Originally published 27 March 2012
Our ancestors fought on different sides. Together in a Bunker.
Normandy is such a wonderful place. It's beautiful here....sort of like the outer banks of NC were 40 years ago. Still remote, but with enough history to make it interesting to be there.
We met a German guy while bunker hopping.....he and Laurie discussed issues of the war from different perspectives. His daughter is married to a football coach at the University of Iowa. He had been to Iowa, and we asked him what he thought of it. He said...."It's flat".
Real bunker, used in the movie "The Longest Day"
We continued our trip from there to St. Mere Eglise on the Cotentin peninsula. St. Mere Eglise is where the paratrooper landed on the church steeple. They have a dummy hanging from the spot he was in now.....and some of the most awesome stained glass windows I've ever seen. The stained glass windows are famous world wide.....and have paratroopers in them.
The famous church at St. Mere Eglise
Amazing paratrooper church window
Window with unit insignia of everyone who fought
One thing is for sure in this town....on the whole peninsula for that matter. The US soldiers who served here have NOT been forgotten. In Germany, mentions of the war were few and far between. Not so here.....it is not only mentioned everywhere...it's shouted from the rooftops. Stained glass windows are only part of it. Anywhere a soldier fell around here, there is a white marker by the road, naming the road in his honor. I have no idea how many of these there are, but they are everywhere.
Road marker commemorating the fallen
Another thing I noticed......any time you see a French flag that is not on an official French Govt. building, there is an American flag beside it. Usually, in a country that the flag is not native to, they will have the home country flag a little higher than the other flags. Not here. The American flag flies at the same height as the French flag.
The U.S. flag at par with the French flag
Also, you'll see little things, like a plaque with a 101st screaming eagles insignia on it, on the gate to a private home. These people, their children, their grandchildren, and all others to come along, are taught about the valiant soldiers and how they came and liberated France. Over 65 years later, these people act like it just happened yesterday....and they are not going to forget....this much is made quite clear.
101st Airborne medalion
The Airborne Museum in St. Mere Eglise was my objective...and we went through. It was exceptional. It is, in my opinion, the best D day museum. I've heard others say this, and this is why I wanted to go to it. They were right. The buildings are shaped like parachutes!
My wife is the bomb!
We headed to Utah beach from there. It's much more "raw" than Omaha. It was an easier beach to take due to the geography....it's very similar to the NC shore, with a dune line and flat land. Since it is not as popular, and it's also the furthest one out, things are pretty much how they left them back in the 40's. The bunkers are shot up, one still has German lettering painted on the wall warning that the cannon is loaded, it's more interesting in my opinion.
Shell impact on a Utah Beach bunker
There are no guided tours, and you poke around in the bunkers on your own. They were bombed and shelled, and being on that nice flat beach made them a very easy target. So they got blasted! You can see one of the shell craters in one of the pics.
We poked around, had a nice dinner in Caerentan, and came back to our B and B. This morning, we checked out, bid "le petite chat" (the little cat) and our wonderful hostess farewell. It was a wonderful place to stay.........the nicest of our entire trip. We then headed down the British and Canadian Beaches. We toured the Juno Beach Center, which chronicled Canada's part in the war, then did Pegasus bridge. All were very worth the visit.
Laurie on Pegasus Bridge
I am wicked tired......this was our last day in France. Tomorrow mid day we get on a plane heading home. I can't believe our trip is over. The time just flew by.......it seems we've only been in Europe a few days.
I'll make another post or two with my thoughts and comparisons of europe and the US. Observations and such......it may be kinda interesting! I want to say how great it has been sharing this adventure with my wife. She is the best travel companion in the world. I simply loved being with her on this adventure. It was wonderful and I don't want it to end!
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.