Normandy

Flying in a BA 777 from IAD to Heathrow can be a pretty sweet experience first class. The lounge has everything, including a full sit down dinner, even though, as they keep reminding you, there will be another full sit down dinner on the plane. The seats themselves on the flight are modern and cozy as hell. The one complaint I might have is that the damn flight isn’t long enough. Not enough time for dinner, a movie, and even 4 hours of sleep. Ugh. First world problems.

Driving from Paris Orly to Bayeux was a huge mistake it turns out. Not only are you sort of drunk, and sort of exhausted, and sort of miserable, but it ain’t exactly a sweet drive either. Lots of highways. Basically looks like America.
Bayeux itself is a nice enough town. It’s way closer than Caen for D-Day stuff so even though Caen is bigger and has more, I would still stay in Bayeux. They have a few restaurant drags and the area around the cathedral can get downright charming with small patios and cafes.

The hotel we stayed in had a good location and we found a nice little breakfast cafe a block away, eggs, bacon, and fresh baguette…what else do you need.

D-Day, in my opinion can in fact be done in one day, though it is a long day. We had a car rental and a semblance of a plan. I had wanted to do this for quite some time now so even though I was jet lagged as shit, we still got on the road by 8:30 that morning, with a modicum of excitement.

Longues Sur Mer – Very cool intact German bunkers with gigantic guns they actually used during the attack. This is at Gold beach and you can see Juno with it’s sunk mulberry boats and barriers to your east. Nice place to start. The area is small and filled with bunkers and guns. Such a cool place.

Omaha Beach – It’s way bigger than you think! It’s dominated by the American Cemetery Memorial. This is the highlight of somber and the epicenter of where these thousands of people risked everything for all of us. Walking around those stark white and seemingly never ending tombstones is a site to see. Makes me want to bawl every time.
The visitor center at the cemetery has a pretty amazing museum in its basement. I was very, very impressed. Movies about a variety of things. A number of artifacts and used items. The key though was how much they explained everything. I am pretty well versed when it comes to world war 2, but they go above and beyond explaining every little detail and timeline. It was fantastic.
Another cool item they have at the cemetery is a huge art piece/map of troop movement that is hard to explain. It’s like one of those giant maps a general would use to move his troop chess pieces around the board, except it showcases the entire war. I could stare at it for hours.

Pont Du Hoc – This is the cliff area where our rangers climbed steep cliff sides to take out guns that turned out to already have been moved. Whether they were there or not, those guys defied all odds and took that position. Seeing all of the bunkers and artillery holes and pill boxes and tunnels and sneaky positions, its hard to believe that they succeeded. This was an ultra heavily guarded area, at the top of a gigantic cliff. I would of made it ten feet.
The bunkers here are mostly intact and you can walk all through them and imagine what those Germans must of been thinking when thousands of Americans and Brits were coming their way.

Utah Beach – This area is flatter and the beach is soooo huge. Scary as all hell having to cross that, and the entire dune area has bunkers and fortifications in it. I would say it was the least interesting of our sites (and it takes a while to get to, as you have to go around a big inlet) but it was still a must see.

Sainte Mere Eglise – This town is famous for a paratrooper landing on its steeple and being hung there inadvertently. He did survive and the story is …ok I guess, but they still have a replica of him hanging from that church. Other than that the town is quite boring and does a piss poor job of explaining anything interesting that may or may not have happened in June of ’44.

St Lo – This entire town was demolished during the battle of Normandy. Thus, while that sounds cool, it has since all been rebuilt. The only remaining thing is their cathedral, which is somewhat cool since half of it survived and the other half was built with modern shit, so you can see the differences. In any case, no real reason to go there.

Mont St Michel – Cool as shit, but far. It’s like a 2 hour drive followed by a 30 minute walk (which I did on the way there) or a crowded and unorganized free bus ride. Getting to Mont Michel you realize how giant it is, and built right on the water, it is as unique as a thing gets.
The walls that surround the area are never ending with those cool small cobblestone pathways going all over the place. The walk to the abbey at the top is long and steep, but the abbey (which does charge a fee unlike any other public space there) is really cool. They do a good job of explaining what you’re doing, even if you just have their paper pamphlet like we did. Definitely like going back in time.
The entire area is really like a city and reminded of a small old town Stockholm, with shops everywhere, and even some hotels that kind of surprised me given how small and secluded this place was. I guess some people just really want a taste of the old life.

Notes to self:

-Can’t believe I finally got to see those beaches.


Hotels

Grand Hotel Du Luxembourg Bayeux (Sep 2015)