Irresistible france

Old Jan 13th, 2020, 02:58 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,288
A very enjoyable report of a nicely paced trip. I'm looking forward to reading more.
Coquelicot is online now  
Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:26 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 357
Lovely photos . I am enjoying your report and looking forward to more.
rhon is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:39 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 914
Really enjoying your report and your photos of some of my favorite places. Looking forward to more of your Normandy adventure. Wish I had that mussel pot full of mussels in front of me. No wonder you had a smile on your face.

Last edited by john183; Jan 13th, 2020 at 06:56 PM.
john183 is online now  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 08:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Coquelicot, rhon, & john183, thanks for your interest and your encouraging comments.
tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 03:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 2,030
Such a nice trip report! A trip of many places I want to re-visit and some new ones!
willowjane is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 03:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Thanks, willowjane! Glad to have you following along!
tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 05:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,056
Still following and enjoying! What a lovely trip you took!

This is bringing back some of my own wonderful memories and I thank you for sharing your experiences with us!
progol is online now  
Old Jan 15th, 2020, 11:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Progol, glad that this report is sparking some wonderful memories for you. Thanks for following along!
tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 15th, 2020, 01:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Monday, September 23, 2019

Normandy: American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Utah Beach,

Gold Beach

Same early routine, but no luggage to contend with. Glad to be in the same hotel two days in a row!

We were off to the Normandy Shores at 8 AM. The coach ride was at least an hour. En route, an excellent guide joined us. She would accompany us for most of our visit to the D-Day sites.

Having read about these momentous days, with military from several nations cooperating to stop Hitler’s armies from their goal of Nazi domination, wanting to unite all European peoples of Germanic descent into a Greater Germanic Reich, we were approaching this day with mixed emotions. Actually, visiting many of the sites and learning details of the operations brought the unbelievable feats of accomplishment of the Allied forces to life.

Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious military invasion in history, began just after midnight on June 6, 1944 when 24,000 American, British, and Canadian forces, with French Airborne troops in gliders and parachutes, landed behind the German lines along the coast of Normandy. The term “Allies” aptly describes this united attack.

We learned so many details that it was difficult to take it all in. We took many photos to sequence the events of the day: the American Military Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer near Omaha Beach, a visit to Omaha Beach, as well as Pointe-du-Hoc and Utah Beach. The guide provided a wealth of information on each stop. We arrived at Gold Beach, in the town of Arromanches, which would complete our tour. Here we learned about the important contributions of the British and Canadian forces.

The Alllied landings of Operation Overlord on D-Day took place on a fifty mile stretch of the Normandy coast. Our first stop of the day was the American Cemetery. It covers 172 acres and contains the graves of nearly 10,000 military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.

The cemetery, which is perfectly manicured, is an impactful site with the rows and rows of crosses and Stars of David, which mark the Jewish fallen. In a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial are inscribed the names of 1557 considered missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

One surprising fact to us was that though the cemetery contains rows and rows of graves, this is only about 1/3 of those killed. The families of the other 2/3 chose to have their loved ones’ remains returned to the US for burial.

The memorial consists of a semicircular colonnade with a loggia at each end containing large maps and information about military operations. At the center is a tall bronze statue, “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves”. A reflecting pool, fronted with masses of red geraniums, accentuates the bronze statue. There is a small chapel with flags of several nations reflecting the heroic, united effort to hold back the Nazi armies.

A walk to Omaha Beach, which today looks like any other peaceful stretch of sand, bordered by lapping waters, was anything but peaceful on June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach recalls the bravery of the young soldiers as they were dropped into the ocean and tasked with fighting their way to the shores where the Germans were taking aim at them. To fight their way through frigid waters, loaded with equipment and heavy uniforms, and then to climb the steep bluffs, attests to their determination. It also underscores why so many soldiers lost their lives.

