Our Time on the Normandy Beaches

Return to International Travel – Introduction
Review: SWISS A340-300 ORD-ZRH and Marhaba Lounge ZRH
Lodging Review: Sina Villa Medici, Florence, Italy
Our Time In Florence, Part 1
Our Time In Florence, Part 2
Lodging Review: Park Hyatt Vendome, Paris, France
Our Time In Paris, Part 1 (Louvre, Sainte-Chappelle, Arc, Eiffel Tower)
Our Time In Paris, Part 2 (Versailles)
Our Time In Paris, Part 3 (Catacombs, Musee d’Orsay)
Viking Kari and an Afternoon in Montmartre
Our Time in La Roche-Guyon and Vernon/Giverny
Our Time on the Normandy Beaches
Our Time in Les Andelys and Le Pecq
Lodging Review: Renaissance Republique, Paris, France
Review: Air France A350 CDG-ORD

The next stop on the cruise was the town of Rouen. Unfortunately I was not able to experience this town due to the injury to my knee. For me, the highlight of the cruise was the following day, the beaches of Normandy, and I wanted to be sure I was able to go on that tour.

We stayed docked in Rouen and boarded motor coaches for the trip to the coast. Viking offers two day-long tours so you must choose whether to visit Omaha Beach and the American cemetery or Bayeaux (where the Bayeaux Tapestry is) and the Commonwealth Beaches. I’d loved to have done both and would absolutely welcome a return trip to the area when I can stay longer and explore at my leisure.

Caen Memorial Museum

Our first stop was the Caen Memorial Museum which walked us through the battles in this area. We watched a short film and then filtered through the exhibits at our leisure. Our lunch was included at the museum’s restaurant and it was quite good.

The inscription on the outside of the building reads:
Pain broke me, brotherhood lifted me up
From my wound flowed a river of freedom

Caen Memorial Museum

Here are few things I found interesting:

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A camouflage jumpsuit & helmet worn by SOE agents which contained a number of pockets with critical items like a pistol, a knife, first-aid kit, etc. They wore civilian attire and once they landed they disposed of their parachutes and cammo gear and were able to blend in anonymously with the locals.

SOE Jumpsuit and Helmet

In front of the building are small memorials sent by the various allied countries. Here’s the one from the US:

American Cemetery

Our next stop was the American Cemetery. It’s a very sobering place to see the thousands of markers, each representing a fallen American soldier. Only family members are allowed to approach the graves.

American Cemetery

We were able to participate in the flower ceremony for that day, which was quite touching.

Reflecting Pool and Memorial

Veterans from our ship placed a wreath at this statue, Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.

Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves

Behind the statue is a wall with the names of the fallen.

Names of the Fallen

This giant map of military operations is to one side along with a narrative of what took place.

Military Operations Map

Omaha Beach

Our bus then drove to the coast and parked along Omaha Beach. We stopped at the Omaha Beach Memorial which reads “The Allied forces landing on this beach which they call Omaha Beach Liberate Europe June 6th 1944”. This memorial is on the parking lot level in a paved area.

Omaha Beach Memorial

Down just a few steps on the beach itself is this sculpture called “Les Braves” (the Brave). It consists of three sections: “The Wings of Hope”, “Rise, Freedom!” and “The Wings of Fraternity”. Visitors are allowed to collect small portions of the sand to take home.

Les Braves

In the end

This was a tremendously moving experience. I could spend a week or more in this general region. I’d love to go closer to Sainte-Mère-Église and visit the memorial to Easy Company – the group featured in the mini-series “Band of Brothers”. But I’m so glad I got to spend even one day here, reminding myself of the sacrifice others have made.

Categories: Attraction Review, Cruises, Europe, France, Tours, Trip Report, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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