Grace, Liz, and Leo Babia at Omaha Beach in Normandy

MIDDLE RIVER — Sometimes stepping out of the classroom, putting away the textbooks and traveling to different places allows for children to fully comprehend what they are learning in school.

That’s just what the Babia siblings did this summer with their mom. Not everyone can afford a European getaway, but perhaps some lessons can be learned from others who have ventured across the pond. Grace Babia shares what she and her children experienced this summer while traveling through Europe.

“My two children, Leonardo and Elizabeth, and I went to England, Wales and France this summer,” she said. “Leo is a rising Grade 8 student at Middle River Middle, and Liz is a rising Grade 5 student at Glenmar Elementary.

“In France, we visited the place of Operation Overlord, also known as the Normandy invasion, on its 75th anniversary. We also had the opportunity to see Bayeux, a small town rich with culture and history, and of course, Paris, where Leo celebrated his 13th birthday.

“The trip began with visiting family in London on August 1, then taking a bus to Cardiff, Wales, to meet with my college friends. In Cardiff, seven friends were waiting for us to join them on a camping adventure to France, a trip that had been several months in the making.

“Our 16-seater mini-bus accommodated all 10 of us and our camping gear as we traveled from Cardiff to the Port of Dover in the middle of the night. The 239-mile trip took about six hours. As the day broke and sun rose, our mini-bus embarked on a ferry boat that took us to Port Calais in France.

“From that port, we drove another four hours to our campsite in Caen, France, and then we set up our tents and spent the rest of the day relaxing. It was an amazing experience for Leo and Liz to sleep under a tent in France beneath the glow of the moon.

“On August 5, we visited Omaha Beach at Normandy, where the American’s Operation Overlord invasion took place, led by then Commander Dwight Eisenhower. We visited museums and bought some souvenirs and stayed at the beach basking in gratitude, realizing how blessed we were for the opportunity to be there.

“Then we paid tribute to the thousands of soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice, when we visited the Normandy American Cemetery. We were also given the chance to visit Pegasus Bridge, where the British Invasion took place, a must-see for our British friends.

“The next day we visited magnificent cathedrals in the small town of Bayeux, shopped for souvenirs, and had a taste of the town’s beautiful culture and delicious food. It was here that my children recognized the importance of learning other languages, and what an advantage it was for us to have a French-speaking friend along.

“Then we headed to Paris – a must-see for everyone who visits France. In Paris, my children took photos of Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral, visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, at the summit of Montmartre, and then the Eiffel Tower where Leo celebrated his 13th birthday. They tried riding on the electric scooters and we strolled through the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower. They had their photos taken at the Louvre Museum as well.

“The blessed week in France changed my children’s perspectives as they observed similarities and accepted the differences of various countries and groups of people. They learned so much about geography and history and came back to America filled with gratitude, understanding that every human being is connected, that we all aim for peace and harmony, and we pursue our happiness even if that means something as simple as a good pastry in the morning!”

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