Today a modern sculpture memorializes that day. A walk from the Cemetery leads to Omaha Beach. One can’t stand on those shores without leaving sobered by what took place.

Most small towns in Normandy have museums which provide specific information and displays about D-Day. Along the road, we saw various pieces of heavy equipment, such as tanks and aircraft, which are testaments to the fighting.

Pointe du Hoc was a steep promontory between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. It proved to be the most difficult of the invasion points, with the greatest numbers of casualties and losses of material. By day’s end, the Allied troops had a tenuous hold on the beach, and some were proceeding inland.

Today, Utah Beach also appears as a lovely stretch of sand and surf, with beach grass waving in the breeze, and seemingly, no indication of fighting. But when you walk a few feet, you see that you’re at the remains of German army bunkers. The soldiers initially approached a beach which was not experienced as challenging, but there were fierce battles awaiting when the Allied troops pressed inland. As we walked around these bunkers, we gained more insight as to the fierce defenses that the Germans had.

Another impressive museum, which we did not visit, is located at Utah Beach But walking around the bunkers and down the hill to the beach provided an experience which was quite moving.

We did quite bit of walking: in the Cemetery and around the Museum, as well as the paths which led to both Omaha and Utah beaches. Now we would travel in the coach to Gold Beach in the town of Arromanches. Along the way, we would pass a few little towns, each with a church steeple prominent, and fields of crops and grazing cows. We learned that some towns were completely destroyed by the Nazi bombing.

Before visiting the museum in Arromanches, we ate lunch at La Marine Restaurant which faces Gold Beach. A great peaceful water view and good food! Margie had linguine carbonara; Tom had fish and chips…all very tasty and a relief to sit down after strenuous walking.

After lunch, we visited the museum which is located just down the way from our eatery. This extensive museum contained displays and a movie about how the Brits and Canadians, who oversaw supplies and base operations at Gold Beach, had contributed major engineering to secure the supplies of weapons, etc. Among their many contributions were floating platforms which could be assembled in parts to drive tanks, jeeps, and other equipment around the beachhead.

After exploring the many displays, we viewed a movie describing the work done on this beachhead…and how it was implemented. A guide told us details of the work, using TV monitors illustrating whatever she was saying. Then we saw another presentation for ten minutes. At the conclusion of our viewing and a tour of the displays, we purchased a souvenir booklet regarding the whole Normandy Invasion which would help us recall much of the information.

We left the area of the Normandy Beaches feeling emotionally drained from the realizations of the sacrifices so many servicemen of different nations who gave of themselves for our freedom. We would be ever grateful.

On the hour-drive back to the Hotel du Golf, it seemed that many in the group, including both of us, used the opportunity for a nap, as we were worn out from the long day of walking and standing.

A 7:30 meal at the hotel’s classy restaurant was included with our tour. Once arriving at the hotel, we needed to freshen up for the evening meal. Although the main meal was only average, the chocolate dessert was tasty, the ambience was lovely, and the company was delightful.

We had some good discussions about the day’s experiences. It was interesting to hear the reactions of others. One similarity which we noted: all were almost in disbelief of the thousands of lives that were given to stop the advance of Hitler and Nazism. And shocked that the neo-Nazism which is raising its ugly head today is not condemned by more top world leaders.

We were in our room 138 before 10 PM, wanting to get some good rest as we looked forward to our visit to Mont Saint-Michel in the morning. This visit to Mont Saint-Michel was something that Margie was looking forward to as a highlight of this trip to Normandy! We knew that there would be a lot of climbing on rocky and uneven steps. We hoped that the weather was as dry and beautiful as it turned out to be for our visit to the D-Day beaches.

A miniscule sampling of the thousands of graves of heroes

Chapel with flags of allied nations

Inspirational sculpture entitled: "Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves"

Various pieces of artillery seen along the road. Several museums of interest in the area.

