|Photo by Tim Street|
|The group listens to Mike, our California-born tour guide, talk about the Nazi occupation of Paris at the Louvre. Mike explained Hitler’s particular fascination with the Louvre, particularly anything having to do with Napoleon – including the Bayeux Tapestry.|
I type tonight’s blog entry with an exhausted body and a mind that has been overloaded with extraordinary visual, historical, and cultural stimuli. My feet ache, and I feel as if I have been traveling nonstop for the last 10 years instead of just the last 10 days. In place of the typical spring break relaxation, the first Ernie Pyle class has gained a wealth of memories that will surpass any average Cancun trip. Nothing could ever match our experiences literally following in Ernie’s footsteps, and nothing could ever match the whirlwind tour we did of London, Normandy, and Paris in such a short period of time.
When my colleagues and I signed up for this course, I think we all acknowledged the fact that the sole purpose of our extended field trip was to bring Ernie and World War II to life. But it’s very difficult to come to Europe and only focus on work when some of the world’s most exciting museums, shops, and landmarks are suddenly within reach. So today marked the first time the class was granted something we had been itching for since we arrived in Europe: an extended chunk of free time. During the first half of today, some students shopped, some visited museums, and some simply ventured out of the safe confines of the hotel’s immediate area and just explored Paris on their terms, which was really exciting for us all.
In the afternoon, however, it was back to business as we went on a walking tour of World War II Paris. This was, by far, one of my favorite directed tours. Our guide did a great job of bringing World War II Paris to life by offering brief accounts of strange events that happened at some of Paris’ most historic sites. He also spent a considerable amount of time talking about the French Resistance and its preparations and reactions to the liberation of Paris.
He also shared a lot of interesting stories. According to our guide, following France’s liberation from Germany, three different men simultaneously raced to the top of the Eiffel Tower with one goal in mind: to take down the giant Nazi flag which had flown there for four years and replace it with France’s. The man that won the contest was a fire marshal that made the flag from three bed sheets he stitched together. He dyed one sheet red, one blue, and used a standard white sheet to complete the flag. So the first French flag that flew from the Eiffel Tower following Paris’ liberation was actually made from bedding.
So that was today… and that was the trip essentially because today is done. Au revoir!