Ben gave me full freedom to set 96% of our French itinerary. Of the 27 days we were abroad, he made one single request: to visit the D-Day beaches in Normandy.
My sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law James came to visit us in France for a few days (yay!), and we decided to take the trip to Normandy together. The day was both extremely educational and extremely moving.
I had been to the D-Day beaches previously, and I remember feeling moved, but visiting them a second time with Ben, Elizabeth, and James made the day more tender. Had the four of us been alive 70 years ago when D-Day occurred, who is to say Ben or James wouldn’t have been one of the boys storming the beaches? Even Ben wondered if he would have had the courage to disembark that morning and face a beach covered by mines as German fire rained down from the bluffs above.
At the Pointe du Hoc, we wandered through leftover German bunkers and marveled at the craggy landscape, still battered by a rain of bombs and artillery. On D-Day, 225 rangers scaled this 100-foot cliff with the goal of disarming deadly German weapons. Only 90 survived.
We also stopped by Omaha Beach, where more than 2,000 Americans lost their lives. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, Omaha is where the opening scene takes place. Looking over the wide expanse of sand and directly up into the enemy hills, I was overwhelmed by the task the Allied soldiers had to face.
A photo posted at Omaha, depicting the Allied forces storming the beach on D-Day.
We visited a few other sights, then ended the day at the American Cemetery, a place of peace, remembrance, and honor to all of those who lost their lives to make the world a more just and free place.
To those men and to their families, I wish to say: Thank You.
Normandy Travel Tips:
- Starting off: We arrived in Bayeaux by train, a charming town near the beaches. We spent the morning exploring its gorgeous cathedral and informative war museum. If you are into tapestries, the town houses one of the most famous in France (William the Conqueror), though we did not have time to see it.
- Bayeaux eats: In addition to pastries upon arrival, we stopped into Les Douze Apotres (The 12 Apostles), which had a nice location along the main drag and offered the quick service we needed, but the crepes left something to be desired. I did, however, manage to squeeze in two Norman specialties, Camembert and cider, so I’m calling it a win.
- D-Day tours and transport: D-Day sights are inaccessible by public transportation. Rather than renting a car, we used Normandy Panorama. It’s a tour company that provides small group visits to the American D-Day sites and is lead by two Normandy natives. Our guide Natasha was engaging, provided good information, and was able to answer any question we put her way. Warning: these ladies book up early. I snagged our tour spots back in March, and they were the last available for the week.
- Tour Note: If you are a D-Day history buff, I’d suggest renting a car so that you can set your own itinerary.
- Read up: Ben devoured The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan before our trip. Not only did he deem it the best book he has ever read, the information he learned (and graciously shared) enhanced our experience and allowed us to appreciate Normandy in a way we would not have otherwise.
- Watch: The brutal opening scene on Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan is considered an accurate portrayal. Though it is so, so hard for me to watch, having that imagery helped me better understand the sacrifice and bravery of the Allies on D-Day.
For more France travel updates: Stay right here! As of last night, Ben and I are home safely, but I plan to put up a few more posts to share our later adventures. To ensure you don’t miss the Frenchie fun, sign up for my email list and Like The Law Student’s Wife on Facebook (don’t forget to double click the “Like” button and select “Get Notifications”).
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