Normandy To Paris

BayuexOur trip from our Airbnb in Normandy back to Caen  to return our rental car included a stop in Bayeux.  If you are going to this part of Normandy I would consider Caen over Bayeux for renting a car.  The city is bigger and the rental agencies are all near the central Caen train station.

We stopped in Bayeux to see the Tapisserie de Bayeux. that was more than like created in the 11th Century and is over 70 meters long. The tapestry tells the "engrossing story of the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066."  It was definitely worth seeing and the audio program was very well done.

After this museum we made our way back to Caen and then turned in our rental car.   We then had a train ride from Caen into Paris (via the Saint Lazare Train Station) and then a Metro ride (subway) from St. Lazare to the nearest stop near our hotel.

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In Paris we stayed at the Hôtel de Roubaix (6 Rue Greneta, 75003 Paris, France).  I thought the place was average and good for our situation.  It was easy to get to and easy to navigate to the Louvre for sure by walking.  Also it was easy to get from the hotel to the airport via a big transit hub that was just down the street (10 minute walk).  We used Booking.com to reserve our rooms.

Here are all the photos from this part of the trip.

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Experiencing Normandy

Normandy-CollageOur AirBNB was excellent (photos). We would highly recommend staying there.

And the area around our AirBNB -- known as Les Bateaux -- was so historical and visually stimulating. It was a short walk down to the beach from the AirBNB.  As we walked there were still D-Day (June 6th) decorations in most of the yards. There was also WWII Jeep parked at the bottom of the road before the beach.

After our beach experience, we made our way into the nearest "big" town --Port-en-Bessin -- to get some supplies for dinner at the local market -- Super U.  After shopping we headed back to the AirBNB for our dinner and then some relaxing before bed.

The first thing we did on our first full day in Normandy was to visit the Overload Museum.  This is a great museum! Easy to access, tons of good info, and a large amount of physical hardware from both the Allies perspective and from the Germans.

Then we went to the Omaha Museum. I liked this museum a lot as it had a lot of personal items like all the types of firearms, uniforms, etc. There was also a good video documentary that they shared in their theater.

After that we spent some time on Omaha Beach. It was very low tide at the time we were there and the waves were very small. It is surprisingly long, but only a few ways up from the beach to the high ground.

Once we finished at Omaha we drove to Pointe du Hoc. Being up on the high ground and looking down to see what the soldiers had to accomplish to take over this area was humbling. The bomb holes are still there and they are massive. The German guns at this site could have dropped rounds on both Omaha and Utah beach, but they had been moved inland because of all the aerial bombing leading up to D-Day.

Then we went to Utah Beach. The drive reminded us that that there was almost 10K between each of the D-Day Beaches, and each beach covered a 10K operating area. I learned that Utah Beach went "easier" than Omaha Beach because of the tides and currents. The main body of troops landed in a place less fortified on Utah Beach than their planned location, and the units there captured more ground in the first 24 hours than expected. The drive from and between the two beaches -- Omaha to Utah -- had references to several locations were paratroopers and gliders landed and engaged with the Germans.

After Utah Beach we went to the Normandy American Cemetery just before it closed. This was a very somber place and well done. It is much smaller than I expected given how big it has looked in the past when on TV, but that was probably all angles and framing.

For dinner we went back to Port en Bessin. We found a great place for dinner and the food was excellent (La Marina). The beach was area was interesting because it was full of shells. And we learned some more about what happened in this area during D-Day. The city and port were liberated by British Commando Forces after battles on June 7-8, 1944.

Here is a collection of Port en Bessin photos.

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Traveling from Ottignies, Belgium to Normandy, France (via Paris)

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The trip from Ottignies to Normandy started out great.  We went from Ottignies station to Belgium Central station, and then took a high-speed train (French - Thalys) from Belgium to Paris, France.

Brussels To ParisWe were very concerned about our transfer from our arrival station (Gare du Nord) in Paris to the station (Saint Lazare Train Station) that goes from Paris to Normandy, but we were blessed with a great seatmate on our trip to Paris.  He gave us some great recommendations on what to do in Paris (stay tuned), and then when we arrived in Paris he took us personally from our station to the station we needed to go to via the Metro.  It was super easy with a guide, which would help us a ton when we came back to Paris -- and set the tone for the rest of the trip that we could easily take public transportation in Europe.  Wow a friendly French person helped the language challenged American!  Thanks!!

Metro In Paris

The trip from Paris to our stop in Normandy was pretty straight forward once we got on the train.  The WIFI wasn't as good as on the German trains, but that was OK.  We decided to end our train trip in Caen instead of Bayeux (which was closer to our Airbnb), because the Avis car rental company location was easier to get to.  It was a great decision because in Caen the Avis rental car location was a short walk from the train station and easy to find.

