Monday, Sep. 24, 2007 - FRANCE - Bayeux, Normandy Beaches, Omaha Beach, Port-en-Bessin, Meuvaines, Arromanches

Of course our interest in this part of France was driven by retired art teacher Peg's long-term fascination with the Bayeux Tapestry, but being impressed with the town, our accommodations and surrounding, we decided to stay another night to become more familiar with this part of France. Eating communally with the other guests at the monastery, we integrated with the English speaking retired Vicar Bruce Hawkins and his Reveille Battlefield Tour group from the UK. The focus of this group from the Dover area was the WWII battle sites of the Normandy coast area. Now, being so close, we decided that we too would spend the day visiting the invasion areas with their monuments and museums. While we are all interested in history, we would not normally be called "war history buffs."  Keith is a veteran, but of the "cold war." (Also a member of Veterans for Peace)  As a child he followed the progress of WWII closely.  His father had served in France during WWI; his older brother, a Pearl Harbor survivor, served in the Pacific during WWII.  Keith's interest in visiting Brest, France, to learn more of his father's US Naval Aviation duty was put on hold. This day we focused on Normandy.  


The 7:30 bell for breakfast has rung & we walk to the dining hall with our dormitory in the background right. The weather was not too promising as showers were lingering.

 In the large, but cozy, dinning room we get our nourishment for the day. "Brin Jour" French breakfast cereal? Keith gives it a try. The coffee was good & fresh fruit abundant. 

Keith & Patrick are invited (as are all visitors) to "joyfully wash the dishes."  They are quite happy to do this.

This tile art outside our lift is clearly a nod to the "tapestry" which is the purpose of our visit. After breakfast, it was only a fast stop in our rooms before venturing out the short distance to the coast & a day reflecting on the 1944 landing on Normandy beaches.

This "Liberation Monument" just above the beach near St-Laurent-sur-Mer is dedicated to the 1st US Infantry Division & to the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division. This is on the western part of the Omaha Beach sector & near Les Moulins.

Nearby, & actually set in the sand of the beach, is the striking stainless sculpture designed by artist Anilore Banon called "The Braves" & dedicated to the bravery of the soldiers of the Allied Forces. 

Overlooking Omaha beach near Colleville-sur-Mer is the Normandy American Cemetery. Adjacent to this famed cemetery is the brand new (opened Jun 2007) Normandy American Visitor Center. This is a view of the water feature that seems to reach out to the sea. 

While we found the metal detector/airport type search at the entrance a bit off-putting, the exhibits were very well done, & the media rich presentations were informative & emotionally moving. Out of respect, we took few photos inside, but were interested in the Norwegian flag's prominent position here..?

It is said, "Designers faced a delicate task balancing the desire to educate while not overshadowing sacrifices of nearly 10,000 Americans buried nearby." Therefore most of the Visitor Center is below ground level. Here is the view as we exit on the beach side. If you can put up with the US-airport-style security greeting, we highly recommend a visit here (& no admission fee).

Keith & Patrick pause on their walk from the Visitor Center to the Normandy American Cemetery that overlooks this (now) serene coastal area where so many died.

This view is across just one section of this touching & revered burial place. In the distance is the main part of the memorial. Behind us lines of grave markers stretch on in the distance. 

Peg & Patrick descend the inviting path to the beach itself.  We've walked many beaches of the world, but it seemed especially important to set foot on this one.

The day turned out cool, but clear, & everything was clean from the recent rains.  It was an altogether pleasant walk.  But hanging heavy on our hearts was the image of what happened here.

Looking back up inland from the beach, it is difficult to imagine that this was ever a bloody battle site.  It's also especially hard to forget it.

Patrick futzes with camera settings and like all of us tries to capture the moment digitally.

Patrick stands by a German defensive bunker that was part of the "WN62, a German strong point" which proved lethal for many US soldiers who were assigned to secure this section of Omaha Beach.

What is today merely a pleasant grassy bench of land was once a nearly insurmountable challenge.  Ah, what human beings are capable of -- noble AND nefarious.

At the top of the hill, just east of the Cemetery & new Visitor Center, Patrick & Keith rest at another of several monuments dedicated to the "Big 1" - 1st Infantry.

Leaving the Cemetery area we head east & some come to this rebuilt church at Colleville-sur-Mer with the large photograph in front showing its destruction from the War.

We continued traveling eastward along the coast, coming here to Port-en-Bessin where Keith captures this attractive fluttering flag in the harbor.

Searching for a lunch of freshly harvested oysters near Meuvaines, we instead find a horse with sulky-type cart & rider racing across Gold Beach. They were quickly far down the hard packed sand & out of sight.

We find no restaurant open near the Marc Vivier oyster farm, so we head back to Arromanches for this meal of oysters, mussels, beer & soup. While rain fell on other tourists, many British, we were comfortable in this covered & heated restaurant area. 

Musée du Débarquement [latest version of Adobe flashplayer needed for Museum's interesting webpages] overlooking the beach at Arromanches where Allied forces built the massive artificial harbor. There are many military museums in the general area, but we visited only a few. This was one of the best, in our opinion.

On the side of the Museum is this US Army half-track complete with a husky winch made in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With other artifacts showing in the distance, including a Sherman tank upper right, Patrick wanted to send this photo to his father-in-law from Oklahoma.

Behind the museum we see a section of the "floating roadway" that led to the off-shore unloading wharves. The appropriate & massive "litter" of remaining sections of the artificial harbor give important reminders of the human suffering, financial cost & tragedy of war.

Back in Bayeux, we locate the Cidre Calvados Lecornu so we can procure some of the local specialty, a potent apple brandy made from the apple harvest from the family's large orchard. In addition to this "Calvados" liquor, they also offer an aperitif, regular cider, jellies & related items. This is the basement cave where the kegs are stored.

This business in right in town but Miss Garmin seemed to have trouble finding it. After some generous tasting, we decide on which products we want and leave the store front to continue on. As we exit we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow. On the down side, our photograph of this vision over Bayeux was too faint. 

Our last evening in Bayeuxm, so we explore a part of the town we had not heretofore noticed.  The colorful flowers here caught our collective eye.

Patrick checks the view from atop these stone steps while the afternoon light is fading into dusk. We will soon decide on a highly rated local restaurant of an elegant French meal.

This is a pleasant view of the stream that runs through the town of Bayeux. One of several old water wheels can be seen on the right & the Cathedral in the background. A nice visual end to an emotionally potent day.

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