France: Normandy – part II : D-day

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American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.

Last week’s Normandy post was all about gardens and nature. But Normandy is so much more than that. To many, Normandy equals D-day… so when in Normandy, make sure to find some time to spend on Word War II sites !

Mind, you can easily fill a week going from one museum to another monument, from one cemetery to  another landing beach… As we didn’t have much time, I just picked three D-day-things to do : Arromanches, the German battery at Longues-sur-Mer and the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. 

In Arromanches we went straight to the Arromanches circular cinema at the top of the cliffs. You get to see a 20-minute film, projected in high definition on 9 screens which are put in a circle around the audience. The film contains footage from American, French, British and Canadian archives and is really overwhelming and touching. Coming out of the cinema, I really had to pull myself together as the film really got to me ! In my opinion it is a good starting point for a D-day trip around Normandy as you get the view from politicians, but mainly from the soldiers, airmen and locals on how D-day effected them.

Arromanches
Arromanches

As I already mentioned, the cinema is located on the Arromanches clifftops where you have a good view of ‘Gold Beach’, the name the beach was given in the Overlord Operation. On this beach, amongst others in Normandy, the allied forces began the invasion to free France. Here at Arromanches, an artificial harbour was made with concrete blocks, some of wich can still be seen at low tide.

Arromanches with remains of the artificial harbour.
Arromanches with remains of the artificial harbour.

After Arromanches, we went to Longues-sur-Mer, where we visited the remains of the German battery, part of the German Atlantikwall. This site is called ‘Le Chaos’  and is unique for still having its guns on site. It consists of 4 bunkers and 2 observation posts. You can get in the bunkers, which were also used for the film ‘The longest day’.

Longues-sur-Mer - German battery
Longues-sur-Mer – German battery
View from Longues-sur-Mer.
View from Longues-sur-Mer.

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Longeus-sur-Mer - German battery
Longeus-sur-Mer – German battery

Our final stop on our D-day-trip was the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. It’s really impressive to visit. It is maintainted immaculately and with so much respect for the 9.387 graves of American soldiers who left their lives during World War II. On the site there is also a visitor’s center and a chapel. From the cemetery you can walk down the stairs to Omaha beach, one of the D-day beaches.

Colleville-sur-Mer - view on Omaha Beach.
Colleville-sur-Mer – view on Omaha Beach.
Colleville-sur-Mer : American Military Cemetery.
Colleville-sur-Mer : American Military Cemetery.

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Omaha Beach with on the top the American Military Cemetery.
Omaha Beach with on the top the American Military Cemetery.

If you’ve got more time than we had, you should also include one of the many D-day museums. The Memorial in Caen is apparently well worth a visit as it includes not just World War II, but also the decades after it, up until the end of the Cold War.

As it is a part of world’s history, I think a visit to any D-day site or museum should be on anyone’s itinerary when visiting Normandy. Just make sure to do some research in advance as to pick out the things you are interested in most.

Love, Kathleen

 

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