Storming of the Beaches

Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another long weekend was coming up in England, and work was getting me down, so there was only one thing I could do. Get on the web, look at the trains and book a trip. The idea was to leave on the Friday, drive to Arras, stay over, up early, and get down to Limoges, as we want to see a village called Oradour-Sur-Glane. It was a place where the Nazis had rounded everyone up and killed them all. And now the town is a living memorial.

Looking on the web, the prices were ridiculous. The first time I looked, the price was 140. Next day, it was 180. The third time I looked, it was now up to 205. Realising I had fucked up, we decided to buy an overnight trip instead as it was only 60. As I have now done this, we decided to change our choice. A quick look on the map, and we are now going to go to Bayeaux to see the Tapestry, and then onto the WW2 landing beaches. The plan was now set in stone.

Pissing down rain in the morning as we left England, we were slightly worried because we were going to be camping in France. As we drove South in France, the rains became harder, and it was getting harder to drive. We were aquaplaning all over the road. It was quite scary.

As we came closer to Bayeaux, the sun came out to play. This was more like it. We parked the car up, and went to visit the Tapestry. Just in case you don't know what this Tapestry is, I will give you all a brief history lesson. Back in the 1060's, a little shit went down in France and England, and a guy called Harry became King of England. Willy the Bastard, as he was known, reckoned that Harry said he would let him become King. As it didn't happen, Willy decided to invade England and the Battle of Hastings, 1066 took place. Harry took an arrow in his eye, and Willy became King. And to commemorate this little event, and the events leading up to it, Willy had some Monks in the UK re-create this on what was the photographic paper of the day. Tapestry. And at 70 metres long, it was, awful long !!! We had a quick look at a film about it, telling the history and stuff, then we made our way down there. They give you a handset explaining each section as you walk along. But down in the bottom, there is another story, it is not explained, but there are these naked men, with huge hanging balls !!! Then there is the couple who are about to have sex with each other, but her pubes are down on her knee !!! Maybe women were built differently 1000 years ago !!! It did tell the story, and it was impressive, especially the condition that it is in after all these years. We walked out, and walked around the town. Amazingly, it survived in tact from WW2. It was also the first town liberated once the allies landed on the beaches. Around the corner was the Notre Dame Cathederal. It was nice inside and all Cathederaly, as to be expected. We walked some more, being tourists and noticed that the majority of restaurants are pizza places. So, we knew what we would be eating that night. Not long after, we jumped into the car and went driving, to see the landing fields.

As we drove, it wasn't hard to find the signs for the American Cemetary. And as this is meant to be pretty impressive, plus the fact that it was used in Saving Private Ryan, this was going to be our first port of call. Once parked, we walked in and came across fields of marble crosses. It was so different to the usual COmmonwealth ones that we are use to. We ran around, trying to find Captain John H Millar's grave, but was unable to find it. So we ran around some more. It was in a real nice place, so we moved onto Omaha beach. At the local museum, was a tank, so we took the obligatory photos, and found the next site. Pointe Du Hoc Ranger Memorial. Apparently, 225 American Rangers scaled the cliffs, overcame the odds and defeated the Germans here. They then had to hold out for two days until more troops came to help them. All around the site, there were huge crates left over from the fighting. There use to be some huge batteries here, but they were destroyed in the fighting, but it was quite amazing walking around the ruins, seeing the leftovers. They do say not to dig around the craters due to the fact that there is still UXO. So we didn't. We had seen enough for the day, so we made our way back and settled into dinner. There was only one thing I wanted. Moule. Moule with Frites. Restaurant found, Moules ordered, Cotes du Rhone polished off, we walked around the town of Bayeaux, a little more, taking it in, and the Cathederal, being all Cathederaly in the night, was very impressive,

As we had drunk French red wine, we awoke, no headache, so we packed and hit the road. We drove up to Utah Beach to have a look at the landings. There were memorials to the Danish as we drove up, and I had never seen one of these before so we stopped and took the obligatory photos. Down the road, at the beach, there were the usual tanks and landing boats, so we had a walk, looking at the various memorials that were here commemorating the landings. We jumped back in and drove. The next stop was Longues-sur Mer. Here, leftover, are massive casemates with their guns still in tact. The guns were designed to go 20 Kilometres away. They would not have reached England, but they were meant to stop the landing. As we know, they didn't. At the edge of the cliff, was a type of fort/lookout thingy. It was from here, that the Germans, saw the Allies coming. It was really funny, walking around it, over 60 years old, and still standing like it had been built yesterday. Down the road was the Mulberry Harbour, or what is left of it. The Allies had towed these portable harbours over from England. This one had survived longer than expected. As we looked at old photos showing the harbour, it amazes me, what they did. Onwards we went, and then we found the Canadian Cemetary. We pulled up and went in. After viewing the American one, this one seemed out of place. It was exactly the same as the ones in the Flanders and the Somme. Well, it is a Commonwealth one, so perhaps, that is why I felt this way. I actually preferred it to the American one. Time was running out, and we only had one more site to visit. The Pegasus Bridge. This was the first bridge to be taken by the allies. It has since been replaced by a copy. Across the road, the original one is, so we had a small look and then took off back to towards Calias

The drive back was uneventful

Calais as usual, is and always will be a shithole. We went to buy wine and cheese, but, this being Europe, nothing was open !!! We did mange to find one wine supermarket, so we loaded up on red, white, champagne and gin, jumped on a train and made our way back to the UK.

It had been a fun weekend away. Very historical. Very moving in some ways. Lovely countryside. But now we have to wait another month, before we go away again
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