Family Vacation | Normandy, France

Normandy has been on my list many years, and thanks to my Dad’s planning we finally made it out there! My father was a WWII history buff, and everyone in my family had been to Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery, and many memorials to see and learn more about the area where D-Day took place. My father fell in love with the city of Sainte-Mère-Église and chose it as the place where he wanted our family to gather for a big international vacation together.

After spending a few days in Coleraine, Northern Ireland where we slept, family time and jetlagged, we drove back to Dublin and caught a plane to Paris.

Driving into town (3.5 hours from Paris), I could see right away why he liked it. Old buildings, small town feel, tons history (the town is where the American paratroopers landed on the morning of D-Day), and the house he finds is across the street from the 11th-century church that rings every morning at 7am (and again on the clock, every hour) . until 10pm!).

A note on the photographic aspect: I really missed my Contax on this trip. I’ve shot every other European trip on film, but for this one I just found out that my digital will be more practical with how fast my kids are moving. But next time… I think I’ll bring a small 35mm film camera for those times when I want to watch analog.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

Below is the view from our home for the week!

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

We have terrifying time to get to Normandy from Dublin (delayed flight → missed the rental car pickup → spent an unexpected night at a Paris airport hotel → Hertz canceled our rental car → and so on. It was a MESS), so my parents were super sweet and greeted us with a glass of wine, a charcuterie board and dinner while the kids/crawled around in the yard.

My brother, his wife and their son were there too and it was a joy to watch the kids have so much fun together!

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

That’s what I came for. I didn’t come with a huge list of things to see, I just wanted to have some uninterrupted time with loved ones where we could be fully present. family mode.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

Dad’s favorite ritual is getting up and walking around the block to the boulangerie every morning for a croissant & pain au chocolat. Yes please and thank you.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

A favorite part of Felix’s vacation is the toy cart in the backyard, which he fills with weeds from the garden and is happy to toss in the compost. 🤣

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

The farmer’s market takes place on Thursdays in the courtyard next to the church across from our house, and I must have walked past the whole thing a dozen times in the few hours it opened. Finding farmers markets in Paris always makes me so happy – I love the produce, the soaps, the textiles, everything.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

Carrot-loving cousin 🥹

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

We took turns making dinner every night, and Matt made one of my favorites (ratatouille- we used a recipe similar to this recipe, with chevre instead of mascarpone), and it was so beautiful that OF COURSE I pulled out my camera.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

our crew!

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

If you look at the Irish post you’ll know that Felix befriended “Bessie” in Ireland, and now I can’t stop taking pictures of cows. My dad and I found these friends on one of our morning runs, so we brought Felix (and my camera) back the next day!

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

The only REAL thing on my agenda is seeing Mont Saint-Michel. I’ve been wanting to go, and with an hour and a half away, here’s my chance. Dad and I went for a day trip and it was totally worth the ride!

If I were to leave again, I’d definitely aim to arrive MUCH earlier in the day. It was packed with tourists, and I would have loved the chance to receive them without so many bodies pacing up and down the steep streets.

Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

I could photograph every sign of this shop!

Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

The abbey at the top of Mont Saint-Michel is home to a handful of monks and nuns, and watching them move silently across the church grounds is so peaceful.

Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Mont-Saint-Michel |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

Back home!

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

Really love this scene.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

That wheelbarrow 😆. I think I know what to give him for his birthday!

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

With Sainte-Mère-Église playing such a prominent role on D-Day, there are tons of World War II-themed accents throughout the city. It probably helped that we were there like… a week before the 79th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, but this 1940s-era Jeep is frequented all day long.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

The church has two large stained glass windows showing Airborne troops and parachutes – very interesting. My father and I attended Mass together here, and it was heartening to see how many people filled the pews.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

^ If you’re wondering why there are paratroopers hanging from the fort, look up John Steele and it will all make sense.

Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography

On our last full day, we visited Pointe du Hoc, a bluff where German troops had set up a series of bunkers and guns – the American Rangers scaled the bluff with ropes and ladders on D-Day and captured the site while sustaining heavy losses. Walking through the pillboxes, and seeing how the ground still bears the scars from mortar fire now nearly 80 years later, it makes history feel a lot more real than learning it in class growing up.

Pointe du Hoc |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Pointe du Hoc |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Pointe du Hoc |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography Family holidays in Sainte-Mere-Eglise |  Normandy, France |  Abby Grace photography
And that’s all he wrote! We were away for just over two weeks, and I’m very, very grateful for the time off as a family. I learned a lot about traveling with little — both the practical (like how maybe next time, we’ll rent a car seat instead of bringing our own) and the more philosophical, like how to be in the moment more fully. But we’ll save that for a future blog post!

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