Welcome to the Normandy region of France This blog is the fifth in a series of posts looking back on our France adventures. For most of the hotels/B & Bs, sights, and restaurants I attached a link so you can get more information. Be sure to check out the other blogs in this series Versailles , The Loire Valley, Brittany, & St-Malo/Mont St-Michele.
Wednesday, 7/4 For this leg of our journey we stayed in the town of Bayeux in the Normandy region of France. This was the perfect home base for us since our goal here was to explore the D-Day beaches.
We stayed in a lovely B & B called La Villa. This B & B was delightful and centrally located. We were right near the Bayeux Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry.
We checked in around 5 pm and were exhausted from touring St-Malo and Mont St-Michel. A much needed nap was on the agenda to rejuvenate and head out to dinner later on. We ate dinner at a creperie called Le Domesday. This was a family style restaurant serving burgers, pizza and of course…galettes. I opted for a camembert and apple galette..oh happy day. How can you go wrong with cheese and apples. Since our main goal in Bayeux was to tour the D-Day beaches, we decided to get a good night sleep and head out in the morning.
Today we decided to start at the far end and work our way back to Bayeux. We toured Ste-Mere Eglise, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery.
This small village is just west of Utah Beach and was the first village liberated by Americans. It was the spot for American paratroopers to land behind enemy lines on D-Day. If you look at the church closely you’ll see a paratrooper memorial dedicated to Pvt John Steele who got tangled up in the church’s steeple upon landing. He actually survived this and the war.
We also toured the Airborne Museum. The museum has three buildings dedicated to the aerial landings on D-Day….The first two buildings were home to aircraft…the Waco glider and the C-47 as well as memorabilia such as: personal possessions, uniforms, supplies, and weapons. The third building, Operation Neptune gave you a paratrooper experience. This was quite sobering in that they jumped at night dodging enemy fire on the way down. You were lucky if you made it down alive.
Today this beach looks like a lovely spot to walk, collect shells, or have a picnic. I did however sense an eerie presence as we walked out onto the bluff. Maybe it was the knowledge of the events that happened here.
We drove a little further to Utah Beach Landing Museum. Below are a few of the monuments you encounter as you approach the museum.
The museum itself was built around a concrete German bunker. It takes you on a chronological journey of the landing on Utah Beach. There are a wide variety of artifacts ranging from objects, vehicles, materials, and oral histories.
Omaha Beach was considered the most difficult to attack. This beach is about four miles long and is surrounded by cliffs on three sides. It was nicknamed “Bloody Omaha” since half of all casualties occurred here.
This is the center of Omaha Beach. Only Americans landed here, but it recognizes the eight nations involved in the invasion by flying their flags.
Consider this a pilgrimage site for Americans. You must walk through the visitor’s center exhibit before exiting to the cemetery.
After exiting the Visitor’s Center, you walk out onto beautiful park like grounds. The grounds were specifically designed to look American. You come to a scenic bluff that overlooks Omaha Beach. From this point you continue walking the path until you come to the cemetery.
Nothing can quite prepare you for this. When you finally reach the tombstones it is extremely overwhelming. Michael and I had to sit down on a nearby bench for a while just to gather ourselves. There are 9,386 tombstones honoring the men who gave their lives on these beaches. Of course you read and learn about D-Day, but it’s another thing to actually view the cemetery. There were sections roped off since they were being cared for. Each tombstone is hand trimmed around the base!
Memorial and Garden of the Missing
This memorial symbolizes the 1557 soldiers who died, but whose remains were never found. There is a wall around the garden with all of the soldier’s names.
I hope you enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures we took. If you have any questions about the Normandy, France or the D-Day beaches please ask me. Stay tuned for our next stop in Giverny for a close up of Monet.
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