Wednesday, November 29, 2006


On the second day of our journey to France, we took a train from Paris to Caen which is the closest major city to the beaches of Normandy where D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944. We rented a car which allowed us to explore at our own pace. We started out at Sword beach on the east side of the beach and worked our way toward Omaha beach on the west side. (Normandy is on the north side of France facing the English Channel) Click here and scroll down just a bit for a map of Normandy. It was amazing seeing this place where so much bloodshed and destruction occurred. In contrast to the violence which occurred, the country side is quite beautiful with many quaint villages along the way.

Looking out into the water, I tried to imagine the 5000 some odd ships which would have been facing the beaches. As we progressed along the coast, we stopped at a place called Aromanches where the British forces built a temporary harbor to assist in bringing supplies/forces from the ships to the land. This allegedly played a critical role in the invasion.

At various places along the 40 kilometer route, we stopped at the actual sites where the battle was fought. We saw enormous guns used to fire on ships, bunkers (some intact some very damaged), pill boxes, and assorted damage to the land. We were able to actually walk inside some of the German bunkers. You could very clearly see the damage to the bunkers resulting from airplane and ship bombardment.

Pont du Hoc on Omaha Beach was a major part of the battle where American troops climbed the cliffs and took on the German forces. I previously had no real concept of D-Day and what it might have been like. Seeing the cliffs and beaches in person helped me to realize the enormous odds stacked against any solider trying to attack from below on the beaches. These were truly heroes with tremendous bravery. All over the ground at Pont du Hoc were gigantic holes and depressions into the ground resulting from bombs.

The most somber and sobering part of the day was when we spent some time at the American cemetery where there are 9600+ graves each with a soldiers name on it. Standing in the cemetery was almost overwhelming. The sheer emotion and realization of the massive sacrifice of life was definitely apparent. Next time you see a veteran, thank them for their service. War is a terrible thing and it was very much realized in that place.

After departing from the beaches, we had a meal in a small town called Bayeux and made our way back to Caen for our trip home to Paris. We were sure to check the last departing train time during the day which was indicated as 9:30 pm. However, this was not the case. Apparently, the 9:30 train only leaves from Caen to Paris on Sunday night. So, we ended up spending the night in Caen arising at 4:45 am and getting on a 5:15 am train to Paris. Not the most fun way to spend one's last night in France but provided fodder for stories to tell later on.

For more pictures please click here.

1 comment:

liz said...

Thanks for sharing! Good writing and pictures.

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