Sunday, July 19, 2015

OT: Europe Trip--Day 8--Paris-Normandy. Bayeux, Longues sur Mer, Omaha Beach, American Cemetary, Point du Hoc

(Caution--Heavy in Photos)

Up early this morning to head to a different Train Station to catch our ride down to Bayeux. Bayeux is a wonderful little town with a lot of narrow, one-way streets about 10 miles south of the Normandy Beaches. We got to Bayeux and noon and took a taxi to pick up our rental car, which was 5 miles away from the train station. All the rental cars were 5 miles away from the train station...

Driving the 4.6 miles back into town, we quickly got confused. We could get to the Cathedral, we knew our hotel was nearby. But we couldn't make sense of the roads. Every time we found a road that looked like it was going to take us to the hotel, it was a wrong-way one-way. We had to stop twice to ask directions but we finally made it...ugh.

I dropped Sky off at the hotel and parked the car in a lot three blocks down the street. The Hotel didn't have any parking...  Walked up, checked into this charming hotel that was literally a block away from the Cathedral (yup) and took our bags upstairs. One of the things I found "quaint" was that this hotel and our one in Paris still used keys for the door. The hotel in Paris had us surrender it every time we left and gave it back to us upon return.

We were hungry so we went downstairs to the restaurant and looked over the menu. We booth found something we could live with and just decided to have lunch there. We had burgers, 1/2 lb burgers, this suckers were huge! After that, only one to do...take a nap. I wasn't too concerned about time, it stayed dark very late and the light would only get better for my pictures. The temps were very nice, very comfortable.

We slept for an hour then awoke feeling like a million bucks. Headed down to the car, looked at our maps and headed out. And we actually ended up where we intended to go!

That place was Longues sur Mer which had four German gun batteries left standing as well as a couple bunkers. Longues is located right on the coast, just west of Gold Beach, east of Omaha Beach. The four German gun each had a range of more than 12 miles and exchanged fire with five ships on D-Day before being knocked out by British troops.

Sky at a German gun battery in Longues sur Mer. 

 German Observation Post in Longues sur Mer.

There were quite a lot of people there but everyone was respectful. We walked around all four batteries. I almost had a heart attack when my Olympus camera showed all three of my batteries being dead! I took them out, took off the battery holder and just reassembled it but it frightened me for a minute that it may not work. That reset it and it worked fine after that.

We drove from there westward to our next stop: Omaha Beach. Today, it's a beach with sailboat rentals and sunbathers. We parked in the parking lot and walked along the beach. I picked up a stone and placed it in my bag. (I collect rocks/stones from places I've been.) 

 Sky standing on Omaha Beach.

We went back up the road and since it was early, just kept going west, towards Point du Hoc. At this point, in our minds, we were just going recon for places we wanted to go tomorrow. But I'm glad we did it as it rained and would have been miserable to be out there in the rain.

Rounding a corner, we saw the Normandy American Cemetery. We passed it and came upon the Overlord Museum located right beside it. The Museum has three tanks out on display as well as a truck. Something made me turn around and go back to the Cemetery. It was 5:20 in the afternoon, the cemetery closed at six. We wouldn't have much time but I thought it was worth a look.

The Cemetery had a profound impact upon me. Walking among the white-crossed graves of men who died far too young, many of them on the Beach below, never having had the chance to say good-bye to their loved ones was too much for me. I choked up, quiet tears running down my cheeks. It affected Sky as well. He was quiet, solemn as we walked among the graves. 

Some were decorated with flowers. The Cemetery was extremely well taken care of, their wasn't a weed in the grass. It's located on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and in peacetime, is a very scenic view. 

Looking North from the Normandy American Cemetery towards the Ocean. 

The size of the Cemetery is overwhelming...too many crosses and Stars of David. 

Many French families adopt a grave. This grave was decorated.

 We left the Cemetary at closing and drove over to the Overlord Museum. It had closed at six too but Sky wanted to see the Tanks so I stopped there and we roamed around the fighting vehicles for a little bit. They had a Sherman, a M-18 Tank Destroyer and a truck.

It was still light, we weren't in the slightest bit hungry, so we kept heading west. I knew we'd probably end up in Point du Hoc, located between Omaha and Utah beaches. 

A hedgerow, which made for fierce fighting and concealment of troops. 

We drove down and parked in the Rangers Museum parking lot and walked a couple hundred yards down to Point du Hoc.

 Point du Hoc. The cliff the Rangers scaled against maching gun fire and grenades can be seen.

Overlooking  the beach, this is the cliff the Rangers had to scale.

Shell crater, probably from the USS Texas. Sky stands in it for a size reference.

They've kept the area much the same, adding a Memorial and a path to it.  
Sheep now graze among the craters.

A German bunker with a huge shell crater that just missed it.
The Rangers scaled the cliff, only to find the guns had been moved inland to protect them. 

 Steps down to the Bunker.

We stayed here for a while, looking at the shell craters, marveling at the fortitude of the men who climbed that cliff under heavy fire and looking west towards Utah Beach. It's unbelievable, something I feel everyone should experience, at least every American. 

As it was getting to get dark we headed back to the hotel. I didn't want to even try to find my way back by roaming around the French countryside at night. We headed south where joined right up on the highway into Bayeux. Then to compound our directionally-challenged team, they had some of the streets blocked off for the Solstice Celebrations. We were there on the longest day of the year visiting the sites of the "Longest Day." Somehow, that was fitting.

We parked on the street, on the front side of the Cathedral and walked back to our hotel. We were too pooped to go out to dinner and all the cafes were crowded anyway. 

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