D-Day History Abounds

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

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MN & G Willie, Courseulles-sur-Mer

Flag of France  , Basse-Normandie,
Thursday, August 6, 2009

The morning in Carentan and Ste Mere Eglise was very sunny, but by the time we left for Utah beach, it had begun to sprinkle.  The weather did not once hamper our time over there.  We headed back towards Carentan and took a left at Dead Man's Corner towards Utah beach.  Picturesque villages and hamlets abound.  I can honestly say I "felt" the history of the entire area.

Utah beach is set up nicely, with a modern museum, various memorials and bunkers in place.  But we were mostly interested in strolling the beach area.  It is really hard to say much about the landing beaches because, when we were there, we became quiet and contemplative.  We spent a fair amount of time there, taking it in, and then moved on towards our next destination.
Of course, I am all about a good lunch, so I was ready to eat anytime...we decided to pull off the road near an old stone farmhouse and have our lunch and watch some cows in a field.  The cheese and wine and the baguettes were just so DARN GOOD!  Oh, I should have taken some pictures of the little corner we pulled into!  

One of the places that we really wanted to see (heck, one of the reasons we came to Normandy!)  was Brecourt Manor, the site of a battle on June 6th between the USA 101st Airborne and the German 6th Parachute Regiment.  Band of Brothers fans know all about it!  But, we had no idea where this was or any particular landmarks that we could type into the GPS to find.  John, my husband, knew it was roughly 2 miles from Utah beach, and in the vicinity of the village of La Grand Chemin.  We did a bit of driving around, with no luck, but always feeling we were close.  We gave up after awhile and decided to head toward Pointe Du Hoc - then , suddenly, there was the new memorial just erected earlier in 2009.  We pulled  up to take a good look and drove down the road just to the left of the memorial, taking in the back side of the manor house and observing the fields opposite, being mindful that this is private property.  One of the highlights of the trip - still can't believe we were there!

We explored Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach, the rain picking up during the afternoon.  These sites are hard to describe in person.  The destruction is still evident 65 years later - the craters, the twisted rebar in the concrete bunkers, the ruined gun emplacements...I am so grateful I saw these places in person before being erased by time.  Walking out towards the waterline at Omaha Beach was especially memorable...there were very few people around so it felt as if I was all alone out there.

We had reservations for the next two nights at a B&B in Courseulles-sur-Mer (the Willie's on rue Arthur leDucand) and were expected to check in around 5pm.  Off towards the town known as the site of Juno Beach we went, taking the D514 straight into the town.  We had been travelling the D514 most of the day and it quickly became our favourite route - much preferable to the Route National!  So many village scenes, WWII memorial markers and artillery pieces, tanks that were left behind etc,. to see!  

The B&B experience with the Willie's was first class, the hosts and the other guests were very nice, the room was great, location couldn't be better.  We got in, cleaned up a bit, and went for a walk around the lovely town, checking out the sites and looking for our next meal.  We picked La Belle Aurore and had a wonderful meal on a dreary night and were just happy to be there.   

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