Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Normandy Coast

May is filled with holidays here in Luxembourg and recently we had a four day Ascension Holiday. This was just enough time to drive to the coast of France and visit the famous D-Day Beaches, plus a few other stops along the way. I think we would all agree that the beaches are a must-see if at all possible. Beautiful, historic and moving, our tour gave us a true sense of what happened back in June of 1944 and how it happened. 

But first, a stop at the Matisse Museum in Cateau Cambresis not far from Lille. I was inspired to go there because my friend Isabelle's sister is the curator there and for years has spoken so highly of it and her work there. The museum was established by Matisse himself in this town where he was born.


We drove on and arrived in picturesque Honfleur on the Cote de Fleurie after the long drive from Lux.


First day out, World War II memorials are in every village.

First stop, Utah Beach


The excellent Utah Beach Landing Museum, built around the remains of a concrete German bunker. 

Relics from the war, left behind.


Pointe du Hoc, the famous landing point of the US Rangers whose mission to disable a gun battery was greatly hindered by bad weather thus ruining the surprise attack on the German forces. These craters are what remain from intense bombing that happened on through out April, May and until 6 June 1944.

The cliffs that American troops had to scale under heavy attack at Pointe du Hoc.

A beautiful coastline and equally beautiful countryside.

Old bunker, one of many.

Arromanches is the beach where the Allies built the Port Winston Artificial Harbor, providing the launching spot for the largest amphibious attack ever and the start of liberating Western Europe. This port was created in part by sinking 115 football field sized cement blocks across the English Channel, creating a 4 mile long breakwater, 1.5 miles off the shore. This is where and how the allies were able to transport men, goods, weapons, etc. to the cause. An incredible feat in its conception, planning and execution. Jorrit's favorite site on the trip. Impressive.

Back in Honfleur a view of our hotel.

Selling fish Saturday morning.

In Caen, our guided tour began here on day two. We had some repeat, but our guide was thorough and happy to answer our many questions.

Another bunker with gun in tact.

The wall outside the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.

Entrance to the cemetery. 

Maps serve as artwork on the wall outside the cemetery outlining the plan of attack onto the Normandy Coast in June of 1944.


The cemetery sits on a bluff just over Omaha Beach.

A peaceful place to end our big tour.

On our way home, a stop to see the Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen, famously known in the many paintings by Claude Monet.



This rosette window is special because of the original, but fading stain glass, somehow spared during the world wars.

This cathedral also holds the tombs of both Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy in 933, and that of Richard the Lionhearted.

These statues have been taken from the facade to be cleaned and restored and will go from here into a museum.


Next stop, Reims Cathedral.

This cathedral served as the place for the coronation of 26 French kings.

Lighting a candle for Auntie Whee.



Stained glass windows by Chagall.

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