In the previous Pilgrimage article I explained this series of articles are all about looking forward to being able to get out freely and enjoying things again. The first article was about Museums that I want to visit. This one is going to be a bit different because it will involve travel and being able to incorporate historic places, model making and other passions of mine.
While I do not think much of airports, airplanes, connections, border crossings, filthy cabins and all of the stresses of physically traveling long distances, I sure do like being in a new place once I get there! Especially when there is lots to do. The only difficulty I can see with this article is that travelers are all different. There is little point in ranking of “best” travel, destinations and activities because these are all subjective. Instead I will just talk about three ideas in order of the likelihood of be being able to do them.
Likelihood Level: Pretty sure this will happen
I’ve been to France before, but not really. Truth be told, I spent a few days in Paris at the tail end of a business trip to Geneva. So aside from taking a TGV Train from Geneva to Paris (which was wonderful), I really did not see a lot of France. Now, don’t get me wrong, Paris was very nice and chock full of history and I found the people to be very nice. However, I’ve always wanted to experience the countryside, the coast and see some of the places I have read about for years. So, this next trip will fix that!
I suppose it makes the most sense to arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport and work my way from there. I suppose the big question will be whether to take the train or rent a car. So I will leave it up in the air at this point. Personally I like the train and I like looking out the window and relaxing. But, the car does give me a lot more freedom to go wherever and whenever.
Part 1 – A few days in Normandy
Clearly the point of this leg is to take in as much D-Day as I can. I’d love to see the beaches, I want to see the countryside. I have had a long interest in the Second World War but most of my readings and interest are on the other side of the world. I know about as much as the next person when it comes to D-Day. That is, mostly through movies and tv series and the rest of it with library books from years ago. While I have a reasonably good idea what was going on at and behind the lines at the Omaha beach and somewhat at Utah beach, I have absolutely no idea what happened on Juno beach. And considering where I live, I think this is something I need to fix.
My first visit will be to the Juno Beach Centre and hopefully there will be a guided tour of Juno beach as well as the other locations that were key to the Canadian mission(s). I think I’d also be interested in taking in one, two or 15 D-Day museums but wow, which ones?!? This is definitely a rabbit hole of research to do. The museum in Caen looks amazing but I’d like to see as much as possible. If anyone has some suggestions or experiences, I know I’d love to hear them.
I have read there are places to stay nearby and people are allowed to visit the beaches on their own, much like any beach town. So, it would be nice to spend a few days in the area. Imagine that, I can take my little one to all of these historic beaches. While she is soaking up the sun, sand and waves, I can soak up the history.
I’d certainly prepare for this visit in advance, I know she will have a lot of questions.
Part 2 – Paying my respects at Pas de Calais
This here is my great uncle:
I am still trying to find out more about him and what he did during the Great War. What I know so far is that he won a Military Cross a few weeks before his death in 1918. I believe he died by artillery fire around Arras but that is not yet clear. He is buried at the Dury Mill British Cemetery in the Pas de Calais and I intend to find out a lot more before I pay him a visit:
Then I would like to go on some sort of Great War tour and since I will be close to Arras, Arras would seem to be a good a place as any to take one. I am not sure what to expect on such a tour. After all, those battles were over 100 years ago. There is only one way to find out.
Part 3 – A little Le Bourget before boarding
Of course, this is France and there is a lot more to it than war. I am very sure I’d take in the local flavors and culture. I am pretty sure my little one would charm with her French speaking and her reactions upon entering any boulangerie. And I am reasonably sure I’d find new burgundys, beaujolais and liracs to go with everything.
Sigh, I really want to go.
Of course, all good things have to come to an end but I would do my best to get in one more site before boarding – the museum at Le Bourget. Now, I know what you are thinking: how can a museum have multiple Concordes but not a single Corsair? Its a glaring omission, true, but there are still a pile of unique planes to see and I am sure the experience would be worth it. I kinda dig the Mirage thing, especially the IV but I’ve never seen any of them in person.
I can really see this one happening someday. Hopefully sooner than later!
Likelihood Level: Yeah but maybe not for a while
I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. They have scale models, bullet trains and they are crazy about baseball. I mean, what’s not to like? They also have a big scale model show that I have only read about and I would not want to miss. So let’s start with that
Shizuoka Hobby Show
I am not sure if this is the grand-daddy of hobby shows but it is certainly one of, if not the big daddy. Getting there from, say, Tokyo would involve a one hour bullet train ride. Oh yes, please! I’m also told that during show hours, there is a shuttle bus that runs from the train station directly to the show. How’s that for convenience?
So, what is the Shizuoka Model Show? This is where all the big Japanese companies bring out their new products. Looking at the various summary reports of this show, there would be lots of models and products to see that I would not normally have access to. As the name implies, there is more to see than scale models. There would also be model trains, RC, and all sorts of hobby products. I’m also told there are club stands with incredible displays as well as plenty of opportunities to buy newly released products.
Since I am already in Shizuoka, well I have to pay a visit to Mr. Tamiya and his company. There is a great write-up of the tour here. There is also a great video of the on-site ‘museum’ of sorts.
