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Normandy, France – A Must-See

Written by Bob and Audrey Martin.

June 6, 1944! Maybe you, a relative, or friends were involved in someway in this historic event…D-Day…the invasion of France by the Allied Armed Forces. Normandy is a must see!

This was the third trip for my wife, Audrey, and me. On this trip, we “guided” four friends on a whirlwind tour of all the assault areas, Memorial at Caen and Pegasus Bridge.

After a long barge trip on the Loire Lateral Canal, we rented a van at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and began our drive to Normandy. We took the toll highway to Caen, then up to Bayeux and our accommodations in Port en Bassen, the Cheneviere, a Norman Castle. This was located right in the center of the areas that we wanted to visit. Touring of the Normandy area is an easy daily drive of 25 to 30 miles from the hotel– along scenic country roads that pass through small towns with friendly, helpful people. Route D524 takes you to all the beaches; Utah, Omaha, Juno, Swordand Gold, and main stops are well marked.

Our first stop was the Le Memorial De Caen, which you should allow yourself minimum of three hours to see. The memorial, dedicated on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, is a history of the 20th century from 1919 after World War I, through the Cold War, and the worlds attempt at peace. You must see the movie “D-Day and the Battle of Normandy” in the museum. In the bookstore, purchase the guidebook “Official Guide The Battle of Normandy” by Gullimard Guides and a map of the beaches. Use these excellent guides to plan your daily trips and read about the historical events of the places you plan to visit. The people in the bookstore are quite helpful and there is food service in the memorial.

Leaving the memorial at Caen, we drove to the American Cemetery at Collinsville Sur Mer overlooking Omaha Beach. The stroll through the neat and orderly white crosses leaves you speechless, and when Taps are played over the grounds, as they are several times a day, you will shed some tears for our guys. There is a long path down the hillside to the beach if you desire.

The next day, we headed for Pointe du Hoc, stopping at the seaside memorial at Colleville. Then down to the German Cemetery at La Cambe. It is in direct contrast to ours, but worth the visit. There are several cemeteries in the region but these are the largest.

We then drove over to Carentan on N13. The old railroad station and town hall are still in use. After a fun pub lunch, we continued on to Utah Beach where there is another museum inside an Atlantic wall bunker. Next to the museum is an exit to the beach were you can look back and see the entire bunker. Our last stop of the day was the church in Sainte Marie Eglise where the infamous paratrooper was caught in the steeple.

On our return to Paris we drove on D5124 along the cost to Gold, Juno and Sward beaches. We stopped at Arromanches to view the remains of the Mulbwerry “Harbor”. The museum there explains about the temporary harbors made in England and towed across the channel.

We were on a mission to find Pegasus Bridge–and we did. There is a great story surrounding this bridge and the café across the canal at Benouville. Once again, take time to visit the museum and to walk across the bridge.

With our Normandy tour over, we drove to our hotel, the Chalet Mont Royal, 15 minutes from Charles de Gaulle Airport. We look forward to another visit and seeing more areas of the battle of Normandy.