The Beaches of Normandy, France
The Normandy landings were the landing operations and associated airborne operations of 6 June 1944. The Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord often referred to as D-Day was the largest seaborne invasion in world history. The operation began the liberation of France along with western Europe.
Should your travel plans bring you to the western coast of France or if you’re visiting Paris you should consider adding a trip to the beaches of Normandy to your itinerary. There are a number of tours available from Paris to Normandy and many can be booked through hotels. Another option is to rent a car and spend a couple of days in Normandy on your own. The countryside is beautiful and the French people here are incredible welcoming.
Any visit should include the Caen Memorial Museum, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, a tour of Pointe du Hoc, as many landing beaches (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword) as can be fit in, Arromanches-les-Bains and the Pegasus bridge. There are also a number of other cemeteries in the area honoring those that gave their lives from the British Commonwealth and other countries.
France, as a travel destination, doesn’t have the best reputation for the friendliness of its people. That is not the case in Normandy as you’ll discover most people friendly, talkative and still eager to express gratitude for the American and allied sacrifices on D-Day. Be sure and spend some time at Pointe du Hoc where you’re likely to encounter French school tours visiting as there is serious effort to keep that moment in history alive for successive French generations.
Even today, visiting the quiet beaches and the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, the enormity of that day in 1944 still has an emotional impact. It is overwhelming to walk thru the Normandy American Cemetery with the almost 10,000 head stones standing in row after row, like the fallen soldiers they mark. Walking in the cemetery it is hard to process the number of lives lost in only a couple of days. The land beneath the cemetery is actually considered U.S. soil and the cemetery is maintained and operated by Americans.
Along the coast and especially at Pointe du Hoc you can still see the craters gouged out by the Allied naval gun barrages on June 6th along with those immense concrete German defensive bunkers dotting the landscape. At Pointe du Hoc it is difficult to look down those shear ninety-foot cliffs and believe that 225 American Rangers climbed them in bad weather while under attack by German gunfire from above.
Save some time for lunch at the village of Arromanches which sits in the middle of the invasion beaches or taking a drive through the beautiful French Normandy countryside. There are farms and villages dotted with yellow canola fields, bordered by oak trees thick with clusters of mistletoe. All-in-all an unforgettable experience.