Our Paris and Normandy river cruise cruise continues. Catch up with our first post here.
The highlight for many people is the day spent at the beaches of Normandy. It’s a long day but so worth it. The bus ride from Le Havre to Omaha beach takes a bit less than 2 hours, including a rest stop. We were given a lunch box so that we didn’t need to waste time looking for lunch – a nice touch (not all river cruises do it this nicely)!
Our first stop was the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. It’s a moving experience – over 9000 brave soldiers are buried here. Here’s some key features for us:
The huge statue in the center of the memorial is called Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves. It’s perfect, especially when you realize how many youth are buried here.
There’s a small circular chapel in the midst of the graves. On the domed roof is beautiful mosaic depicting the US sending her troops across the ocean and France, taking care of them and sending back their souls. The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach – a reminder of the view the German troops had of the invading US soldiers
There’s a fantastic visitors center with films and exhibits. A very worthwhile visit – you could easily spend a few hours here. Operation Overlord is discussed in detail but they also focus on many individuals – telling their stories is important and gives great context.
Landing Beaches and Arromanches
Next we stepped out onto the actual Normandy beaches where the troops landed. It was nearly low tide when we arrived – similar to D Day conditions.
You can really feel just how exposed those young men must have felt – it’s along way from the water’s edge to the cliffs where the Germans were firing away. Arromanches is the location of the Allied artificial harbor. Built in prefabricated sections in England it was assembled and operational within 8 days, providing logistical support for allied troops as the marched into France. Even from what remains, the sheer size of the operation is impressive. Here’s a short article with more info.
As a result of our stops today, it’s a long somber ride back to the ship. The sheer scale of the D Day operations is apparent in geography, statistics, individual courage and logistics.
The following day we visited nearby Rouen. Rouen has played a pivotal part in Normandy. As a result this is a large city absolutely brimming with history. The large number of spires inspired Monet and many other Impressionist painters. In the morning, we did a nice bike ride through they city, visiting several medieval churches as well as the cities historic water wheel fed fabric industrial area.
Then, in the afternoon we did a Chocolate and cheese tasting tour of the city. The first stop at L’Atelier du Chocolat demonstrated chocolate bark and we were able to taste several delicious varieties. We then walked across the old city to Auzou Le Chocolateir Normand. Here they described the process used to make the chocolate including the difference between white chocolate (no cocoa, all cocoa fat), milk chocolate (about 35% cocoa) and various dark chocolates (> 70% or so cocoa). Both shops had chocolate from around the world. As a result, there’s a huge variety of tastes available.
Next, we walked to the Hotel – Salon De The’s Le Vieux Carre restaurant. This is a lovely little bed and breakfast where we tasted local cheeses, apple cider and other accompaniments. The region is famous for it’s soft cheese like Camembert and Brie. We especially liked the Pave d’Auge and Neufchatel. Here’s a nice web page on the local cheese.