THE NORMANDY AND WESTERN FRONT SERIES, DAY 5&6
BAYEUX – OMAHA BEACH – BAYEUX – ARROMANCHES – GOLD BEACH – JUNO BEACH – SWORD BEACH – OUISTREHAM – CAEN
Is there any such thing as a good beach in Normandy? This trip is a lot longer than we would have wanted, over 2.5 weeks is a long time to be on holiday without lounging on a single beach but it shows how much there is to see here.
OUT OF ALL THE THINGS I’VE SEEN TODAY, THE STAIRLIFT HAD ME BEFUDDLED
This central part of Normandy has it all, museums, memorials, cemeteries, bunkers and a 360 degree cinema!
WHERE IS OMAHA BEACH?
Our first stop at Omaha was at a gun emplacement and memorial dedicated to the US infantry division. You will find these along the entire coast and worth stopping if on your route. The beach itself was stunning but can we truly admire a beach that had 1000s of corpses scattered around it?
This was the beach which drew up the most resistance and almost 4,000 soldiers died fighting here, many before they even got a chance to get off their boat and fire their gun. It is also the landing site which Saving Private Ryan based the beginning of their movie on. We decided to watch the opening scene and it put a whole new dimension on it.
DAY 5 DAILY INFO….
- HOTEL – Domaine de Bayeux 8/10
- RESTAURANT – Le 49 8/10
- ATTRACTIONS –
Museum Memorial Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach, Charlie Sector
Overlord Museum 8/10
American War Cemetery 8.5/10
Garden of the Missing 8/10
Longues Sur Mer Battery 7/10
Bayeux Cathedral 7/10
DAY 6 DAILY INFO….
- HOTEL – Brit Hotel Caen Nord (like an Ibis) 6.5/10
- RESTAURANT – L’ardoise 7/10 – Pizza
- ATTRACTIONS –
D-Day Museum / Musée du Débarquement 7/10
Arromanches 360 Cinema 5/10
American Gold Beach Museum 3/10
British Normandy Memorial 8/10
Juno Beach Centre 7/10
Site Fortifie Hillman 5/10
Le Grand Bunker 8/10
MUSEUM MEMORIAL OMAHA BEACH
Less than 1km up the road is the privately owned Omaha Beach museum. Showcasing weapons, uniforms and vehicles to name a few, it also has a short movie depicting the lead up to D Day, a worthwhile visit.
DAILY TRAVEL STATS….
- Steps – 15,900 & 15,400
- Miles covered – 71.4 miles
For anyone visiting the museums and the memorials, it’s essential to visit the beaches where it all took place. Like the others, Omaha Beach was divided up into several sectors, from Charlie to Fox Red. The intro to Saving Private Ryan was based on Dog Green, the second sector from the west.
For sure one of the best, this museum is incredibly well set out and is based on the period between the allied landing and the liberation of Paris. There are over 35 vehicles and countless personal items and arms from the six armies who took part on the invasion.
AMERICAN WAR CEMETERY
Just a short drive from the Overlord Museum, the American Cemetery is an absolute sight to behold. With a small museum and brief movie you won’t be stuck for things to do but don’t forget the garden of the missing. Listed here are the names of the American Soldiers whose bodies were never recovered. We were actually too early for the lowering of the flag which I hear is a highlight!
- There were 17 million maps created to help prepare for the landings.
- There are 33 sets of brothers who are buried alongside each other at the Normandy American Cemetery. There is also a father and son buried together.
- 450,000 tons of ammunition was shipped from America to Normandy to prepare for the landings.
LONGUE SUR MER BATTERY
One of the smaller batteries in Normandy but still worth a visit if nearby. Here you can get in and around each of the batteries, or those which weren’t decimated and most of which still house artillery. The size of these weapons were incredible.
STAIRLIFT AT BAYEUX CATHEDRAL
Before heading to Le 49 for some incredible food we checked out the cathedral. There were a million things that could have blown me away here but the thing I couldn’t get my head around was the hidden stair lift, an incredible innovation. It took my mum every ounce of self-control not to press the button and see it function.
DAY 6, D – DAY MUSEUM MUSÉE DU DÉBARQUEMENT
As part of the D Day landings, the Allies had to find a more efficient way to bring in supplies and reinforcements. With the battle that was being fought, using the same landing beaches wasn’t going to cut it and of course the Germans held all the ports.
To fix this issue they created huge artificial harbours, called Mulberry Harbours. Over the months until a port was captured over 500,000 vehicles were brought in here in Arromanches.
The story behind the planning and production of this harbour is shown at the Musée du Débarquement and well worth a visit. Taking a look outside you can still see part of the piers and Pheonix blocks which were left behind. And if you don’t plan to visit for a bit then you might be in time for the new museum to open!
BRITISH NORMANDY MEMORIAL
After a quick and fairly disappointing stop at both the Arromanches 360 cinema and the American Gold Museum we headed to the brand new British Normandy Memorial. This memorial involves a short walk from the car park, lead by several sandstone blocks with text giving a short story of the war.
There are over 22,000 names of service men and women who died here during the battle of Normandy each with their age, rank and battalion.
JUNO & SWORD BEACH
A quick trip to Juno Beach has to include the Charlie tank and Cosy Bunker. A tiny collapsed bunker which was stormed by 165 canadians, only 35 of who came out unscathed. The gate on one side is often open if you feel up to going inside, its very small!
Juno Beach Centre is also worth a visit and if you haven’t had your taste of bunkers quenched yet then make sure and arrange your visit in line with one of the 45mins bunker tours! They are done in English and French, so pick the right slot!
SITE FORTIFIE HILLMAN
After a quick trip to Sword Beach, the 5th and final beach of the landings we made a quick stop at Site Fortifie Hillman. There wasn’t a huge amount to see here but it was on the way and I’d rather waste half an hour here than thinking about what I missed.
LE GRAND BUNKER
However, the highlight was Le Grand Bunker and completely took me by surprise. Le Grand Bunker is a 7 story former command post for Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Access is permitted on each floor, including the lookout on the 6th and 7th, via a narrow chute, a must!
However it does have one of the most unusual locations, set within a pretty quaint residential area, the very blockish building does massively stand out. A bonus feature is the murals and the very Huggins boat used in Saving Private Ryan’s opening scene.
- HIGHLIGHT – Overlord museum
- LOWLIGHT – Nothing, maybe the guy being sick outside my hotel room
- MVP – The people at the hotel who returned my charger and mums sunglasses
- LVP – The guy being sick at the hotel
That’s almost phase 2 of this trip over, The D Day Landings. I had high enough expectations and so far has exceeded them.
I explore and find the best viewpoint, cafe and museum in France!! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
This post is part of The Normandy & Western Front Series, for the entire series click here or for episode 1, click here.
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.
- Does war history interest you?
- Have you been to any museums in Normandy?
- What was your favourite?
Let me know in the comments below . . .