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Blog #718

Normandy - 5/3/2016

Today’s French adventure was to Normandy, the site of the WWII D-Day invasion.  After our breakfast at the hotel we boarded the tour buses for the three-hour drive throught the Frendch countryside.  As we approached the region near the coastline we made a short stop at a supermarket to pick up boxed lunches.  We then drove to a roadside park to eat.


Once we arrived at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial and band members changed into their uniforms and prepared for their performance, Jenny and I continued ahead into the cemetery.  The memorial and cemetery were beautiful and grand.  The grass was cut perfectly and the trees were manicured.  The grounds and building were clean and well maintained.  The entire setting was beautiful.


Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The band took their position on the steps of the memorial facing the cemetery.  They began their performance with the The Star-Spangled Banner.  Seeing my daughter playing the national anthem at this place made me feel so proud.  This experience with the Marching 110 here at Normandy is something I’ll always remember.


Sarah

The band played other patriotic pieces, Salvation is Created, Summon the Heroes, Fanfare for the Common Man, America the Beautiful, Stars and Stripes Forever and Eternal Father, Strong to Save.


Marching 110

After the performance the band members changed out of uniform.  We had ample time to explore the area.  Tour guides from the memorial gave us a oral history of the cemetery, recounting tales of some of the soldiers and their families including photographs.  We roamed around the cemetery grounds admiring the solemn site.


Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

There was no access to the beach from the American cemetery.  However, adjacent to the cemetery was a French memorial to “The Big Red One”, 1st Infantry Division Monument.  From this site we were able to further explore the bluffs overlooking the English Channel and the beach below.


1st Infantry Division Monument

Along the hilltop we explored the remains of the German fortifications.  As I walked into the dark corners of the bunkers I could help but think about the events that had taken place on this battleground.


German fortifications

We made our way down the hillside to the beach.  Originally I simply wanted to place my footprints on the beach.  But once I was there wanted to walk out across the beach to the water.  Earlier the tour guide has explained that the D-Day invasion was planned to occur during low tide in order to expose any obstacles the Germans may have placed on the beaches.  It appeared to me that it was low tide again during our visit as well.  We walked the long distance across the sand to the edge of the water.  I stood in the cold water ankle-deep.  I looked north towards England thinking of the countless ships that carried the thousands of soldiers here to Omaha Beach.  I turned around and saw the bluffs and looked to find the cemetery and the German fortifications.  At that moment it hit me what a great distance it was for here at the water’s edge to the hop of the hills.  I thought of the soldiers jumping off of their ships onto this very spot and having to make their way forward across the vast beach, past the barricades and barbed-wire, all while being shot at by the Germans.


Omaha Beach

It was really nice that we had so much time to casually explore the American cemetery, the France monument, the remains of the fortifications and the beach, but eventually it was time for us to head back to the buses for the long drive back to Paris.


Once we had arrived back at our hotel there were no further tours or events planned for the day, so we were free to do anything we liked.  Jenny and I walk about a block from the hotel along Rue de Bezons looking for a place to eat.  We found a nice street side restaurant called Le Gavroche.  We had a fine meal and I had my first glass of 1664 beer.  We enjoyed our meal at our street side table while we watched the people walking by and the light traffic on the street.  It was a lovely relaxing meal and our Armenian waiter was great.


Le Gacroche

Tomorrow the Marching 110 will be performing at the Eiffel Tower and we will be touring the Louvre.


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