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In the end the drive from Caen to our place in Normandy worked out great. Deciding to get the rental car while we were in Belgium was a great decision as we would not have had a good time without it.

Drive In Normandy

Here are the full photos from Belgium to Normandy.

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Traveling from Bad Pyrmont, Germany to Brussels, Belgium

Germany-to-belgiumOn Tuesday, June 11, 2019, we traveled from Bad Prymont back to Hamburg to Cologne, Germany, and then from Cologne to Brussels, Belgium.  There was another option to go to Cologne from Bad Prymont, but all the transfer times were very short so we went with via Hamburg for less stress.

The train ride was pretty uneventful.  We bought the tickets via the Bahn.com website (with assigned seats), and then managed our tickets via their phone app which worked pretty well.

Here are the photos from our traveling on this day.

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Experiencing Bad Pyrmont, Germany

Bad-pyrmontWe arrived pretty much on time in Bad Pyrmont, Germany on Sunday, June 9, 2019 from Frankfurt via Hamburg.  Bad Pyrmont is my Mom's home town where she grew up with her Mom and brother. I have visited this area of Germany a lot as a kid (every odd birth year until high school).  My family (myself, Christy, Conrad, Spencer, & Carson) was there in 2012 with my Mom which was a great experience.

The main goal for visiting this part of Germany was connecting with my Mom's brother (my Uncle), and his extended family.

We stayed at Hotel Schaumberg.  It was a great location for us, the room was great for the three of us, and the food for breakfast was awesome.  I would stay there again.

We had a lot of good times with family, did some hiking, did some city exploring, and we connected with several of my Mom's friends who were in town at the same time, and with those that still worked and lived in Bad Pyrmont. The only bad thing is we arrived on Sunday (with many places closed), and Monday was a holiday for Pentecost (with many of the same places closed). 

The good news is that we got a couple of hour of shopping in town before we had to leave for the train station on Tuesday morning.

Here are all the photos taken in Bad Prymont!

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Thoughts & Tips for May 2019

Screenshot 2019-05-19 at 18.17.43Health Update

Things have been slowly improving with my back since my bike fall in February (and it is almost to 1 year since my full-on bulged disc incident).  I switched my morning runs to morning walks in March by switching my regular "run" days (Mon., Tue., Thu., Sat.) to walk days. Then in April, I moved to running 1 minute and then walking 30 seconds (repeat 20 times) on "run" days.  My current plan is to transition to running slowly for ~30 minutes (no stopping) on "run" days in May.  I also decided to not do the next couple of San Diego area sprint triathlons, and instead focus on getting to as close as possible to 100% with the plan of doing the next sprint triathlon in July. 

Wedding Anniversary

My wonder wife Christy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  It was pretty low-key, but we are looking to go on an adventure later in the year.

Wedding-03-COLLAGEChvrches Concert

My daughter and I were able to see Chvrches in-between their Coachella shows at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown, CA.  The concert was awesome, the road trip fun, and Pappy & Harriert's is a very unique venue to see a band (highly recommended), and the food & drinks were pretty darn good.  It was also a treat to meet-up with other Southern California Chvrches fans (second set of photos by Chris Rubalcava).

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CHVRCHES April 2019 Collage

Screenshot 2019-04-24 at 20.44.50Mom's Memorial

The weekend after Easter, my family and I held my Mom's Memorial (Saturday, April 27, 2019) up in the Sacramento area.  It was a blessing that we waited until the Spring, and all-in-all it went well  It was simple and uncomplicated, with a lot of time to remember, share, and support each other.  Another major blessing was being able to connect with her many friends that she touched and did life with.  

Technology & Tips

One thing I have been experimenting with over the last month is using a Panda paper planning system to scope out my monthly, weekly, and daily plans right after my morning devotionals.  So far it has been pretty positive.  This is the one I purchased.

I used these ear protection plugs for the Chvrches concert.  They worked out better than expected.  I could clearly hear all the music, but being in the front row, my hearing wasn't impacted like it has been in the past.

If you are looking for some water proof headphones for swimming, then you should know that these are the best I have used -- HydroActive Headphones.

Future

There is a lot going on in May:

Quote I'm Thinking About

"When annoyed count 10, before you speak, if very angry, count 100." - Thomas Jefferson


Thoughts & Tips For February 2019

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Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Slowly Improving To A Better State

Per previous posts (Nov Dec Jan) -- my Mom's sudden and unexpected passing on October 31, 2018 -- is still consuming a great deal of my energy and attention. Things are slowly getting sorted out, and there appears to be on the horizon some resolution on her house and the rest of her trust.  I am definitely learning a lot about patience and prayer.

