How we spent 2 days exploring the coast of Normandy visiting many monuments, beaches, and museums related to D-Day.
Everyone should have a bucket list- this is a list of places that you want to see or achievements you want to have in your lifetime. For me, my bucket list is full of places to travel!
One place on my bucket list was Normandy and visiting the beaches of the D-Day invasion- Omaha and Utah Beaches. I also love museums and monuments so we were looking for as many as we could find in 2 days of travel.
Normandy is on the west coast of France and it took us about 7 hours to drive from our home in Germany so much of our trip was spent on the road. Which might seem like a long time in the car but we were traveling through France and the countryside is gorgeous!
Living abroad has some advantages including travel, especially if you are a history buff. While living in Germany we had so much history within a 4- hour drive or a couple hour plane ride that it was amazing.
Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial
Our first stop was the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial which is located along the Omaha beach coastline.
It was a cool and windy day in February, and there were only a few other visitors when we got there. Walking around the cemetery it is was humbling to see the many, many white tombstones.
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the battle of Normandy. Many of these brothers and even multiple sets of twins. Many of these brothers and even multiple sets of twins.
There are many Monuments throughout the Cemetery and walking paths that are bordered by beautiful bushes. The Monuments are full of history and troop movements and quite fascinating to look through.
The reflecting pool is soothing and we took a moment to sit and reflect on our lives, giving thanks for all that we have because of the sacrifice of others.
Right outside the Museum itself, they have an infinity pool that I found quite entrancing.
Inside the Museum are lots of artifacts and historical fact displays. They have a video of interviews with service members that were there that are very interesting. The Museum staff were pleasant and helpful as we walked through. Within the Museum is the feeling that you are in a Church, that reverent feeling of respect for those who fought and sacrificed their lives in the D-Day battle.
Walking out to Omaha beach from the Museum we found numerous bunkers that are still there and walked through some of them. Standing on the hillside I couldn’t imagine the scene from that day, having watched some History channel shows I tried to envision how the Germans saw the invasion.
Omaha Beach spanned 10 miles of the beach and was broken up into 7 sectors with Utah beach on the West side and Gold Beach on the East.
Many things went wrong on this beach including the bombers who were supposed to bomb the area prior to the landing, their bombs fell too far inland and had no effect on the German defenses that were lining the beach.
In 2015 I visited Washington DC and in the Air & Space Museum a movie on D-Day was playing, you can bet having visited the battle ground that I went and saw it. Here is the trailer:
If you want to see where it is playing here is the link: https://www.si.edu/imax/movie/d-day-normandy-1944-3d
The incoming troops faced mines and booby-trapped obstacles on the beach which were lined with barbed wire as well. If they made it across the beach they were faced with a grassy plain with no cover and more mines. Be sure to watch the trailer at the end of the post to see what that beach was like in 1962!
I wish I had done some reading prior to our trip, we walked all over that beach area and grassy areas around the bunkers with no thought to mines!
There is a beautiful spiral monument for the 1st Infantry Division on the Omaha beach. This division was placed in the wrong spot on the beach and drew heavy fire from the Germans and suffered massive casualties.
Though we didn’t have a tour guide we put Utah Beach in the GPS and it routed us down the coast line to Utah Beach. There are actually 5 beaches that were involved in the D-Day Invasion: Sword (British), Juno(Canadian), Gold(British), Omaha (Americans), and Utah (Americans).
At each monument, I took a moment to read it and pay my respects to those service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
We found Utah Beach and found paths that had signs honoring service members. There is also a nice memorial for the Navy, Merchant Marines and Seabee’s there as well.
Museum of the Battle of Normandy
In Bayeux is the Museum of the Battle of Normandy. This museum was different from the first one and had lots of tanks and trucks and larger displays like a U-boat and large artillery and guns. I would highly recommend this museum as a must see!
Searching in the GPS we found another Cathedral in the area. Bayeux Cathedral is on the route of Omaha Beach and located in the town of Bayeux in Normandy France.
This Cathedral did not disappoint with its gothic looks and austere interior. Beautiful stain glass windows are abundant. It always amazes me that they built these massive structures without equipment!
Sainte-Mere-Eglise and the Parachute Memorial
Our next stop we actually stumbled upon, our GPS took us to a parking lot and we were sitting there trying to figure out why when I looked up at the church and said, “what is that white thing hanging from the steeple?”
Yes, our next stop was Sainte-Mere-Eglise and the Parachute Memorial of the paratrooper John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR). As he was landing in the area on D-Day his parachute got caught on the spire of the town church and he could only hang there and watch the fighting go on below him for two hours as he pretended to be dead. He was taken prisoner by the Germans but was able to escape and rejoined his division. He is portrayed in the movie, The Longest Day by Red Buttons. This is available on Netflix.
Here is the trailor for the movie The Longest Day, if you want to see what the beach looked like in 1962, check out this trailor!
This was a full 2 days of beaches, memorials, and monuments. I am very glad we took the time to visit this area as it was a huge part of our WWII history. We also visited Le Mont Saint Michel but I am saving that for another post!
Cheers, happy traveling!