meters yet. But we were already up there and the only way to get down is if you ski. It wasn’t too bad until we reached the part where we had to cross the T lift. I was worried I might get hit by someone But it turned out it wasn’t too bad either so I skied all the way until it looked like a drop in the ski run. My dad was the first one down the steep hill.  We followed him.

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I took it nice and slow then began to get used to it being steep and all. We got to the bottom then sat and ate our lunch.

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It was a great day. I didn’t want it to stop. In the end everybody was laying down in the snow but me. I was still ready to do 20 more km of skiing!

Broc, Switzerland: Sweet Tooth! – by Caleb

When you hear the word, Switzerland, what comes to mind? I know when I hear Switzerland, I think of the Alps and skiing, which we did, but this is a blog about something else. How many of you thought of, The Cailler chocolate factory? I’m almost certain not a lot of you did. But that is where we went, touring the Cailler chocolate factory. The company, Cailler has been making chocolate since 1819 and is still making chocolate for the locals and visitors today. Unlimited sampling of this delicious chocolate. Heh heh heh. But only after the tour. 

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When you first enter the factory, there is a theatre on your left and a shop stocked with chocolate on your right. The theatre is showing the history of chocolate and an interactive quiz that you can do after the tour. 

IMG_1511 Finally, it was our turn to start the tour. We received audio-guides that looked like tv remotes that we could put around our neck like a necklace and we entered a small room that had plants and leaves and Aztec sculptures in it. The room was dim, and there was a soundtrack playing with the noises of birds, and leaves falling to the ground and the wind. There was a fog machine on the roof giving the room a very misty, jungle like feel. Suddenly, the voice of a man talking about the history of the coco bean came blasting through the speakers. 

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 After listening to this guy’s whole speech about chocolate, doors opened at the other side of the room which led us to another room. And so it went. We kept entering different rooms and listening to the audio in the rooms until we finally popped out into a wide hallway with a lot of different stories that you could listen to through the audio-guide. There were desks in the hall too. On them, were the coco beans, coco fat, and other chocolate ingredients that  you could touch. After listening to the stories that there were in that hall, you walk down a narrower hall with a glass wall on one side. On the opposite side of the glass was a machine demonstrating how they make chocolate cylinders. The machine put long strings of chocolate on paper. Then, the chocolate went through a cooling tube, got chopped into small cylinders, doused in liquid chocolate mixed with hazel nuts, then put through yet another cooling tube. Finally, after being cooled, the cylinders would be wrapped and then you could taste the finished product. If you kept going through the hall, there were screens at the other end where you could see how they make the chocolate in the factory. Different kinds of chocolate, not cylinders. Finally, you could read a tutorial on how to be a chocolate taster and then at the end of the tour, you were greeted by unlimited samples of chocolate. And that was lunch. We hadn’t had lunch yet so this was the sweetest lunch I’ve ever had. We had quite the visit (and meal) at the Cailler chocolate factory!

Luxembourg: A Place to Call Home! – by Barb

We were very excited to finally arrive at my sister’s home in Luxembourg. They have lived there for 7 years and while we kept planning to visit it just hadn’t happened! We looked forward to spending some time with them, getting to see their school, and also using Luxembourg as our “home base” while we were in Europe. It was so nice to unpack our bags and just “hang out” for a little while. We also rented a car – so we felt incredibly spoiled! This was definitely easier travel than what we’d had in previous locations.

Grandma finally (after much convincing) even decided to stay with us for a couple weeks! While she was there we managed a few day trips:

Saarburg, Germany. Saarburg is a cute city in Germany, on the banks of the Saar River. There is a cable car that takes you up the mountain, where you can do a nice hike and you can also go for a short luge ride.

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Moselle River: France, Germany, Luxembourg. We took a nice leisurely bike ride (despite the rain) from Remich to Schengen, Luxembourg. The cool thing about this ride is that you can actually pass through three countries all in one day!

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Another fun day trip was to the Caves of Han-sur-Less, in Belgium. It takes just over an hour to go through the caves (you must go with a guide) and there is a sound/light show at the end. We also enjoyed the 4D theatre that came with our tickets and told you more about the story of the caves.

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We all went together to the Belgian Coast one weekend. While my sister was rather disappointed that it wasn’t sundress and sandal weather while we were there,but we all enjoyed it none-the-less!

While near the coast we spent a day in Brugge. We went on one of the free city tours, which was excellent and tasted the true Belgian waffles (yum!). We also spent an afternoon at a wonderful swimming complex so the kids good burn off some energy!

We spent an afternoon visiting The Essex Cemetery and the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium. This museum does an incredible job of presenting the consequences of war. Visitors are invited to reflect on both the major historical events and the personal stories of individuals, and how the First World War affected the lives of the thousands of people of many different nationalities who were involved in it.

It was very moving to sit in the cemetery and look out onto the many tombstones. Having read John McCrae’s poem many times in school I felt honoured to be able to see where he had worked and where he had written his famous poem.

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After Grandma left, Clay and the boys and I took off for a few days to Switzerland. We spent a few nights just outside of Montreux (in Bouveret) and visited Chillon Castle, as well as the local Aquaparc.

We also drove out to La Maison du Gruyere and Maison Cailler, where we learned all about how Gruyere cheese and chocolate are made. (see Caleb’s blog about our chocolate tour which follows).

While in Switzerland we were also able to visit Zermatt, which is known for its year-round skiing. While it comes with quite the price tag, we managed to splurge for one day of skiing on the Matterhorn glacier. (see Connor’s skiing blog) Amazing!

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There is also a nice little museum in Zermatt (the Matterhorn museum) that tells you the story about some of the people who have tried to climb the Matterhorn. It was well worth the visit.

On yet another weekend, the Harris family joined us on a trip to Munich, Germany. We stayed at an amazing house out in the countryside and visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. Also known as the Fairy Tale castle Neuschwanstein’s positioning is also like something out of a fairytale one. It is located in the Alps in Bavaria, Germany, on the top of a hill. It was a nice hike up the mountain to the castle.

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From Neuschwanstein it was a quick jaunt to Reutte, Austria where we took a “stroll” across the world’s longest suspension bridge. Not for those with a fear of heights! Because it is so long it actually has a fair bit of movement to it, as you walk across. I was happy to get to the other side!

One of our main reasons to head to Munich, was actually to visit Dachau, which is about ½ hour outside of Munich. This is where you will find The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. We spent a day at the Memorial site and it had a profound impact. We went on a 3 hour guided tour of the site. Our guide did an excellent job of addressing 3 main questions that visitors have: How could this have happened? What was going on that allowed this to happen at the time? What was life like for the people at Dachau? While many of the signs suggested that visitors be at least 12 years of age, I felt that we had prepared the boys well and they were both ready to see the site. Some of the images were disturbing but the whole concept of the Holocaust is disturbing and I think that as they said many times at Dachau, we need to keep the memories alive of those who suffered torture and were killed so we can learning from history and Never let it happen again. We had some very good conversations after this visit.

Our final stop on this visit to Germany was the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.

Clay and the boys and I also traveled to Normandy, France where we spent time at Juno Beach,  (see Clay’s blog about Juno Beach which follows)

Mont-Sant-Michele,

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and saw the Bayeaux Tapestry.