France 158 - Bayeux - we have been here before /the cathedral/ the waterwheel and another wonderful museum telling the story of the Battle for Normandy

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December 31st 2019
Published: December 31st 2019
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Bayeux - memories of driving in to the city in a car. Memories of seeing the tapestry . Memories of an omlette in a cafe for lunch . It was a Sunday . Odd how you remember exactly the day you were somewhere even years after. . This time we are here about 18 years later in Gabby the motorhome . Who ever would have thought we would be back ?

Bayeux after Caen was a delight . Less traffic , less madness, no bus lanes and an excellent overnight possibility in the grounds of the Museum . Free parking in the day 5 euros overnight , Not bad at all. We could stop if we wanted to or move on . Depending on how the mood took us .

We are at the Memorial to the D D Landings Museum . More of the same I hear you say. Why not? Each museum now along our way are slightly different and give a different aspect on the landings. We might end up thinking ABDDLM - another bloody D Day Landing Museum but somehow I dont think so. We are fascinated with this history and seeing it being interpreted in such a way is making this holiday a real success.

We parked up and walked up to the museum doors after passing a number of tanks all lined up outside . Photo opportunities were there for the taking. Sadly the museum was closed . We could see no sign of life and a barrier had been put up in the lobby. Luckily it was just closed for lunch . Phew we let out a sigh of relief. After our lack of success at some museums and castles we needed a break . All we had to do was waste a couple of hours and the staff would be back.

It was about a 15 minute walk into town . An easy route as someone very kindly had put up a map with the words " you are here " on it . We could pick out our route , up the street , turn right ,down the street , turn left , along the next street and through an alley and we should come out slap bang in front of the cathedral.

The cathedral was difficult to photograph as there was only a small square in front . We could not get back far enough to do it justice . We did try as we tried to avoid the massive white and silver christmas bauble which filled the only available place to stand . The cathedral is known as Our Lady of Bayeux and was built on a roman sanctuary. It was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William Duke of Normandy and the ill fated Harold Godwinson .There was no one inside . We had the place to ourselves . There was a Christmas tree set up and a crib and around the walls material screens were set up . At 6pm and for every half hour the Bayeux tapestry would be projected on the walls of the cathedral. I would have loved to have stayed to see it but it was not starting until after dark and it was only 12 .30. It seems that serious damage was done to the building in the 13th century and it had to be rebuilt in a Gothic style . We entered the crypt first . Just think how much building goes on unseen in a cathedral. All that soil to be dug out and removed . The hope that the weight of the church wont send the building deeper and deeper into the mud. Such a thing has happened in England before . A cathedral disappearing slowly into the ground. The crypt was dark but I could pick up on the recent paintings of the columns. There were no vergers down there, no clergy, no-one making sure we were behaving ourselves . No-one keeping an eye on us making sure we were respecting the holy space. No services . Nothing just an empty building . Quiet as the grave.

We still had time to kill so headed off slowly to find a water mill. Glenn had read about the water mill wheel so we just had to find it. It was in the oldest part of the city - the Tanners quarter. The old mill stood there complete with its working water mill. Just round the corner were cafes full of the townsfolk eating out. The boulangerie was open . It invited me in - I bought my usual order of baguette and croissant and followed it up with a tiramisu trifle.

Our walk took us slowly back to the Museum . It began to rain , just that drizzle first and then a downpour. We got wet by the time we got back to Gabby. Still this was better than being at home. We wondered what we would find in the museum which was now open. It cost less to go in than the museum at Caen. I cant remember how much exactly but it was less than 8 euros each. It was a more intimate museum . On the face of it we got the impression that it was not so high tec nor did it have as many exhibits. It was like a Tardis inside. Everything well presented telling the story of the area and the battles that occured. The museum gave itself the title of the Gateway to the battles The five objectives for victory - the taking of Utah, Omaha, Gold , Juno and Sword beaches . What we didnt know when we finished at Caen we were sure to find out here. The museum centred around Operation Neptune and the assaults of the beaches . We had planned to follow some of the beaches through next week . Such loss of life we had much to learn. Never to forget and much to understand That was the motto of the museum .

The museum was opened in 1981 and was situated at the heart of one of the strategic sites of the Battle of Normandy. Bayeux was the first town to be liberated in mainland France and the memorial museum is at the heart of Liberty Alley. A modern building surrounded by tanks and guns. After paying we entered an exhibition area of 2,300 square metres detailing all aspects of the war. Glass cases were filled with more and more artifacts - guns, British and German , knives, books riddled with bullets. Clothing of officers , soldiers and civilians . Forged papers and buttons from clothing. American jeeps left behind as they were too expensive to ship back to the USA. A caterpillar tank used to build roads. We walked backwards and forwards and looked at photographs of the devastation. Room after room of items , food packaging and cigarette packets. Doctors medicine chests. Medals and citations. Everything just pieced together the battles and seemed to make the whole things real . Much of the history revolved around General De Gaulle and his part in the war. We kept going back to look at things we had missed . Each gun was different , each rifle , each handgun. Each story took a lot to understand and take in. We found ourselves completely wrapped up in the history of the Second World War . Sometimes we found ourselves talking about what we had seen. We found we remember items from our childhood . At other times words just left us and we could say nothing. It just felt too much seeing the devastation and left us wondering how on earth we let it happen.

We had not got much of a plan for that night. We could have stayed in Bayeux but we needed water and to dump our grey tanks and the toilet cassette. There were no facilities here . We had to make a decision - that decision was to head for Carentan where we knew there was a Camping Car aire with free WiFi and everything else we needed for the small sum of 9 euros 70 .

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