WW2 and family history together?
Count. Me. In.
Though my husband loves history, I'm on a whole different level. I'll find the random facts and share them with him while we're at the place I've researched or on our way to a destination. He listens and enjoys the little tidbits I ramble on about, for the most part, I think. Which I can't say that I blame him if he just wants to nod and then go back to whatever I had interrupted him from doing.
I've always had the dream of taking a road trip in France but not just any road trip. The plan would be to go the same route as my grandfather had in WW2 with the Canadian Grenadier Guards.
Starting at Juno Beach in July 1944, his regiment would make their way to the Netherlands.
This of course would take more time than we planned this trip, which will only be ten days, but I still took the time to research and add the points my grandfather was in France so we could stop by important ones.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many fantastic people from Project '44 finding these places were going to be a little easier.
The interactive map allows you to follow a specific unit, country, and more to help filter down what you're looking for. And for me, I was able to follow the Canadian Grenadier Guards, an Armoured Regiment.
By clicking the calendar to move day by day, I followed the tank icon as it made progress on the frontline, but what was even more special was the war diaries that were included with each location and date.
The countdown is on, and I really look forward to standing in the same place my grandfather had.
He never spoke of the war, which is understandable, but I sometimes wonder if he were alive today and knew about my love of Canadian history and our family's history, would he have opened up a bit or spoke of the good times they had. How it felt to liberate a town or how they celebrated D-Day. The friends he made and the locals he met, or perhaps he hoped to see the places m after the war, driving a car instead of a tank, and return to the beautiful landscapes and make happy memories.
So while I'll learn as we venture through Normandy and close to Belgium, it will also leave a lot of questions unanswered.
What sort of research do you do before a trip?
There is nothing better than a physical copy of a book. Hardcover or paperback, there is just something special about it.
Is it the smell of the pages or sound of when you turn them? The weight of the novel in your hands? Spine-cracking (how dare you!)? Able to dog-ear (you monster!)? Using bookmarks? Never having to worry about low battery?
When we went to Japan in 2019, I lugged three books with me, one being a hardcover.
They took up space and added weight to my already full bag. It meant shifting things around and remembering to pack it somewhere I could easily access it if we were going to be on the train or airplane.
When we went to my father-in-law's for Christmas in 2021, I lugged a few books with me, only having carry-on. It wasn't too bad since we weren't hotel hopping and my suitcase stayed put in their guest room, but I knew I had to figure something out before our next big trip.
When Covid restrictions were lifted and we anxiously began the rush to plan our second trip to Japan, deciding on only travelling with a carry on for three weeks, I knew physical copies weren't going to make it into my strategically packed suitcase.
So, it left me three choices:
I had bought a Kindle during the pandemic, Amazon had a great deal and GoodReads always had giveaways for free eBooks, so I wasn't stuck.
You know when you enter an Instagram giveaway and think nothing of it and then months later you open your messages and see notifications that you were a winner? For once that happened and I found myself the lucky bookworm waiting for a Kobo.
Then came the research of which to keep and which to sell. Perhaps it was because it was new, and I won it that made me decide on the Kobo Libra 2. In the end I sold my kindle to another travelling bookworm who was excited for their upcoming trip, so I was happy with my decision.
The only downside to the Kobo is now I can't read my GoodReads wins on it, Amazon has really cracked down on being able to unlock them to read elsewhere.
So, if you have Prime and want to give a Kindle a try, it's a good place to start and see if you enjoy using one. And through the link below, you can get three months of free Kindle Unlimited, which also helps indie authors out, like myself!
What book will you be reading while travelling? I'd love to hear about them!
Make sure to check out my list of books here.
There were a lot of things we discovered in Japan; castles, history, book themed neighbourhood... Oh! And honey drizzled on top of cheese pizza is insanely good.
What you'll quickly find out though is most public bathrooms don't have hand dryers or paper towels. Everyone has a small towel or facecloth on hand, quickly drying their washed hands and are out the bathroom door quickly.
You would have thought I'd remember this from our first trip, but no... The first couple days I wiped my hands on my skirt or pants, air drying as we moved onto our next destination.
I had booked a room at Hotel Tavinos Kyoto, an affordable and funky place that we both really loved. While waiting in their lobby, I noticed among the shelf of free toiletries for customers, they had souvenirs. One being a hand towel.
It was around 1200¥ or so, small enough to put in my purse and I used it all the time.
This, of course, got me thinking of all the other small things that made things easier while travelling and I thought I'd share a list of five of them with you.
1. Facecloth or hand towel
As I mentioned above, it's just a handy thing to have on hand. I keep my Tavinos towel in my purse to this day!
2. Lash extensions
I'm not a huge makeup girl, mascara and lipsticks are my usual go-to for day-to-day looks. So, to avoid carrying makeup remover, cotton pads, and the mascara, I set aside money for lash extensions before leaving for Japan in 2019.
I only wore nude/soft pink lipsticks, so it wasn't much of a hassle to remove (mind you, a lot wore off when I ate matcha ice cream). It was well worth the money and saved time and never had to worry about running mascara if it rained.
3. Badge/ID Holder
In Japan, we had the Japan Rail Pass. If you lost it, that was it. They didn't give you a replacement, you were out of money even if you lost it ten minutes after you had them register the ticket's active and expiry date.
While at one of the many Don Quijotes we visited, I bought an adorable Sanrio ID pass with a keyring to attach to my purse. I kept my rail pass, transfer tickets, and my Suica card.
4. Apps Specifically for Your Destination
If you're travelling somewhere that English isn't their language, you at least need to have Google Translate app on your phone. Not only can you type in words to translate, but you can also take a photo of something, and it will (do it's best to) translate for you. Could be a train map or menu, we used it a lot in Japan. Look to see if your destination's airport or customs have an app to make the process easier or they have something to find free Wi-Fi in certain cities you visit. Also remember to set your weather app to your current location and receive important notifications.
5. Copies & Sharing Important Things
We like to make a few photocopies of our passports, giving the hotels a copy instead of them having to make copies themselves. It can also come in handy if you ever misplace/lose your passport since you'll have all the vital information. We also make extra copies of our itinerary in case customs asks for more details and we give them to a few family members. This way, if something drastic happened either where we were or back at home, they'd know where we should be and contact us.
What do you think of these suggestions I shared? Do you have one to share? I'd love to hear about them, so please comment below!