The D Day Beaches

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August 5th 2009
Published: August 16th 2009
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Cute Normandy townCute Normandy townCute Normandy town

The name escapes me!!! but it was cute
Wednesday 5th August
The D Day Beaches
Our hotel in Le Harve is an odd sort of arrangement and is more like an apartment block with offices attached.The ‘hotel’ is run by another hotel which stands in front and the registration desk is actually there.They give you a digi code to access the building and you are free to park wherever you want.However the room is clean and although there is a microwave and fridge there are no cooking utensils,plates or eating utensils.
During our stroll to dinner at the cafe last night we had not come across anything that resembled a supermarket to buy our breakfast and lunch needs.There was however a couple of service stations up the road from the hotel so we used those as a starting point this morning to see if we could buy the supplies we needed to get the day underway.
The service stations didn’t have what we were after,in fact one was just a place where you paid by card for your petrol purchase with no shop on site,but we did see what appeared like a couple of shops up a side street.
And sure enough there was a small store selling milk,juice etc and next door a patiserrie with bread so we purchased what we needed for breakfast.
The temperature was already at 30C by the time we hit the road,the A29,over two very grand,spectacular bridges,one of them tolled,that spanned the outlet of the Seine River to the English Channel.
Our plan was to do a circle route to take in the D Day beaches along the Normandy coast and mistakenly we decided on doing the coastal route first.What we hadn’t allowed for was the holiday seaside traffic along this route and also the number of towns we had to pass directly through rather than having an option of taking a ring road as would have been available in the UK.
Honfleur looked like an interesting town to take a walk through with old historic looking buildings,hanging colourful planter baskets and a small harbour full of all types of boats,some with tall masts and sails.However so did everyone else in the province think like us and there wasn’t a car park to be found so we regretfully had to carry on.
In our pursuit to find a car park we thought we missed the road we needed to keep us on the coast as we had planned.This might have turned out to be a good thing given the numbers of people and cars we encountered anytime we took the road that hugged the coastline.
Our progress slowed and we took a break from the traffic at Trouville on the D513 to buy supplies from a CarteFour Supermarket for lunch and dinner tonight when we get home from this drive.Our French was put to the test when it was our turn at the cashier and we discovered we had forgotten to weigh the fruit we wanted at the F&V section.The cashier did not have a weighing machine built in with the scanner and she had to whistle up another shop assistant to race off and get the weights of the fruit we wanted.We will know better next time!!!
Each town we passed through had something that told the story of the D Day invasion by the Allies on the 6th June 1944 whether it was a tank used in the battle or a centotaph.
At Hermanville we stopped to visit the cemetery for British soldiers killed in action in the area.Like other war cemetaries it was beautifully maintained and a very peaceful place.
Lunch stop was at Cabourg at the end of the beaches named Juno and Sword which was where the British and Canadians made their assault on the coastline.Throughout the area Canadian and British flags are flown alongside French flags in rememberance of the allies involvement to liberate France.
As we approached Omaha beaches in the Arromanches area we stopped at the beach to take a look at what was left of the Winston harbour and as it was low tide much of what was left was still visible.
The harbour was one of two that were constructed in Britain and towed across the Channel once the assault of the beaches had held its ground.With the harbour the allies were able to tie up ships bringing supplies and more soldiers without needing to use one of the French ports along the coast and in the case of where the two temporary harbours were located there were no ports the allies could have used.
It was amazing to see the expansive area that the harbour occupied and it must have been quite a feat to design,build and tow the man made concrete structures across the Channel.
As it had taken longer than we anticipated to get along the coastline due to the summer holidaymakers making the most of the fine weather to be at the beach,we decided that we wouldn’t venture further than the US memorial cemetery just along the coast from Port-en-Bessin.
We arrived at the cemetery at 5.30pm and it was lucky we weren’t any later as they closed the place off at 6pm.We were surprised by the number of cars that were leaving the cemetery but we were even more surprised at the huge car park area that was still very much packed with cars.
The Americans really know how to remember their dead either on their home soil as in the War of Independance or the Civil War as well as on foreign soil as at the beach they named Omaha.There was a massive monument with a huge statue and maps inscribed onto a stone wall telling the story of the invasion of the Normandy beaches.Beyond the memorial were the crosses of over 9000 graves making the place very sombre.Even with the huge number of people they kept their voices down and children were very well behaved showing the respect the dead soldiers deserved.
Our return journey was to be on the main inland road with a stop at the medieval town of Bayeux which was a central point during the Omaha beach invasion.Here the American flag was being flown in profusion showing even after all these years how much respect the locals have for the Americans who fought and died on foreign soil to liberate France.
We found a park for RR and took a stroll down the narrow main street of Bayeux stopping off at a cafe for a cold beer to prepare us for the drive home on the N13 which would take us a couple of hours or so.In the early evening sun it would have been very easy to stay on for another beer or two as it was so relaxing after a day of battling traffic.
We wanted to avoid the toll road between Caen and the outskirts of Le Harve and after negotiating our way onto the ring road to avoid the middle of Caen we thought we would easily find the off ramp from the ring road and onto the N178 to carry us towards Le Havre.
Not so and we sped past the off ramp before we knew it necessitating another round of the city on the ring road.This time we were ready and recognised where we needed to get off the ring road!!!
The drive along the N178 was pleasant enough passing through many small towns and villages that we would have missed had we been on the toll road.And although it took longer it was certainly more interesting.
We re-entered Le Havre back over the twin bridges over the Seine that we left on this morning and made it back just before it got dark at almost 9.30pm.It had been another long day but a rewarding one with visits to most of the beaches we had hoped to get to and the highlight being the American cemetery at the end of our drive along the coast.
Tomorrow we have a long drive to The Netherlands and our stay with Wim and Diny at their home in Zwolle.


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