September in Normandy (1)- The Normandy Beaches


The Normandy beaches have been on my bucket list for ages. So this years I decided to make it happen. It was everything I expected and more.

Day 1 Nomandy trip

I made Bayeux my base and how appropriate to be staying than an attic room in the Grand Hotel Luxembourg which had been the HQ of the Gestapo during WW2.

The holiday got off to a rocky start with cancellation of flight. Luckily I was accommodated on a flight in the afternoon to Amsterdam connecting to Paris. A quick dash by taxi meant I caught the last train to Bayeux (by minutes), arriving there after midnight. The brandy that the wonderful hotel receptionist had waiting for me at check-in was certainly welcome.

DAY 2 Tour of the Normandy Beaches

After the hiccups of yesterday, it was great to be collected at the door of the hotel. Carine was our tour guide – and my travelling companions were a family from US based in Brussels and a French girl from Paris. we all knew the basic history of how on June 6th, 1944, Nazi occupied France was invaded by allied troops resulting in the country’s liberation.

Landing at Utah Beach
“Bloody” Omaha Beach
Taking Omaha Beach

The allied landings on the beaches of Normandy– still known by their wartime codenames and the ferocious Battle of Normandy that followed are commemorated through a moving mixture of museums, memorials and cemeteries.

John Steele suspended from the steeple


Our next stop was at Ste-Mere-Eglise which owes some of its fame to John Steele, an American paratrooper whose parachute unfortunately entangled in the spire of the church. The church was lovely and Carine’s descriptions of the various windows and their relationship to Landing Day Museum were great.




Across the square we visited the US Airborne and had the experience of sitting in a plane waiting to drop by parachute into Normandy. Social stories about the paratroopers sending their parachutes (silk fabric) home to their girlfriends to use in their trousseau gave some humanity to the horror.



American Cemetery- 9387 Graves

It’s all so sensitively presented and yet there’s no escaping the losses  of that momentous summer of almost 80 years ago. It as certainly emotional to listen to taps at the lowerning of the flag in the American Cemetery.




La Pointe du Hoc – this ceremonial dagger was erected by the French Gov on the site of a German bunker as a monument to the Rangers who scaled these cliff in an effort to disable the German defenses.




“Bloody” Omaha Beach

As we looked down on groups playing and strolling along a peaceful Omaha beach, Carine painted a stark and horrific picture of the landing on what subsequently was called Bloody Omaha.

The Mourning Parents beside the cross


The German Cemetery at La Cambe brought me back to the very touching sculpture of The Grieving Parents in a church in Cologne. La Cambre made us remember that were losses on all sides – there are 21,139 dead in this cemetery including 296 in a mass grave. The groups of black crosses are symbolic and do not mark graves.




Author: Breda Fay

I'm retired since end August 2016 and loving the new life! More time now for family and friends and to explore craft, history, travel and certainly more of a chance for, me-time. To paraphrase Seuss: I've no tears that (teaching) is over; but many smiles that it happened!

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