We needed an even earlier start. We left while it was still dark, sun rising while we left Paris on our speeding train to Caen. Once there, we got our rental car and grabbed some sandwiches. Even train station baguettes are awesome here.
We stopped at the world war 2 memorial museum in Caen first. A must visit, it does a great job of starting with the end of world war 1, and following the timeline up through the conclusion of world war 2. With a much different perspective than American history books and museums, we uncovered lots we didn’t know, and saw large collections of posters, weapons and uniforms, and other artifacts left from the war. We finished by exploring a bunker underneath the site of the museum left from the Nazis attempt at defending the area.
In the right mindset, we hopped back in our Golf and headed for Omaha beach. Abby was thrilled to be driving a manual car, and I was certainly happy to be navigating through small French countryside roads and villages. After about 30-45 minutes on the road, we arrived out our first top, the memorial cemetery at Omaha Beach. Nearly 10,000 soldiers lie there, a somber spread of stark white crosses going on as far as you can see, the beach off in the distance.
After a respectful and quiet visit, we headed down the road so we could make into the beach itself (access was closed at the museum/cemetery for some reason). We stopped at the monument dedicated for that beach’s landing more than 70 years ago, and took a long walk. It was a beautiful day, and it was amazing how quiet and peaceful it felt. I have a feeling anyone who visits there knowing what had happened in that same spot probably finds the contrast as extreme as well.
After a delicious lunch, we headed up to Utah Beach. We were limited on time, but knew we had to go. There was enough time for a quick walk on the beach there too, and the drive back was lit by a beautiful sunset. Places we had only seen on maps, villages made famous after we watched Band of Brothers, they were all real now, we were going through them with our own eyes.
Tired physically and emotionally, we made the hour drive back to Caen, returned our car, and hopped back on the train. It was a lot of travel for a day trip, and it would be easy to spend a whole week in Normandy, but it was worth it for the hours we got.
We bought some cheese and fruit before heading home, and munched on crackers cheese and smoked meats while drinking wine, reflecting on the day. It had been a busy couple of days, I think we will sleep in tomorrow.