Just back from France and the highlight was my four days in Normandy. Yes, I’ve been to Normandy many times before, but this time it was with fellow travelers who hadn’t been there before. To see sites that I’d seen before through these fresh eyes was like seeing Normandy again for the first time. It was magical in every way.
Normandy is so much more than Sherman tanks and hedge rows. While, bien sûr, the history of D-Day is everywhere throughout the region, there’s a wealth of beauty, charm, and serenity permeating every mile one traverses in Normandy!
No one should visit France without visiting Normandy. If you only can spare a day, then take one of our Normandy day tours. However, do allow yourself longer, if possible!
Without writing a journal of my trip, I want to share some important gems that deserve your time. You’ll not be disappointed:
- Caen: What a surprise for me. I had visited here before, but not enjoyed the center of the town and a walking tour revealed so many special spots. It’s truly a step into history and I found a thriving, dynamic city with a wealth of heritage and culture.
- Caen Memorial: This is one of the most visited museums in Europe covering 20th century history. Truly, it’s a museum of peace. It’s a sensory experience to visit here and deserves a full day.
- Arromanches: D-day Museum is situated on Gold Beach where the British troops landed on D-Day.
- Bayeux: This is my personal “home away from home” and my town of choice in France! It is pristine, friendly, historic, picturesque, and a Unesco World Heritage Site. (It also was the first French town liberated by the Brits after being occupied by the Germans!)
- Bayeux Tapestry: Recounting the events of the Norman Conquest “1066 and all that!” It is 224 feet of history! An amazing tapestry of images and pictures telling the story of the events of 1064-1066 and created hundreds of years ago! Really!
- Juno Beach: One of the five sectors important on D-Day. Thank you, Canada for your outstanding work on this beach in June of 1944.
- Pointe du Hoc: Colonel Rudder’s Rangers scaled these impossible cliffs hoping to capture guns in the strategic location between Utah and Omaha Beaches.
- Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery: The resting place of 9,387 American military (most of whom gave their lives in the Battle of Normandy) is situated above Omaha Beach.
- Utah Beach and Utah Beach Landing Museum: This was the most western of the Allied Landing beaches during the Allied Invasion. The museum has been renovated and includes many treasures, including a B26 named the “Dinah Might”, flown by Major David H. Dewhurst, Jr., a true war hero of WWII, having flown 85 war missions over European enemy territory.
- Mont-Ormel Memorial Museum: The verdant hills and medieval castles of today cannot possibly tell the story of the battle for the Falaise Pocket. However, this last battle in the Battle of Normandy included British, American, Canadian, Polish, and French troops and cost many lives. The area is serene and beautiful, but the museum well depicts what horror ensued during the battle.
- Rouen: This city is the capital of Upper Normandy and is the historical capital of the region. Yes, Joan of Arc burned at the stake here, but more than that, this town has the most amazing architecture of half-timbered buildings. The Rouen Cathedral is breath-taking (Monet painted it many times as you’ll see in the Musée d’Orsay!) and its high Gothic style is immense! One feels the history from the Hundred Years War while seeing the damage done during WWII bombing when 45% of the city was destroyed. However, today it is a vibrant city and has a core of charm, beauty, history, art, and architecture.
- The Normandy people: I cannot properly list my gems of Normandy without including the people. It probably should have been named first, but you’ll discover this when you are there. They are a proud people. They are welcoming of us from across the water and have not forgotten (nor will they ever!) what we accomplished in the name of peace in 1944. The people of Normandy are friendly and eager to share their towns, their history, their culture, their food (oh my…don’t get me started on Camembert, Pont-l’Évêque, Livarot, and Neufchâtel, the delectable cheeses of Normandy!), their zest for life, and their friendship. You will leave Normandy with friends. Isn’t that the bonus of travel?
Okay, so you need to spend a month in Normandy! It’s worth every moment. I’m counting the days until my return for the 69th anniversary of D-day…just a short time from now!