CONTRIBUTED BY TEANNA SIDLES
In November 2014, we took a trip with Explore Europe Travel to France. It was our second trip with them, our first long weekend trip though. It was a combined trip with a day in Normandy and Honfleur, and 2 days in Paris.
We arrived bright an early in Normandy Saturday Morning. We met up with our tour guide to see the D- Day Museum in Arromanches, only to find out that the museum was still closed! It didn’t open for another hour. No big deal, our guide gave us a little history about Normandy.
For those not familiar with Normandy and its importance; Early in the morning on June 6, 1944, about 156,000 Allied soldiers stormed a handful of beaches along the coast of Normandy, France. Although choppy seas and heavy German resistance prevented them from fully meeting their objectives that day, they were able to gain a crucial foothold, and it was / still is considered one of the most important turning points of the War.
When the Museum finally opened we had the option of staying with the guide or exploring the museum on our own. We chose to explore on our own. It was the first museum to be built in commemoration of June 6th 1944 and the Normandy Campaign. The D-day Museum overlooks the very spot where one of the Mulberry Harbours was constructed and where its remains can still be seen today, just a few hundred meters from the shore.
From the Museum we headed to Pointe du Hoc to view the evocative granite monument erected by the French in honor of the American Second Ranger Battalion, who seized the German canons here before they could be used to fire on American troops landing on Omaha Beach. Our guide told us that we should keep to the trail the site has remained relatively unchanged since 1944, large bomb craters and uneven ground fill the landscape. The monument consists of a simple granite pylon positioned atop a German concrete bunker with tablets at its base inscribed in French and English. So of course that meant Drew went wandering around.
Leaving Pointe du Hoc headed off to the American cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer. We made a pit stop on the way to the cemetery on Omaha beach. Our guide said that we had to see the statute of two soldiers on the beach. She was right. I believe it was something we had to see.
Our last stop was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. It is located on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 Soldiers, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
It was surreal to be there. The fact that World War II has only been over for 70 years, still blows my mind.
Drew and I have this theory that one day he will be telling our children and grandchildren how he fought in World War III. Back during WWII, it wasn’t called WWII, it was called the War in Europe, and now we look back and refer to it was WWII.
From there, we made our way down to Honfleur, stopping en route to taste Calvados, the region’s distinctive apple brandy. Honfleur is a charming coastal town located across the mouth of the Seine from the larger port of Le Havre. Honfleur was once one of France’s principal ports, but as the mouth of the Seine silted up, the French government invested more and more resources into the port at Le Havre. As a result, Honfleur was left untouched.
We explored around Honfleur for a bit before heading back to the hotel. Unfortunately ALL the shops had closed for the night and the sun had long set so we called it a night and headed back to the hotel, we were headed to Paris in the morning!
If you ever get the chance, go to Normandy. One day was not enough time. I wanted to head up to Mont. Saint Michael and see the rest of the Normandy beaches, you could literally spend an entire week if not more time there.
Note: Teanna originally published a longer post about this trip on her website, then shared this verstion with Germany Ja.