(Written on Saturday, 4-1.)
We started the day with a cloudy, cool morning in Paris. We climbed on the bus and started off for Normandy.
It seemed like it took half the day just to get out of the Paris urban area.
Between the Paris traffic and stops, the trip was longer than anticipated, nearly 5 hours. As we got closer to Normandy, the sun came out and we had a beautiful, warm day with temperatures in the upper 60s or 70s.
Our first stop was Bayeux, which is also where we will spend the next two nights. We had a short stop to the rest facilities and grab something quick to eat. I got a ham and cheese baguette. I stopped by the men’s room on the way back and stuck the sandwich in my pocket…for about a second before it fell out, out of its bag and on to the men’s room floor. Oops! Poolman’s lunch turned out to be a couple of granola bars on the bus. Oh well.
We started the beach tour at the American cemetery.
This should be familiar to most from the opening and closing scenes of “Saving Private Ryan.” It was a moving experience. The cemetery is very impressive and immaculately well kept.
Our “military guide,” Steve, located the graves of several people he was seeking, including Bob and John Niland, brothers whose deaths became the real-life premise behind the fictional “Saving Private Ryan” story.
Once on the beach, Birdie pulled out his bottle of Calvados, an apple-pear brandy native to this coast (This area is sometimes referred to as the “Calvados Coast.”)
He had four shot glasses, and we drank a toast to the guys who had a much rougher day here 67 years ago.
We worked our way back up the bluff and visited a couple of German gun emplacements, minus the guns.
We had just a few minutes to visit the interpretive center before it was time to get back on the bus.
Our second stop of the day was Point du Hoc, the pinnacle between Omaha and Utah beaches, where American Rangers scaled 150-foot cliffs to destroy some German 155mm guns that could threaten the invasion fleets off either beach. This area was heavily bombed and shelled. The craters remain. While aside from the old bunkers, the area of Omaha beach we visited, didn’t look much like a battlefield. Point du Hoc definitely did.
Our “innocents abroad” adventures continued when we returned to Bayeux and our hotel. The Hotel du Luxembourg is an old European city-style hotel.
It is more of an inn than a modern business hotel. When Dan and I went to our room, we saw it had only one double bed. We went back down to the lobby and tried to explain the situation to the cute, young lady manning the front desk. She had limited English, and we have virtually no French. At one point she said, “I can breeng you new sheets.” Of course this did not make sense to us.
So Dan slapped me on the shoulder and said, “Listen, I really like this guy, but we really do need two beds.”
She promised to work on it, but we ended up solving it on our own. A married couple on the tour, Damien and Lori, had a room with two beds, so we just swapped.
When we were in the process of changing rooms, we realized that double bed was really just two single beds – pushed together and covered with a single spread.
“I can bring you new sheets.” Now we understand!
As expected in an “inn” of this type, our room was small, but clean and comfortable. We have a full window, which we left open during the night. (Note – steam heat but no AC.)
We had a few drinks and a nice dinner. Saturday is looking to be a full day.