Published: July 11th 2012July 11th 2012
Monday was a travel day from Brugges to Brussels via train; Transfering in Brussels to a high speed train back to the Train Station at Charles De Gaul airport (Paris). We picked up a rental car there and headed to Normandy in Northern France. One of the first things I noticed when we arrived in Bayeux - the town in which we stayed - was the number of American and Brittish tourists. That makes sense, I guess, given the historical nature of this area. Many of the key sights we were here in Normandy were related to the World War II D-Day assault on the beaches in this region. The French towns here really do a great job catering to the English speaking tourist. And you really get the sense that the people here really embrace the Brittish, Americans, Canadians and Australians; the nations that liberated them from Nazi occupation.
Tuesday we spend the day touring the sites related to the events of WWII. The weather was characteristically somber, with cool weather, rain and a strong wind for a good part of the morning. We drove to the town of Arromanches, which was at the center of
where the Invasion of Normandy took place. The US soldiers came ashore west of Arromanches (Omaha Beach and Utah Beach) and the Canadian and Brittish soldiers came ashore to the east. The main street in town sat on a cliff overlooking the bridge. It gave a great view onto the shores below looking both east and west for miles.
The Arromanches 360 Theater, located right on the beach gives an impressive 360 movie experience. Very loud, but it did a great job of showing what the invasion was like from a soldiers point of view, using footage from war correspondants that came ashore with the landing teams. From there we went on to see a German gun battery site - 4 155mm artilery cannons arranged in a semi-circle about 100 yards apart. Each cannon was sunk below ground with about 18 inches of concrete over top.
From there we went to the WWII American Military Cemetary and memorial. It was very moving. As you enter, they have a visitors center that has a couple short films and a number of displays that bring to bring to life the people who faught and died during WWII in Normandy. They
read a number of personal letters from soldiers back to their families. It really made their sacrifice very poinant. Exiting the visitors center we walked to and through the cemetary. There were over 9000 graves in 10 plots on 172 acres. Each headstone is a simple white marble cross, with the soldier's name, rank and home town. What struck me was the number of graves where the soldier's name was unknown.
As a final stop for the day we went to Pointe du Hoc to view a monument to the Army Ranger's who scaled a cliff face several hundred feet high on the day of the invasion to take out German artillery position. 300 Rangers started the difficult task and most of them did not survive. But they were ultimately successful in taking out the artillery battery. The other notable thing about this site is the number of bomb craters still there. After the assult the site was left un-touched and made into a memorial. There are literaly hundreds of craters, each about 30 feet across and 15 feet deep; the result of areal and naval bombardment that took place prior to the D-Day landing.
There were a
number of other sites that we just didn't have time to visit. You could easily spend 2-3 days here exploring the history of the Normandy Invasion. I'm greatful we had the opportunity to include this in our trip. It really gave me a much better appreciation for the horror of WWII and the sacrifices that generation made.
There are more photos below