After Mont St Michel, we drove across the Cotentin peninsula to the Normandy beaches, where we would spend three nights in the lovely little fishing village of Port-en-Bessein, which will be getting its own post later on, and is between Omaha and Gold beaches.
We stopped enroute at Utah Beach, the westernmost part of the D-Day landings because our tour the next day didn't include it and we wanted to see it. We didn't have time to visit the museum, but instead opted to sit on the beach and eat the sandwiches we picked up in Mont St Michel and enjoy the beauty of the place.
|A very striking monument at Utah beach, showing a replica of a Higgins boat.|
The tours were both fantastic--definitely the right choice. In the morning, my husband and I were the only ones on the tour, so we had the very personable and knowledgeable guide all to ourselves. We got to ask loads of questions, and he gave us a first rate intro to D-Day. In the afternoon, the American tour had about a dozen people and so was less personal but still excellent.
We started at Longues Sur Mer and I got my first view of the German pillboxes, or batteries that shelled the beaches on D-Day. The ground around was cratered by the aerial bombing that the Allies did leading up to D-Day, and it was eerie to walk inside and stand behind the guns.
We also visited the town of Arromanches (Gold Beach), and I was absolutely fascinated by the remains of "Port Winston," which was a Mulberry (or temporary) harbor that the Allies constructed since there isn't a natural harbor in the immediate area.
|Arromanches, Gold Beach - absolutely lovely, would love to return and spend some time here.|
|WWII remnants- full disclosure, my husband photoshopped the people out of this image.|
|Ryes British War Cemetery|
In the afternoon, we visited Pointe du Hoc, a cliff overlooking the beach, and then Omaha Beach. Omaha is a spectacularly beautiful beach, and since we visited on a hot August day, it was crowded with people playing in the surf and sun. Our guide made a point of saying that while sometimes visitors are a bit shocked that people are playing where so many thousands died, it is a fitting tribute to the cause for which they died that the beach can today be enjoyed by everyone.
|Memorial at Omaha Beach with people photoshopped out.|
I was so glad that I was able to visit Normandy before reading the book as the place names and geography and feel of the land and sea helped me better understand the stories that the soldiers told of their experiences.