Bayeux/Normandy: 24-27 Oct 2017

Updated: Feb 2, 2019

1. Lodgings: Castel Bayeux Guesthouse. Good price for historic accommodations: €90/night - total cost excluding €1city tax per person per night (You need to be careful when comparing lodgings on booking.com as each property can decide themselves which taxes/fees are included in the advertised price; caveat emptor and read the fine print). Our second floor room had a queen bed with a spacious albeit oddly shaped bathroom. The included breakfast was sumptuous. Ask your host (this place is so authentic that a little parlez-vous français would be quite helpful - though English combined with perseverance and courtesy will be more than enough) when most of the lodgers will be breakfasting as breaking bread ("rompre le pain") and sharing stories/ideas with fellow travelers is a benefit of this location.

2. Dinner:

-La Rapiere: Quite probably the best restaurant in Bayeux. A dinner reservation is a must during tourist season. Very romantic, if you are going to splurge, this is the place.

-La Masion Blanche: The author became quite ill the last day in Bayeux and had to extend one day. His wife set out to find him a healing take out dinner and after a number of false starts wound up at this place. The owner prepared some restorative soup and personally delivered it to the author's bedside.

-La Fringale: Solid, down to earth with good food and reasonable prices. A red checkered table cloth kind of place.

3. Bayeux: Too be honest I did not spend much time in this historic city and did not visit the Bayeux Tapestry (please don't hate me tapestry/Norman Invasion groupies). This could be a location where he goes one way (Normandy) and she goes the other (Bayeux). I'm sorry did that that sound sexist?

4. D-Day:

-Overlord Museum: Start your D-Day tour here. The second best D-Day Museum after the Caen Memorial Museum. It starts out with a bang, but then kind of petered out. Still well worth a visit. Free admission for Veterans.

-Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial: The final resting place for more than 9,000 servicemen who died in Europe during WWII (and one from WWI). Truly hallowed ground. The free 45-minute English-language tours of the cemetery (focusing on personal stories, depart daily at 2pm and, from mid-April to mid-September, at 11am), is highly recommended.

5. Omaha Beach: D-day at Omaha Beach was a battle for the draws. After visiting the cemetery, I spent the rest of the day inspecting three of the four draws (proceeding east to west):

+St Laurent (Easy Red - Easy 1 Draw): Enter "La Sapiniere" (the fir tree) in google maps and park nearby the restaurant. Look down the beach to your right (as you face the channel): this is where the US 16th Infantry Regiment forced their way ashore and over the bluffs to your right and Colonel George Taylor famously said "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die – now let's get the hell out of here!". Inspect the German bunker a little ways up the hill (it's a piece of history) and then review this photo. The restaurant is a good place for a break, a beer and a bite. Continue on along the coast road until . . .

+Les Moulines (Easy Green - Easy 1 Draw): While driving the coast road, prior to reaching Les Moulines, look out to your left. This is where the 3rd battalion 116th RCT forced its way across the flats and up the bluff. Continue on to Les Moulines to review the two monuments: Les Braves and the Omaha Beach D Day Monument. Continue on to . . .

+Vierville (Dog Green - Dog 1 Draw): Some the heaviest and bloodiest fighting took place here. Inspect all the bunkers in detail. Note the machine gun bunker located at the very Western edge on the beach (a perfect spot to enfilade the entire draw). This was the inspiration for the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and the Robert Mitchum scene in the Longest Day. Then continue on to . . .

-Note: at each beach, walk down to the waterline and turn to face inland (take it all in and pretend it is the morning of 06 June 1944). Compare the landscape in front you at Omaha with that at Utah and you may better understand why Omaha Beach was such a blood-bath.

6. Point du Hoc: A must see, as it is the most famous D-Day location. US Rangers had to scale the sheer cliffs, only to find that the Germans had previously moved their artillery elsewhere. Ronald Reagan spoke here on the 40th anniversary. After dinner and good night's rest (see above) continue on to . . .

7. Longues-sur-Mer: The Wermacht built some pretty impressive gun emplacements and bunkers (no amount of concrete was sparred) and this is a good a place as any to inspect them. Next stop . . .

8. Musee du Debarquement Utah Beach: Solid, but not spectacular museum. The first wave of the 4th Division landed South of the planned landing area (pushed by strong currents). There was some concern where subsequent waves would land, but General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. decided to immediately move inland and "start the war from right here", he then ordered further landings to be re-routed accordingly.

9. Sainte-Mère-Église: The site of intense fighting between elements of the 505th PIR (82nd Airborne) and German defenders. Note the parachute hanging from the church spire, which immortalizes when in the early morning of 06 June Private John Steele's parachute became caught on the church spire (which was further immortalized in the Longest Day).

Misc:

-Required Reading:

+The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan: The D-Day bible

+Citizen Soldiers by Steven E. Ambrose

-Required Watching:

+The Longest Day. Excellent movie that is a great overview of the invasion, while telling some personal stories. BTW: There is a great scene of British Commandos and Free French capturing the harbor at Ouistreham, that is pre CGI masterpiece.

-A little French goes a long way in France. If you begin every encounter with a bonjour, s'il vous plaît or pardon, and end it with merci and au revoir, your stay in France will be immeasurably improved. I'm not kidding about this.


The author inspecting the bunkers at Point du Hoc

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