Background sculpture representing the bravery of soldiers

German bunker atop bluff

German bunker camoflouged by the surrounding landscape

Paved walkways for an easier descent down the embankment to the shore

Beautiful beach area-no hint of the atrocities of war

Another stretch of beauty/sadness

The sacrifices of so many enable us to enjoy our freedom!

A beautiful stretch of Gold Beach

tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 01:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mont Saint-Michel; Onward to St. Malo

Another early start: 7 AM for breakfast. Off at 8 AM…probably a 2 ½ hour drive to Mont Saint-Michel. We slept for over an hour on the drive without realizing it, as the time passed quickly. It was raining extremely hard, and foggy. The windshield wipers at full setting could barely provide visibility for driving. Climbing Mont Saint-Michel seemed all but impossible. However, Google had indicated “clearing by 11 AM”. We remained hopeful!

It wasn’t until we got within eyesight of the silhouette of Mont Saint-Michel that the rain stopped. It was dramatic to see Mont Saint-Michel, with the golden statue of St. Michel atop, come into view as we approached. Although Mont Saint-Michel is an island in a bay, the strong tides were low and little water was visible. At high tide, it is surrounded by water.

After getting off the coach, we walked a distance to the restroom and then to the shuttle pickup area for approaching the entrance to the Mont. We met our guide Cecile and boarded the shuttle, crowded with people like in the NY subway. However, the shuttle bus saves a 50-minute walk as it drives in a straight line on a boardwalk to and from the entrance over the tidal area, 2 kilometers or more. So, weighing a crowded bus against the long walk, we chose the former.

The history of Mont St-Michel dates from the year 708 when a French bishop had a sanctuary built on the location dedicated to St. Michel. The Abbey church was built on top of the rock in the early 11th century. Between the 11th and 15th centuries, the church was expanded, with Gothic influences and fortifications to protect it. The military architecture served it well during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England.

During medieval times, Mont Saint-Michel was a major pilgrimage site, along with Rome and Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims have been coming to the Abbey of Mont St-Michel for over a thousand years.

In the chaos of the French Revolution, Mont Saint-Michel even served as a prison after the religious community was forced out.

It later underwent extensive renovations, and in the 1960’s, a monastic community once again came to Mont Saint-Michel. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

Most days, Masses are held at Mont Saint-Michel, and visitors are invited to attend.

Once passing the entrance arch, one enters a stone street lined with restaurants and gift/souvenir shops. Then one passes to the large staircase, called the Grand Degre’, which leads from the Grande Rue to the Abbey and its gardens. The Abbey is built on several levels, with many stairs and steep passages.

We began the climb with determination, expecting that the steps and ramps would be very challenging! And our expectations were realized. Hundreds of steps and uneven cobblestone. The rain, which had just stopped not long before, had left the steps damp. Margie braved her way up and down the main path to the top where the Abbey is located. The views were of a low tide landscape in all direction; in fact, it was low tide the whole time we were there.

We had conquered the 350+ steps climb to the Abbey!!! A guy in our group, Brian, insisted on taking a photo of us! We appreciated that!

When we entered the Abbey chapel, it was just about time for a Mass to begin. Margie, especially, would have liked to spend more time there. However, our guide seemed to have an agenda for showing us the layering of the construction of the building…the abbey garden bordered by colonnades, more steps down the refectory, which is barren at this time, just a large room with a pulpit for reading during the meals. Underneath is a library, reading area…again barren and empty but has a couple of fireplaces. Earlier architecture was Romanesque, but later, when the building collapsed and had to be rebuilt, some Gothic features were incorporated. Crypts are at the base of the building supporting the whole structure. As we visited each area, the guide provided much historical data.

Long and grueling trip…steps and more steps! Margie brought a trekking pole, especially helpful as most of the climb has no railings. She was pleased to accomplish her goal here.

