Honeymooners: Keren & Sean
Type: International travel
Budget: Micro-budget (under $500)
Where did you go? My now husband and I started dating after a long conversation about our shared love of history, specifically WWII history. Yes, we are history nerds. Sean and I have always shared a love of history and many of our first dates involved trips to the American History Museum or the WWII section of the Air and Space Museum (it's lucky for us we live in Washington, DC and have lots of free museums).
After a year of dating we decided to have a history-themed wedding. We got married in August in Washington, DC at the WWI memorial with a 1940s-themed reception. We both wanted a history-focused wedding. We decided to delay our honeymoon so that it overlapped with the anniversary of the D-Day landing. We ended up flying to Europe in May 2010, seven months after our wedding.
We spent two weeks traveling between London, the Normandy Coast, Amsterdam, and Paris. We planned a self-guided tour following the route the Allied army took on their path to Germany. Unfortunately, due to time and travel delays, we only made it as far as Amsterdam. Although, now we have a good reason to go back to finish the tour all the way into Germany!
What did you do? We started in London, vising the Imperial War Museum and other WWII sites. We wanted to travel from London into Normandy (like the Allied forces) but travel delays forced us to change our plans. Instead, we took the ferry into Netherlands to visit the Dutch Resistance Museum and a few other memorials.
After a few days in Netherlands, we traveled by train to Paris (unfortunately skipping Belgium due to travel delays) where we rented a car and drove to the Normandy Coast. We rented a room in a great bed and breakfast in the small Town of Bayeux. Bayeux was the first town liberated in France. We spent a week traveling from town to town through the Normandy countryside.
During the week there, we got to attend several town-wide liberation festivals, talk to dozens of WWII veterans, witness the wreath laying at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and listen to first-hand accounts of the war.
We were even invited to stand in the landing zone of the memorial paratrooper jump into the Town of Sainte-Mère-Église.
What would you do differently? There isn't much we would have changed on this trip. It was pretty much perfection. Although when we go back I would practice my French a little more then we did for this trip. The waitress at our favorite cafe kept teasing us for switching between French, Spanish, and English all in one sentence.
What's your advice for other offbeat honeymooners? We had to make several last minute changes of plans.
Our red-eye flight to London got canceled so we had to fly into Manchester instead. Our train to France got delayed to the point where we were going to miss our connection into Normandy. This inspired us to reroute and take the ferry into Netherlands instead. In Paris, we lost our train tickets and had to use our best (worst) French to explain our situation to a security guard at the train station. Who, might I add, even without understanding us (our French is that bad) went out of his way to make sure we got new tickets with no penalty fee and got onto the last train out of Paris for the night.
Another highlight: on that last train out of Paris, we got to ride in a train car packed full with a Russian folk band. They played their accordions and guitars all the way into London!
Our advice to everyone is to just roll with it. We had such a great itinerary and were a little bummed that we had to change them, but the new plan caused us to have the time of our lives.
What was the most meaningful moment of the trip? There were two moments that stand out in our minds as perfection.
On the morning of June 6th, we woke up early and drove out to Pointe du Hoc, the site of an important battle. It's located on cliffs between Omaha and Utah Beach. No one was there and we got to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. We sat there, alone, both thinking about how sacred this site is and how important that day was. I don't think we talked for a while, we just sat there watching the ocean.
Sean has family in England that he never gets to see. So, on our last weekend in Europe we decided to take the train to London to visit his family. This is family that I've only met once and Sean hasn't seen much since he was a kid. It could have been an awkward weekend. But it wasn't… it was perfect. This was the first time since Sean was 13 years old that he spent any real quality time with his English family. We played a family game of soccer, Sean got to teach his little second cousins how to throw an American football, his cousin threw me a surprise 30th birthday party, and so many other amazing family activities. Sometimes family, even separated by continents, just feels like family. We had such a good time we decided to make plans to go back to London next year.
Enough chat, let's see more European honeymoon photos!