Paris to Normandy, Day 5 — Normandy Beaches

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April 29th 2014
Published: July 6th 2014
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Photos from Day 5, Normandy Beaches

Normandy, the jackpot of the trip, the hook that promised to bring the Americans... Normandy represents a time when all of France liked us Americans, except, of course, the Germans who occupied her. 148 of the 150 passengers on this cruise were from the USA. The two exceptions, Ron & Shiela, wereexceptional people. They said they were from Yorkshire, and from their accents I'd say they were talking about the county in England. I'd see them here or there throughout the trip, and each time seemed to be a moment of reverie when I drifted off musing to myself and (usually Ron) would intercept and seem to share the feeling. Wish I had more opportunity to sit and talk with them.

There was about a 2-hour bus ride from Rouen to the Normandy beaches, and it pretty much rained the whole way –the whole day. The northern countryside was very interesting, albeit in such gloomy conditions, and I really missed the usual photography approach of stopping when someone sees something to shoot. The buses on this day had rear wheels that turned in unison with the front steering, which made it possible to travel those narrow little lanes you'll see in so many WWII movies that show this area. Then it was tanks maneuvering the passages, but on this day it was weird sitting in a bus that seemed to turn from the center.

Our first stop was at Arromanches where we visited Le Musée du débarquement, an incredible collection of war memorabilia setup with a ton of respect for the warriors who are represented. We sat through a quick movie that showed the making of the harbor that was constructed in England and brought over with the invasion to accommodate the landing. What an incredible engineering feat. We had a few moments to walk around before meeting for a quick lunch at the 6 Juin Brasserie, photo 12. I took a few shots, but there was nothing that really clicked. There was one shot I really regret missing. If I had walked up the street to the left in photo 5, there was a beautiful view of the beach with that house with the two fairytale peaks you can see in photo 11. At the time of shooting 5 I thought I was late for our rendezvous and figured I'd catch it on the way back. When we were done with lunch there was no time to wait for me to climb the hill to get the shot, proving once again that you can't "go back to get the shot."

We boarded the buses and twisted our way to the battery at Longues Sur Mer. Photo 13 is a typical bad-snapshot-like exposure (as most everything on this trip was) but was included in the gallery because it's the only one showing our very special Program Director. Well, actually, I suppose, she was a regular Program Director, and the "very special" part came through her personality. It sounded like she said her name was Care-een (or was it Karine, Carine...) but quickly added, "But I say Carrie just to make it easy." Since I wasn't looking for easy and wanted to use her real name I asked again what it was. By then she was interrupted by another passenger and didn't quite hear me. She said, "Carrie." There were many things to applaud Viking River Cruises for like the food and fun, but the best part of my appreciation is their ability to find such wonderful people. Every week this same crew launches with a whole new roster of cruisers, and yet each passenger is made to feel how special each moment of the trip is because each employee genuinely shares their feeling of excitement. Well, there was this one rich old guy who would be the exception to every journey.

Our ship was named the Neptune which is the same as the Normandy invasion code name. The success of the invasion depended on code names, deception and misinformation. There is no way the Allies could have pulled it off if Hitler wasn't watching Patton playing with balloons somewhere near Dover. The weather was another big part of the planning. Meteorologists know that even today we can't accurately forecast weather beyond 24 hours in spite of public demands and the station manager's need to comply. Well, this was one day that meteorologists got right at least a week in advance. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot at Omaha Beach the rain poured harder than it did for the whole trip, which rained every day at least once.

Another cool part Viking setup was a special tribute at the memorial. We were all given a single flower to hold throughout the ceremony which ended with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. The eyes of everyone there were wet under their umbrellas. Afterwards, all of the past and present soldiers of our group got together for a photo op under the statue, then we all scattered around the sacred place and put our flowers on any grave we chose. As you can see, only one photo (21), taken handheld while balancing an umbrella with the other, made it to the gallery. The moment our buses started pulling out of the parking lot the rain stopped and the Sun winked through the clouds.

The last 4 photos in this gallery are from Utah Beach and you can see the sunshine was still trying to be remembered. The warriors who fought to make our lives better will never be forgotten.


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