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Normandy

November 3, 2023


We extended our time in Paris at the end of our cruise by one day so that we could go to Normandy. Nicolle has a friend who does Normandy tours for a tour company and so we booked with them. It is a fourteen hour tour, with 8 of those hours spent driving there and back. The bus was comfortable and scheduled "rest-stops" along the way. We had two drivers and two tour guides (turned out Nicolle's friend wasn't one of them), and all 4 were great! On the way to the Normandy area, one of the guides gave us an interesting history lesson about what had led up to the events of June 6, 1944. There were connections to events that occurred in WWI, and even before WWI to the ongoing border wars between Germany and France that had been going on for hundreds of years. I thought it was really interesting. (If my history teacher shared that information, I missed it!)



Our first stop was Utah beach and the Utah Beach Landing Museum. Unfortunately, when we arrived the Museum was closed. The storm and winds of the previous day (see "Blown Away" blog post) had caused damage to the museum and they were not able to safely open. Fortunately, there were a lot of things to see outside the museum so not all was lost. We walked down to the beach and looked at the memorials, tanks, and a bar built to look like a bar from the 1940's, decorated with mementos from the war and mannequins in uniforms and dress from that time. We learned that on Utah beach the German forces were more quickly defeated than at Omaha Beach and "Operation Overlord" resulted in the soldiers successfully meeting up with their air support once inland. Even so, of the approximately 35,000 allied forces that took part in the operation, there were about 3,400 casualties.



After Utah Beach we headed to a small town (can't remember the name), on a pretty harbor, for lunch.


Next stop - Cider tasting. Apple Cider is an important part of the culture in Normandy. The apple orchards and production of cider goes back to 1606. The cider comes in various formats, from 0% alcohol to 40%. We visited a local, family owned cider distillery, and tasted 4 different versions with increasing alcohol %. Nancy liked them all, but not everyone agreed! The small farm houses were often places of shelter for Allied Forces during the invasion, and a few also housed groups of the French Resistance.



Next we drove to Ponte du Hoc - this area is on a bluff with views of the English Channel, and the high cliffs the Allied Forces had to climb. There are also remains of bomb shelters and bomb craters. Walking through the area led to a better understanding of the conditions the soldiers endured in their battle to take this land back from the German forces.




Omaha Beach was the area where the Allies faced their stiffest resistance and suffered the most casualties. The American Cemetery at Collesville-sur-Mer contains 10,000 white crosses, each with the name of a fallen soldier from the D-Day invasion. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the cemetery because it had also suffered damage and fallen trees from the previous day's storm and it was closed.




On a personal note, I (Nancy) found this tour informative and also somber and sad. While there is definitely pride in how the USA helped drive the Germans out of France and end a horrible regime, there was also sadness at the huge loss of life that occurred. As Veteran's Day approaches here in the United States, I feel a stronger sense of appreciation for all who have served, and a profound hope that someday we will find alternatives to war and hate.


Au revoir until our next adventure!

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Normandy is such an emotional day but so important to visit and see the cost of fighting hate and oppression. The cemetery near Omaha Beach is beautifully kept and sobering. Sorry you missed out on that and the museum.


Sounds like you had a fantastic trip overall!

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Sarah Pierce
Sarah Pierce
08 nov 2023
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I’m sad a couple of the places you visited were damaged and you couldn’t see them! Sounds like you were still able to see a lot. It’s an incredibly moving place to visit.

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