A bullet train back to the big city where I would be spending my time taking it all in and doing at least the following:
- Akihabara District: My lovely wife loves all things electronic and I am a huge Blade Runner fan. I think we would have fun there
- Hobby Shops: No one describes the experience better than Ninetalis and his Tokyo Hobby Shops article.
- Yomiuri Giants: I am not sure whether this is the best place to see Japanese baseball but I’ve got to see a game.
This is the wildcard. I have not done a lot of research on this aspect of the trip but from what I have seen, the ‘style’ of museum, at least for things aviation related, seems to be small and spread all over the country. There is no way to visit them all but if there is yet another excuse to get into a bullet train, no one will have to twist my arm. Again, maybe my friend Dave can chime in with some suggestions as I know he has been to several.
Likelihood Level: Up there with “Lottery Win” AS in Love for it to happen but not likely anytime soon
Ah the upper tier. The ‘Executive Level’ trip to historic places that is customized for Chris. First Class travel? Of course! Exclusive day trips requiring advance permits? No problem. Potential for malaria? What’s a trip without it! How about a forbidden island? Count me in.
This would be the ‘Forbidden Planet’ version of Model Maker Pilgrimages and if I could do it, oh man would I ever. To do all this I’d need a lot of time, money and DEET flavored repellent. Of course, by the time I have all those things I’d probably have something like gout, bunions, or a whole host of other old-timer maladies that would take the fun out of swimming in and out of tanks on coral reefs while spear fishing and punching sharks on the nose.
So, I’m depending heavily on a major lotto win to pull this one off in a reasonable time.
You have to start somewhere and what a place to start. I went back in 2012 and had a wonderful visit. To be honest, Hawaii is so beautiful that I might just get sidetracked there for a few weeks. I ‘only’ got to Oahu and Maui. There is still Kuwai and the Big Island.
Midway & Wake
The issue here is that one needs a special permit to visit these islands. And I suspect one would also need to pack a lunch as there would be no amenities. They only issue permits to contractors and military personnel. So, somehow I would have to convince the US Government that it needs the services of a cheeky amateur historian. How hard could that be?
Saipan & Guam
Compared to Midway and Wake, these would be much easier to get to. No permits needed and all of the amenities in the world. I’ve been told Guam is so built up that it is practically indistinguishable from Reading PA! Though given the track record of who told me that, I somehow doubt it. At any rate, there are all sorts of tours, beaches, scuba diving and trouble to get into.
A bit rustic and definitely not at all like Guam (or Reading for that matter). I am fascinated by the Solomons and I believe it would be something to see and experience. I’d make it a point to visit the landing beaches, and those battlegrounds that were so fiercely defended. There is one tour guide that makes it all so easy.
Obviously another stretch due to the very limited access that is provided. I believe there are only two occasions per year and one has to apply for a permit to visit. I also think the extent of the visit is limited to designated areas.
At this time I am a little more than a year into working from home. Sure I am tired of it and yes, I wish things were different. I try not to complain as we have it pretty good compared to some others. A lot has happened in a year and maybe, just maybe, things will head back in the right direction over the next few months. I am a bit of a planner and it was fun to think about fun places to go when I can get back out there.
So, what do you think of my list? I have not been to any so if you have, please share your experiences. Also, have you been planning or dreaming about some travel? Let me know what you have in mind.
Up next will be Part 3 – Events.
Great list! I would really enjoy going to the Pacific destinations on your list, and Iwo Jima is on the top of my bucket list of destinations. Looked into to see if one could attend as part of a veterans trip due to the difficulty in getting the permit. It appeared equally difficult to secure a position on that type of trip. Planning a trip to Hawaii in 2022 to see all of the museums and monuments. The Guadalcanal trip looks really cool. Andy
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I’m always up for providing Japanese air museum collections. I’ve been meaning to finish an article on Zero hunting in Japan for a long time now that may be of use to you. (I’ve seen nearly every publicly displayed Zero fighter in the country) If you’re into post-war jets, both domestic and international-purchase/license-built, there is the Japan Air self-Defense Force Public Information Center (it’s a museum) in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. Gifu-Kakamigahara Air & Space Museum has a replica of the original Zero prototype (12-shi carrier fighter), and a real Ki-43 that was built in the Kakamigahara factory. Also a lot of post-war prototypes, one offs, space stuff and a replica pre-WWII French biplane that was used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. Way down south in Kanoya is the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Naval Air Museum which has the last Emily flying boat on display in beautifully restored condition (it used to be in Tokyo), as well as a Zero, and a collection of post-war aircraft. Those are just the big ones, there are a bunch of smaller former air field museums and kamikaze museums as well, usually with one or two aircraft and airfield relics.
And for Nomandy there’s far too much to do on any given visit, but if you go during the D-Day week be prepared to see DC-3/C-47s in invasion markings overhead on a daily basis. When I went I saw paratrooper drops on the La Fiere drop zone, first active military, then a group of C-47s dropping paratroopers in vintage uniforms.
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Lots of interesting places to visit in both Normandy and the Pas de Calais of course – La Coupole and Eperlecques two you might not have heard of. And if you’re driving to Calais, why wouldn’t you nip across the Channel for a few Battle of Britain museums and the National Memorial to the Few ?
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