Things are pretty stable with my back (I haven't had any pain since mid June), and my core strength has really improved with Pilates.  I am swimming on average three times a week and I started to run a full 5K on my run days vice run a minute then walk for 30 seconds (repeat 28x times).  Hopefully this will continue to be status quo.  I have signed up for a Sprint Triathlon in February, and look forward to trying out my new swimming wet suit (my previous race used my boogie boarding suit which worked but isn't ideal for swimming).

Thankful For

I had a safe trip to DC this past week.  My original flights had issues, but in the end everything worked out for the best.  And I was able to flow with the changes without getting myself super frustrated.  I think that might be because of the book on stoicism that I reference below, and some of the mindfulness training using Kevin Roses' Oak app that I mentioned last month.

Our family hosted two Australian students for a couple of weeks at the beginning of January.  They were a great addition to our family and we got to do a bunch of cool San Diego things together.

After much prayer, and many starts & stops with ups and downs our church has finally filled our Pastor Of Family Connections. YES!

Technology & Tips

As I mentioned last month (Jan) ... I switched my main Personal GTD "external brain" to Nirvana.  It is a really solid product, and I have to say I am very happy with it.  Check it out if you get a chance.  I'm still using Google Keep for tracking checklists and reference material.

I am really enjoying the Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Basil Haydens.

My recent upgrade to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite has really increased my daily reading.  The two books I'm reading daily for this year are: Unshakeable by Christian Cain (this is part of my morning devotional), and The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman (I read this in the afternoon when I take a break around 3 p.m.).  I also just finished the following book Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School 2nd Edition by John Medina.

Future

I have another trip to DC the first week of February, and then a bunch of meetings and a conference the 2nd week of February.  And then my UCSD Tritonman Sprint Triathlon which should be challenging but fun! Summer vacation planning is also starting to come together and it looks like June I'm going to be able to attend GTD Summit in Amsterdam.

Quote I'm Thinking About

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben [THOUGHT: That’s why time is more about compass, then clock.]


Thoughts & Tips For January 2019

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Photo by Steve Holden**

World Stabilizing

Per my November and December posts -- my Mom's sudden and unexpected passing on October 31, 2018 -- this event is still consuming most of my energy and attention.  I wouldn't be functioning though if it wasn't for the support, prayers, comfort, and help I've been getting from my faith in Christ, family, life group, church, friends, co-workers, CHVRCHES Podcast Fans, etc. Thank you all very much.  I recently found this picture (it was a 35mm slide that I converted to digital) of my Mom with her brother Ludwig in Germany (probably early 1960s before she left German for the United States):

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As I post this, my daughter and I are making a trip up to Sacramento/Roseville to work on a couple of key projects, and spend time with my sister's family before driving back to San Diego later in the week.

Thankful For

One of the micro stories I vaguely reference last month that was a blessing, but is both sad and happy. When I called my one of my childhood friend's Mom about my Mom passing, she had to share that her husband had passed away unexpectedly earlier in October, and his celebration of life service was the same weekend I was up there.  It was wonderful to attend, and spend time with friends I have not seen in years, and reflect & share about both unexpected deaths. God does work in ways that baffles me at times.

December was great. I love, and my family loves, Christmas ... so we made the most of it all month. This year's Christmas Party at our house was one of the highlights. I made four crock-pots of chili, and most of it was gone by the end of the night!

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I managed to end 2018 with a heartfelt CHVRCHES Fan Podcast.  In November, Chvrches releases a great acoustic EP called the Hansa Sessions that I adore.  I already knew this (I'm a little bit bias), but for an electronic synthesizer centric band -- they are really talented. 

Health Update

I believe I have had a bit of a breakthrough thanks to regular pilates classes and daily stretches as the numbness in my left foot related to my bulged disk (L5-S1) [see July Update] has gone away completely some days.  I haven't figured out a pattern, but as I write this, I currently don't have any numbness that I use to have all the time.

Technology

I am still loving the new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and the new Acer Chromebook Flip 13 has been working flawlessly.  I highly recommend both of them.

Future

There is not a lot on the horizon for January 2019.  There might be a work trip back to Washington, DC, and our family is going to host some Australian high school students at our house for a week or so.  That should be exciting!

Tips

I can't say more about trying this Hof Breathing Method that Kevin Rose posted on Instagram if you are feeling stressed out, or want to go to sleep after practicing the steps. It has really worked wonders for me.

One of my most read and reference blog posts I have ever posted is "How I use Google Keep to do Getting Things Done (GTD) in my personal system."  As of yesterday though (Sunday is my weekly review day), I moved my Personal GTD system to Nirvana.  And I am not looking back! More updates probably next month, but if you are struggling with your GTD tool, then you might want to try Nirvana. Here is a link to a recommended setup guide ($10).

