Normandy is often described as the Devon to Brittany’s Cornwall. There’s no doubt that this is a beautiful part of the world and it’s easy to see the resemblance between the West Country and this part of France. There’s beautiful green countryside and lovely beaches; there are orchards growing fruit for cider, calvados and poiré as well as an abundance of seafood.
On our trips, which usually start from Calais on the European side, we often stop in one of the places related to the first and second world wars, like our visit to Ypres last April. This year we have the chance to see the beaches of Normandy so that’s where we head next.
A quick one night stopover in Carolles first to break up the journey. There is a big beach and it’s a beautiful day so we get the paddle-boards out again. We have a lovely relaxing day on the beach before travelling on to beaches that will make the hairs on the back of neck stand up…
The first Normandy beach we get to is Omaha beach. It’s still early and quiet, but a few people have started to come to enjoy a day at the beach in the sunshine. It feels a bit surreal to have a day out at the beach where so many fought and died. Our next stop is at Arromanches-les-Bains, where a Mulberry harbour can still be seen from the beach. We travel on to Bayeux before stopping at Juno beach in Bernières-sur-Mer where the Canadians landed.
The last stop on our war memorial part of the trip is the Pegasus bridge, where the British landed glider airplanes as the very first part of the D-Day attacks.
Visiting these places is an amazing and very humbling experience. The people who fought on these beaches were often very young. We probably all have relatives and friends of that age and it’s hard to imagine them going through such an ordeal to try to secure freedom for Europe.
It’s important to remember the war. As time goes by, and less and less veterans are around to tell the stories, we have to remember properly and accurately, without the distortions of passing time which might suit modern day political groups.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”