3rd of August, 2022
It is time to say goodbye to Sourdeval and continue our trip towards the coast of Normandy. We booked a 4 night stay in a beautiful Bed & Breakfast, just outside historic Bayeux. ‘De ma fenetre’ is an old farmhouse with a lot of character, situated in Saint-Martin-des Entrées. Our room is spacious and very well decorated in the old style. The bathroom is huge and there is even a common area, to share with the guests of the other room. Francoise, the owner, is a charming and welcoming lady and we immediately feel at home. She prepares in the morning a breakfast with all kinds of local produce; home made pastry, different jams, salade from seasonal fruits and fresh apple juice. We all sit together around the big table in the kitchen or under the pergola in the lushy garden. On the second morning a mouse walks into the kitchen and Francoise calmly picks it up and puts it outside again! It is nice to start the day, drinking café with our landlady and the other guests, discussing different topics and switching from french to english and from spanish to french again!
On June 6, 1944, D-Day took place on the Normandy coast. This was the great Allied invasion to liberate Europe. There are many interesting historical sites to discover and we have to make choices. Bayeux is conveniently located for a visit to the famous WW2 beaches, the musea and the memorials. On our first day, we explore Arromanches-les-Bains, where the large concrete blocks are still visible on the beach and in the sea. They were towed over from Britain during the war, to form the artificial Mulberry Harbour or Port Winston. 2,5 million men, 500.000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies arrived via the port (named after Winston Churchill). We decide to go to Musée du Debarquement, just before busloads of tourists are arriving. The museum was built right on the side of Mulberry Harbour.
Our next goal is the charming fishing village of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain. The steep coastline was one of the reasons the British soldiers only could attack from the land. Operation Aubery took place between the 6th and 8th of June 1944. The port was the Normandy terminal of PLUTO, the pipe line under the ocean. It ran from the Isle of Wight to France, to supply petrol. It is very difficult to imagine the painful history, which took place in all of these peaceful towns, along the coastline of Normandy.
We immediately fall in love with Port-en-Bessin, where the fishing boats are sailing in and out of the harbour. The noise of the seagulls is overwhelming and the smell of fresh fish, cooked in the various restaurants, makes us hungry. We find a table right on the quay side, with the best view!
One day we will return to the pictoresque harbour, the lock, the pier and the steep cliffs!
Our next stop is the American Cemetery and Memorial, situated on the cliffs of Omaha Beach, in Colleville-sur-Mer. We are just in time for the ‘Flag Lowering Ceremony’ at 5.00 p.m. Although there is still a crowd, everybody is very quiet.
During D-Day invasion, ground troops landed across five assault beaches; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The US Divisions, which landed on the beach of Omaha, had the highest rate in casualties; 2,400 were dead, wounded, or missing.
We walk in silence along the rows of little white crosses, each with the name of a hero. It is incredible that more than 9,000 burials can be find here. The statue, the monument, the little chapel and the view over the sea in the background, are all very impressive. This is just one of the many war cemeteries here in Normandy.
It is too late to visit another museum, but we have a glimpse on the beach itself and find another majestic Memorial, called ‘Les Braves’. The monument consists of three elements; ‘The Wings of Hope’, ‘Rise, Freedom!’, ‘The Wings of Fraternity’.