I was most excited to visit Normandy. I think the history is very interesting and my neighbor landed on Utah Beach during WWII. We started our two day excursion with a stop at Memorial de Caen Museum. The museum started with the history of WWI and then it literally spiraled downstairs into more exhibits about how it led WWII. We had audio guides, so I was learning a lot. I didn’t realize the role of the Roaring Twenties and how it contributed to the economic downfall of Germany. At one point in the exhibit there was a breakdown of the number of casualties by country. China had the greatest number of deaths, which I found very surprising since we never really discussed China’s role in school. I was bummed because I spent too much time on the beginning of the exhibits and didn’t have time to get into depth with the history of D Day and Normandy at the museum. However, the trip was still very impactful.
The next stop was Pointe du Hoc. Pointe du Hoc is a cliff where soldiers launched a daunting amphibious attack on the Germans by scaling the cliff. We walked to the lookout point at the edge of the cliff, which was a very high drop to the ocean. I don’t think I can convey in words how impressive this was. Soldiers trained for this attack by scaling cliffs in England.
That night we stayed in a hostel on Juno Beach where the Canadians landed during D Day attacks. We had the opportunity to wander the town and walk along the water. As we were walking back, there were pictures along the road of troops coming through with Charles de Gaulle. This was a very surreal moment because I was standing in that exact same spot. There were only a few differences from the picture. I could really imagine the walk from the beach into the town.
For day 2 of this excursion, we started off by visiting the Musée de la Tapisserie in Bayeux. It depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England dating back to the 11th century on a 70 meter long tapestry. It was cool because it is older than anything you’d find in the United States, but I personally found it much less interesting than the WWII activities. The town itself was really pretty too!
Next on the agenda was a visit to the American Cemetery on Omaha Beach. We hiked down to the water, and I dipped my hand in. This moment was incredibly moving as well because I could imagine all the soldiers disembarking the boats. I made my way up to the cemetery and that put everything into perspective. The perfectly aligned white crosses represented the thousands of brave people who died for freedom and justice. It’s a lot different seeing a number on paper compared to seeing the memorial. There were a lot of French people there, and you could definitely feel a sense of respect. Some of them placed roses on the graves, and it was a very somber scene.
To finish out the day we toured a cidre, or cider, farm. Normandy is known for their cider and it was quite good.
This trip was very moving and gave me a new perspective of WWII. There are many brave people who fought for me to live in the world as I know it.