Friday, April 24, 2015

Normandy, France

In November 2014, we took a trip with Explore Europe Travel to France. It was our second trip with them, our first long weekend trip though. I've heard mixed reviews, but all in all it was a good trip. It was a combined trip with a day in Normandy and Honfleur, and 2 days in Paris (I'll save Paris for another post.)
We had wanted to go to Normandy for the longest time and had actually planned out the trip in October. But when I saw that Explore Europe Travel (EET) was offering the trip for 279€ per person, we decided it was smarter to take the trip with them. Gas alone to get out to Normandy would have been 200€, then the hotels in Paris! HA. Don't even get me started.
We left Grafenwoehr Friday night, after waiting an extra hour because people were late. (That's what I hate about bus tours, minus the uncomfortable seats, there's always those people who ruin it for everyone else.) The plan was to have an overnight drive by motor coach from Grafenwoehr to the Normandy Coast in France.
We usually do a lot of trips on our own, 1. Because we can do things for cheaper by ourselves. 2. We're not on anyone's schedule. 3. I HATE sleeping on a bus.
I am completely AWFUL on a bus tour. Drew will readily agree to this and then will probably go into detail about how I make his life a living hell on bus tours. But like I said the price was fantastic and I need to learn that sometimes I can't always plan things out.
We arrived bright an early in Normandy Saturday Morning. We met up with our tour guide to see the D-Day Museum in Arromanches, only to find out that the museum was still closed! It didn't open for another hour. No big deal, our guide gave us a little history about Normandy.
The view once we got off the bus


For those not familiar with Normandy and it's Importance; Early in the morning on June 6, 1944, about 156,000 Allied soldiers stormed a handful of beaches along the coast of Normandy, France. Although choppy seas and heavy German resistance prevented them from fully meeting their objectives that day, they were able to gain a crucial foothold. By late August, Paris had been liberated, and Germany’s surrender came not long afterward. (History.com)



While the tour guide was telling us about Normandy to the side another traveler had brought his bagpipes and had started to play "Amazing Grace". It gave me chills!
Miki Beery captured this beautiful image

When the Museum finally opened we had the option of staying with the guide or exploring the museum on our own. We chose to explore on our own. It was the first museum to be built in commemoration of June 6th 1944 and the Normandy Campaign. The D-day Museum overlooks the very spot where one of the Mulberry Harbours was constructed and where its remains can still be seen today, just a few hundred meters from the shore.



A Paratrooper



From the Museum we headed to Pointe du Hoc to view the evocative granite monument erected by the French in honor of the American Second Ranger Battalion, who seized the German canons here before they could be used to fire on American troops landing on Omaha Beach. Our guide told us that we should keep to the trail the site has remained relatively unchanged since 1944, large bomb craters and uneven ground fill the landscape.The monument consists of a simple granite pylon positioned atop a German concrete bunker with tablets at its base inscribed in French and English. So of course that meant Drew went wandering around.
Sidles' @ Point Du Hoc November 2014

The view from Point Du Hoc

The Monument


Look at the size of the craters!

What a view!

This is found at the beginning of the Monument

#Murica

The Bunkers from WWII
This is my man-child.
I refused to take this picture, but he got someone to take it for him.


From there we stopped off to see a bunker, where the Germans hid in the rolling hills. Still to this day from the road you can't tell what it is until you're literally next to it! There we took a group photo shoot.

EET Normandy Nov. 2014 Trip

Leaving Pointe du Hoc headed off to the American cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer. We made a pit stop on the way to the the cemetery on Omaha beach. Our guide said that we had to see the statute of two soldiers on the beach. She was right. I believe it was something we had to see.
No words to describe this

Beach at high tide, when the Allied Forces landed it was low tide.

Our last stop was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. It is located on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 Soldiers, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.






There were so many tombs marked like this.



It was surreal to be there. The fact that World War II has only been over for 70 years, still blows my mind.
Drew and I have this theory that one day he will be telling our children and grandchildren how he fought in World War III. Back during WWII, it wasn't called WWII, it was called the War in Europe, and now we look back and refer to it was WWII.

From there, we made our way down to Honfleur, stopping en route to taste Calvados, the region’s distinctive apple brandy.
Cellphone pic of us and our drinks.

Calvados is pretty famous in that part of France. I was not a fan. I did pick up some apple cider! We picked up a bottle for a friend who had us over for Thanksgiving and she absolutely loved it!

From the Calvados tasting we headed off to Honfleur.
Picture of the Harbor at night.
Honfleur is a charming coastal town located across the mouth of the Seine from the larger port of Le Havre. Honfleur was once one of France’s principal ports, but as the mouth of the Seine silted up, the French government invested more and more resources into the port at Le Havre. As a result, Honfleur was left untouched.
We stayed at the Ibis hotel, which was ~10 min walk from the Harbor. This was included with Explore Europe Travel so I'm not sure on the price. But we've stayed at Ibis' before and knew they were fairly nice hotels with WiFi and good selection for breakfast.
I wish we would have have come during the summer because by 5pm the sun had already set (Yay Winter! :/) So after settling in to our hotel we decided to walk into town and check it out and find some food. We had a delicious 3 course meal that was fairly cheap at one of the restaurants that over looked the Harbor.


The food! Yum, I'm pretty much eating my way through Europe!






Truffles!
After dinner we decided to check out the town. We were told that we had to get the caramel. But of course, we couldn't find any! But we did find a dessert store that had truffles. I think I made out alright with the truffles.
We explored around Honfleur for a bit before heading back to the hotel. Unfortunately ALL the shops had closed for the night and the sun had long set so we called it a night and headed back to the hotel, we were headed to Paris in the morning!

If you ever get the chance, go to Normandy. One day was not enough time. I wanted to head up to Mont. Saint Michael and see the rest of the Normandy beaches, you could literally spend an entire weekend if not more time there.