Having just returned from a trip to Normandy I am amazed to realise that this was my first trip there, but after a brilliant visit it won’t be my last. It’s a wonderful location for family holidays, quick and easy to travel to from the UK and so much to do and see. We travelled on Brittany Ferries, by foot and hired a car in Caen, but you can drive over if you prefer. What better time to go than on the 70th anniversary of D-Day? It was hard to visualise the bloody battles that occurred all those years ago now that the landscape and miles of sandy coastline are beautiful and peaceful. There is a wonderful diversity of places to explore from the D-Day sites, to the birth place of William the Conqueror and activities galore. I stayed at a variety of locations, eating regional produce, fresh fish and the local beverages; after all it would be rude not to try the local cider and calvados!
The sheer number of museums, batteries and bunkers could be a bit overwhelming for youngsters, so my suggestion would be to limit to a few, and enjoy the beaches, zoos and fun parks as well, on your well-deserved holiday. Along with the official ceremonies there is a programme of events, celebrations, exhibitions, festivals, shows and entertainment. Many will be paying tribute to the men who fought there in the name of freedom, peace and reconciliation. I have listed some of them below. The History bit: On the night of 5 June 1944, a force of 181 men, led by Major John Howard, arrived in Horsa gliders to capture Caen Canal Bridge, later to be renamed, after the emblem of the troops, “Pegasus Bridge”. They were the first to arrive in Normandy; 6th June Operation Overlord, the liberation of Western Europe, began with an airborne assault landing of British, US and Canadian troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions at 6:30 am codenamed Operation Neptune, also known as D-Day. British, American, and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast known as “The Atlantic Wall”. This was a coastal defence set up by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1945 along the western coast of Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an Allied invasion. Today many of the ruins of the batteries and bunkers exist and along the five beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword there are interactive museums and memorials. (I am no historian so I apology for any mistakes)
Brittany Ferries www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
See here for Memorials and Museums
Written by Penny McCarthy