Quote I'm Thinking About

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." - Gandhi

**This photo was taken on December 26, 2018 at the San Diego Zoo.  There is a new walkway near the large birds of prey that links the pandas (at the bottom of a hill) to the polar bears (near the top of a hill).  This was part of the walk way.  It was very new (less than a week old?).


Thoughts & Tips For November 2018


Very Sad News

The majority of this post was written before I learned that my wonderful mother - Marlies Holden - passed away unexpectedly yesterday (10-31-2018).  I am currently at the airport leaving for Sacramento.  Please pray for me, my family, and all those hurting right now.


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Health Update

Again ... the Pilates physical therapy courses I have been taking have been making a big difference in my overall physical health.  My core is stronger and it has been almost 5 months since my major back pain incident -- basically everything is going better than expected (no pain, no real negative effects).  I am slowly getting back to running, but trying to keep that limited by doing intervals of running for 1 minute and then walking for 30 seconds (repeat 28x times).

Technology

I just ordered the new Kindle Paperwhite and I'm looking forward to the upgrade.  I really like reading on my Kindle vice phone or iPad.  

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Thankful For

My work related trips in September were good and productive. I really enjoyed the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio; and highly recommend going if you have 4-6 hours:

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And the trip to Omaha, NE was great because the weather was very enjoyable (these are pictures from an afternoon run):

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My last David Allen Getting Things Done (GTD) class for FY2018 went well.  And the concert with Maggie Rogers and Mallrat was awesome:

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Future

We have some tentative plans to go to the mountains the weekend of Veterans Day, and then a trip to Palm Springs area just before Thanksgiving.  The week of Thanksgiving should be fun as we always host Thanksgiving dinner, and the family and some close friends play a friendly game of touch football before eating.  And then we can also start decorating for Christmas.

Tips

I watched on the plane back from Omaha, NE a very interesting documentary called "Neat." Basically it is well done history of bourbon in the United States.  It really captured my attention, and I think I going to be deep diving on the topic of bourbon for a while.

If you are using Google Chrome, then I highly recommend checking out the extension Clipboard History 2.  It keeps a running log (as long as you want) of items you have cut-n-pasted.  I find it really useful to cut down re-typing links or other material when writing.  It also is a handy history of what you have been working on.  If you cut-n-paste passwords though, you might want to look at the settings around clearing the history after a certain number of items, and maybe not do a cloud sync of your clips.  I haven't looked into the security of the data protection in the tool.  Better safe than sorry.

Quote I'm Thinking About

“Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.” – Ralph Charell


Thoughts & Tips For September 2018

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Picture from RawPixel

Health Update

Back in July and August I mentioned my recent lower back injury with sciatica down my left leg.  I've seen some improvement in my numbness on my foot via some customized pilates physical therapy.  I'll know more after I complete the total of 10 sessions (5 1on1; 5 group). I'm working hard to avoid surgery.

Technology

I recently picked up a Philips Hue starter kit that came with two bulbs and hub for our master bedroom.  The main reason was to get less "blue light" 1-2 hours before heading to bed.  There are a lot of positive health and sleep reasons for reducing blue light before going to bed (Harvard Medical School.) So far it seems to be working well with the Google Home & Google WIFI system we have working at home and the Hue app is pretty easy to use also.

Thankful For

This year's DEFCON was amazing and you can check out my notes from the conference here: TechNewsRadio.com.

My favorite band - CHVRCHES - played a show for Jimmy Kimmel and I was able to attend.  Several videos of the performance can be found on YouTube: Video#1, Video#2, & Video#3. It was very cool to hang out with other CHVRCHES Fan Podcast friends and I managed to get a picture with the band after the show.

IMG_20180814_190909-02We also had another wonderful couple of days camping at San Elijo State Beach

Future

I completed another Vital Smarts' 1-day Getting Things Done (GTD) class in August and I have one more to do in September to close out FY2018. 

My next Sprint Triathlon (500-m swim, 15-km bike, & 5-km run) will be September 16, 2018. 

CHVRCHES are coming to San Diego on September 20, 2018.

My niece Haley is marrying Alex at the end of the month!

Tips

I really enjoyed the new Getting Things Done (GTD) book called "Getting Things Done for Teens."  It is an easy read, has great examples, and a bunch of new perspectives that is very refreshing.

Speaking about reducing "blue light" I've also turned on the reduce blue light options on all my devices from sunset to sunrise.  I've been sleeping much better the last couple of weeks since doing this blue light reduction and not having any caffeine after 3-pm in the afternoon.  I got these ideas to try out via Kevin Rose's podcast on the topic of sleep with Professor Mathew Walker.

Quote I'm Thinking About

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”  — C.S. Lewis