Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation, Random DJB Thoughts
Comments 6

A wonderful week exploring European coastal civilizations

Travel for work often deserves the brickbats thrown its way. But then there are the sublime trips that more than make it all worthwhile.

Porto, Portugal

My travel last week falls in the latter category.

As posted here, here, here, here, and here, Candice and I have been on the road, seeing a variety of special places with friends and supporters of the National Trust through this National Trust Tour of European Coastal Civilizations. But because internet connections were slow-to-nonexistent on the road, I kept the posts short and to the point.

So this is my “bring it all home” post.  I’ll give a short update of each stop, and then will post several new photos from that portion of the trip that weren’t included in the original updates.

Our first port was Porto, Portugal, a wonderful city with a historic center that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was a great kick-off, with a strong mix of monumental buildings and streets full of markets like the one at the top of the post.  We saw the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of Harry Potter and a beautiful stock exchange building that reflects Portugal’s one-time status as a world power.

A Porto street scene
Along the river in Porto, Portugal

The next day we were in Spain, visiting the great pilgrimage site at Santiago de Compostela.  Steeples, plazas, and gargoyles filled my camera on this day.

Cathedral Details

Bilbao’s transformation from gritty ship-building city to international arts destination was a revelation.  We knew of the Guggenheim’s impact, but we weren’t ready for the blocks of historic buildings intermingled with the works of multiple modern masters.  It was a glorious visit and one that we want to repeat with the entire family.

A historic detail from Bilbao
A Bilbao church
Candice and David at the Guggenheim
Gehry's interior of the Guggenheim

The next day we moved on to France, and the beautiful island of Belle-Ile.  We toured the coasts where Monet painted, and explored the imposing Citadel that dominates the port.

The coastline of Belle-Ile
Citadel detail
View from the Citadel towards the port

In both Belle-Ile and Guernsey, our next stop, Candice and I loved the clustering of traditional houses which opened up the beautiful farmland and landscape.  Our tour focused on the German occupation of the island during WWII, but our attention was drawn to the countryside and thought of how the U.S. – with some notable exceptions – has allowed development to eat up our open space.  So I was pleased today when Andrew texted to say he would be working as an intern at the Coalition for Smart Growth this summer.  When one sees places such as Belle-Ile and Guernsey, you see how much we’ve lost.

Open space in Guernsey
Guernsey coast line

We ended our wonderful week in Normandy.  My last post spoke of the emotional nature of any visit to the beaches and the American cemetery, and the depth of the sacrifices made on those fateful days some 69 years ago is still very present and powerful.  The countryside of Normandy also speaks to the simple, hardworking lives that were turned upside down throughout the German occupation and the Allied invasion. It is a place one doesn’t soon forget.

Known only to God
David at Omaha Beach commemorative marker
Thanking the Veterans on our tour at Normandy
Arromanches Street Scene

It was a trip to remember, and we loved every minute as we were reminded how truly blessed we are.  Thanks to all who made it possible.

More to come…



I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. Debbie says

    Thanks so much for sharing your trip with all of us. It looks like a wonderful week with a vast array of cultures. I’m so glad that you and Candice got to experience all this together!

  2. Jo says

    Appreciate the opportunity for this vicarious visit — what a privilege to witness such beauty.

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