On to Caen

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Saturday, August 8, 2009

The plan for this day was to meet up with the British Cousins again at the American Cemetery and tour the site.  We are up and at 'em type of people, so we planned to get on the D514 and see the sites and visit the German Cemetery (La Cambe) first.  We were definitely sad that we had to leave the Willies, and getting a room for a Saturday night in August was on our mind.  Maybe we would end up sleeping in Timbit after all!

We headed in the direction of the American Cemetery, checking out quickly the views of the Mulberry Harbours and then onto La Cambe.  What a different feeling we had there as compared to Beny Sur Mer!  A very sombre place.  The headstone layout and memorial in the middle is very unique, and fits the dark feeling of cemetery.  At the cemeteries, John and I tended to separate and roam about on our own.  At one point he spotted something he wanted me to see, so finally managed to get my attention with a big arm wave.  He had found the grave of Panzer Commander Michael Wittman.  The 65th anniversary of his death was that day, August 8.  The grave of Wittman and his crew was covered in memorial wreaths and candles.  Wow.  Such an unexpected thing to find.  Another thing we found so sad at this cemetery was just inside the entrance, a wall was covered with postings (recent!) of people looking for any information on deaths/burial sites of soldiers killed 65 years earlier.  It was chilling. 

We made it to the American Cemetery not long afterward and met up with our group.  The museum leading into the Cemetery was very impressive, including artifacts, a film about the cemetery and another film about the Overlord campaign.  Most memorable to me was seeing a Medal of Honor in person.  What struck John and I was (again) the sharp contrast between this cemetery and La Cambe.  You can easily tell who won and who was defeated.

We spent a few hours here, roaming amongst the headstones, looking out over the cliffs at the beaches.  Then is was time to say goodbye to our new friends and move on.  For some reason, we thought we would head to Bayeux first, as it was a town we really wanted to spend some time in.  No luck getting a room there, so we decided to move onto Caen, and to head back to Bayeux the next day to visit the town.  We grabbed a quick baguette and fanta soda in Bayeux for lunch.  No time to eat at that moment.  So, finally we got a room just off the highway at an Ibis.  Loved that room!  Very modern with A/C and Internet, and sooo quiet!  We decided to make this our base for the next three nights and finish in the area.

We freshened up and drove into the center of Caen.  One place at the top of our list was The Abbey De Ardenne.  We were not really sure where it was, but as we were headed into the town center, I spotted a sign pointing us towards it.  Just in the right place at the right time...again!  There was nobody around (except some cows) and it was well into the evening...It was so silent in le jardin des Canadiens, which must be left open at all times.  This is the exact place where 18 Canadian soldiers that had been taken prisoner were executed under the direction of Kurt Meyer.  We spent some time there, taking it in.  It would be a place I would have liked to see more of, as there were tours of the abbey available, but we doubted we would have time.  Being in garden, by ourselves, was more than enough for us at that time.  I hope to be back there someday.

We finished the day with exploring the Chateau Ducal and taking in some of the places around the chateau.  Not much "original" architecture left as Caen was bombed heavily in '44.  In fact, the outskirts reminded me parts of home...all modern housing, quite a change from sites earlier that week.
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