June 2 is a holiday in Belgium and my work was closed on the 2nd & 3rd so I took a long weekend and went to the Normandy area of France. Also with the Anniversary of D-Day (June 6) being so close I thought it would be a great time to visit and it was! Unfortunately the Anniversary was on Monday and I had to get back to work so I wasn’t able to attend any of the memorial services.
Normandy has been on my list to visit for years but at my grandfather’s funeral I decided I needed to go to Normandy. Now I wouldn’t describe my family as a military family, but both my grandfathers and my father served in the Army. My grandfather that passed away was stationed at a POW camp in the USA during WW2. At his burial the flag was draped over his coffin, the bugler played Taps and the poem In Flanders Fields was read. We are a patriotic family. We grew up going to church on Memorial Day, flying the flag on the 4th of July (impressive because my parents don’t have a flagpole), and buying poppies from the Vets. Yes, I needed to go to Normandy.
I went solo and traveled by train, but for any of you thinking of visiting you really must rent a car. I would have been able to see so much more if I had my own wheels, note trains do not go to the landing beaches and they also cannot pull over so you can explore the markers along the side of the road.
In addition to the WW2 sites, there were 2 things in my guidebook that I wanted to see: Mount St. Michel and the Monet gardens.
Mount St. Michel is a rocky island (when low tide) on the northern coast of France. There is a monastery dedicated to Saint Michael (as in the Archangel). It is a maze of narrow passageways and is a completely unique place. It is one of the most visited places in all of France and I will confirm that…there were so many people!
|Mount St Michel in the distance on the left and the long line of cars waiting to get in.|
|Mount St Michel & me.|
After MSM I traveled to the Brittany American Cemetery. This was one of the times I wish I had a car. The cemetery is located 3 km outside of a city that the trains or buses don’t even go to, so I taxied it. I wanted to go to this cemetery because my grandmother told me the best man from their wedding is buried there.
|Leonard Wistrcill, S Sgt 47 Inf BN 5 Armd Div, Minnesota Aug 12 1944|
I arrived close to closing time and the cemetery was quiet and peaceful.
Saturday I took a mini-van tour and was able to see many places that no train would take me to. We started at the German Cemetery that has a large mass grave for over 300 unknown soldiers in the center.
Sainte Mere Eglise is the site of a large paratrooper landing on D-Day. The church honors those soldiers by depicting them as angles in the stained glass windows.
We also went to see the landing beaches: Utah and Omaha. It was a cold gray day and the wind held the voices from the past.
There were also stops on the cliff at Pointe du Hoc & Longues sur Mer to see the bombing craters and the remains of the pillboxes.
The sea of gravestones at the Normandy American Cemetery marked the end of our tour.
The day was subdued and many times we would load back in the min-van and reflect on what happened 67 years ago.
I had one more stop on my trip, Monet’s gardens. Remember from my Easter blog that I was able to see Monet’s Water Liles series, well now I was able to go to his water lily pond. Art came to life before my eyes and I was filled with inspiration.
If you weren't able to tell by the length of this post, Normany is an amazing place and I'm glad I was able to see it!
See you later!
PS - Click HERE to see all my pics.