Toward the end of the trek down, we wanted to find a quick lunch as we needed to line up at the shuttle by 1:50 to arrive at our bus parked in P7 by 2:30. Auberge Saint Pierre, right on the Grand Rue, was our choice for crepes and a beer and wine (19.50€). When we informed our waiter that we had a short time frame, he provided very efficient service. We had no time to stop for a postcard or such. We had to return to the shuttle pick-up to cross the causeway.

Then we had another long walk across the deadlands of low tide to arrive at the location where the shuttle takes off. Lots of people waiting…long walk, long wait…Ugh! Buses whizzed by; no one could figure out the system. We made it back to the parking area where there was more walking to find the correct parking area for our coach.

Then it was on to the seaside town of St. Malo for another guided tour with Cecile. Margie chose to take the bus back to the hotel and relax in the lounge for the hour or so while Tom joined the walking tour of old St. Malo. He returned with a full report, complete with photos.

St. Malo is still well-fortified with a high wall for protection against invading ships, a remnant of the old days. Jacques Cartier the oceanographer, is buried in the city. In WWII the Germans took over St. Malo and some its fortifications at sea. Allies then bombed the Germans out, destroying lots of St. Malo, which has since been rebuilt.

From our room in Hotel Nouveau Mondo, we had a view of the ocean from a side window which furnished us with natural air conditioning. Unfortunately, we spent only one night in St. Malo. We found it to be a beautiful city; an attractive summer resort.

We had an hour to freshen up before boarding the coach for an evening meal in Cancale, a town east of St. Malo, in Brittany. It is at the start of the section of coast known as the Emerald Coast. Cancale is located on an estuary and is best known for producing choice oysters. It is said that Cancale oysters have been famous for at least 2000 years since they were enjoyed by the soldiers of Julius Caesar and later when they were delivered daily to Louis XIV.

We wished that we, too, counted oysters among our favorite seafoods. We were happy that the restaurant would have a wide selection of other menu offerings.

It was still daylight when we left, so we could see the water for part of the trip and passed through charming residential areas. Twenty-seven of us went for the half-hour drive to the scenic town. Our restaurant was located on the harbor.

Both of us had delicious lamb cutlets. And the caramel ice cream on a crepe was a tasty dessert. We had a delightful time with a lot of laughs at our table with our favorite couples: Danielle and Cynthia, Peter and Gail. We returned to our hotel by 9:30. preparing for an early wake up.

tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 03:39 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,288
You two are real troupers!

I have such dim memories of Mont Saint Michel (it was long ago) that I really appreciate reading about your visit. We've never gone back, but every time I spot it in the distance I get a real thrill.

Coquelicot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 04:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Thanks for your post, Coquelitcot. It provides some motivation for continuing our TR.
tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 04:11 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,288
Tom, when you mentioned two of your favorite couples, one pair has the same names as my brother and SIL. I'm going to have to ask them if they sneaked into France last fall without telling us.
Coquelicot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 05:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Coquelicot, I assume you mean Gail and Peter? I'll search our photos. Wouldn't that be a coincidence!
tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 05:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,741
Nice update, Tom!
Adelaidean is offline  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 07:37 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,288
Actually, I know where they were the whole month of September. They were at home by the phone waiting to hear that their first grandchild was born.
Coquelicot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 07:51 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,303
Thanks, Adelaidean! Always nice to hear from you!

Coquelicot, It would have been a strange coincidence if it had been the same couple!
tomarkot is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 08:13 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,013
Great TR and pictures! Love reliving much of my trip last fall through your posts! Thanks!
joannyc is online now  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 11:24 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,037
Brings back such great memories of that entire area. Love the anchor photo in Honfleur.. Great report!
maitaitom is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2020, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 914
Still really enjoying your report and your photos. Brings back nice memories of when we took our granddaughters to Normandy and Mont Saint-Michel. It is so beautiful now at these D-Day beaches that it is hard to imagine the horror that took place during the invasion. Even though there is lots of walking at Mont Saint-Michel it was so worth it to us. Thanks for posting.
john183 is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information