Tag Archives: omaha beach

Paris & Normandy — Day Nine

The saga continues.

What the first eight days may have lacked in adventure, we made up for today. We were up and moved out of our apartment by nine AM. Off to Gare St Lazare to catch our train to Caen.

This leg of our trip has had ill omens from the beginning.  On our first evening here we went to Gare Montparnasse to purchase these and other tickets. The very patient ticket seller spent nearly a half hour, working discounts and combos. Sister-in-Law was handling the transaction as this was her job in our division of labor. I noticed the fares and timetables did not seem to be what I had seen on line, but I kept my mouth shut, until the vendor wrote the destination on one of the ticket envelopes, not CAEN, but CANNES? Oops! I pointed out the error and the vendor patiently reissued the correct tickets and demonstrated to SIL the proper way to pronounce the two very different cities.

After all that, the train ride to Caen was pleasant and uneventful. We located the National car rental agency. We picked up our Citeron car and directions to our first stop — Bayeux. Then the fun began.

I drove while SIL and BIL navigated. Just getting out of Caen was a nightmare. At one point I’m pretty sure I drove down a section of street reserved for trolleys. We took the wrong entrance ramp to a limited access highway and drove 20 km out of town in the wrong direction before we were able to get turned around. Five or six wrong turns later and we were finally on the highway to Bayeux, leaving five or six years of my life in the rearview mirror.

We had lunch in Bayeux and then made our way to the American Cemetary at Omaha Beach.

image

Bayeux Cathedral

As it was at my last visit here in April 2011, it was very moving. 

image

Some of our merry band in the cemetary

Our original plan was to move on to Vierville-sur-Mer to locate the stretch of beach where Mrs Poolman’s and SIL’S father landed with the 116th Infantry Regiment in the second wave in D-Day. We were also going to stop at Point du Hoc. However, others in our party lost interest and wanted to get on to Mont St Michel.

What was left of my driving patience disappeared when we were driving down a narrow Normandy lane with close hedgerows on both sides and a cement mixer roared around a blind curve with his left wheels well on our side of the road. We escaped, but the right side of our car was in the bushes. I’m glad I got the damage collision waiver when we rented the car.

The rest of the trip to MSM was uneventful. We checked into our hotel on the island and had a nice dinner. We took a walk out to catch some night photos from the causeway.

image

On to bed. Tomorrow is intended for sightseeing at Mont St Michel.

The day at Omaha Beach

(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.

On the road again...

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.

American Cemetary at Omaha Beach

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.

Steve Mrozek, addressing "the troops"

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.

We walked down to the beach. When you read the history of the battle here, you learn about the bluffs.The bluffs above Omaha, looking towards the British beaches Most of the stories do not do justice to these very significant, steep slopes.

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.”)

(l-r) Birdie, Poolman, Dan, Ron

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.

Dan at the entrance to a bunker

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.

Point Du Hoc. Note bomb craters.

Our “innocents abroad” adventures continued when we returned to Bayeux and our hotel. The Hotel du Luxembourg is an old European city-style hotel.

Hotel du Luxembourg, Bayeux, France

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!

Our room

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.

It’s late here

We had a very good day of traveling and touring today. However, it was a long day and it is late here in Bayeux, France. I don’t have time to do a full post. I’ll catch up tomorrow. Suffice it to say, we did shots of Calvados (Norman apple brandy) on the sand at Omaha Beach.

More details tomorrow. Good night!