My wife and I went to France with friends of ours–three other couples who are also MV collectors and WWII history buffs. We stayed nine days in the Normandy area, where we saw the World War II sites and museums, and then we went on to Giverny and Paris for a few days before coming home to the states.
We stayed at the Hotel de Normandy in Arromanches. Most of us had rooms with the view of Gold Beach through the quaint dormer windows. A nice hotel with a very hospitible staff and great food. We stayed here nine nights and journeyed out to the Normandy sites from here.
On Gold Beach you can still see much of the Mulberry still in place.
Gary standing beside a half-track outside the Musee du Debarquement in Arromanches. One of the many World War II museums we would see in the coming week.
Longues-sur-Mer and Port-en-Bessin
“Where blood is shed, a poppy grows…” We saw a lot of poppies along the wheat fields of France.
Batterie de Longues Sur Mer Four German gun casemates and a range-finding post overlooking the D-day beaches.
I was observing the damage to the gun from a charge that was placed inside the barrel and on the emplacement.
Some of us inside a German range-finding post at the Batterie de Longues Sur Mer.
Pam & Mike, Gary, myself and Don.
These photos were taken at a Museum of D-Day Wrecks. These don’t look too bad at a distance, but up close, the salt water really ate them up. When these went down, they were new. The tracks and other parts have virtually no wear on them at all.
Port-en-Bessin. If you have watched the movie “The Longest Day”, you will recognize this shot. The road on the left and the round tower are where the nuns walked down to help the soldiers in the hotel. This scene was shot here and they built the casino for the movie. Nothing of the casino is left now. Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach at low-tide.
American Military Cemetery …
9,387 white marble crosses … something every American should be required to see. It really takes your breath away. Of all these crosses, most are men and boys from 18-24.
Overlooking Omaha Beach.
Looking towards Pointe du Hoc.
near Omaha Beach
A long Tom howitzer. They black-topped right around it. This musee is up the main draw out of Omaha Beach.
How would you like to have been stationed inside this gun post and taken all these hits? This fortificaiton was taken off the beach head.
Phillipe has one of the nicer museums around. Very nice artifacts and displays. Don’t forget to ask about the stuff he may have for sale!
TREASURES!!!!! Phillipe brought out the goodies for us to look through. He has been collecting since he was 11 years old. I can tell you he has some collection!!
Don’t forget to bring your Euro’s for the goodies! We had great fun looking at the items he brought especially for us a few days after we first met him. He was very gracious.
Midwest Military mobile packing service at work. Packaging our finds to ship them home. You think shipping is expensive here, try sending the parts thru the French Postal Service back home!! Pointe du Hoc
Yes, those are still bomb craters. All of the bunkers , Tobruk’s and gun emplacements were connected by trenches or tunnels.
That was a gun emplacement before it got bombed. The concrete is 3-5 feet thick. You can only imagine the explosion that moved all that concrete around like that.
Several of us were discussing the mass of concrete and the devestation that took place.
Pam & Mike poking out of a Tobruk.
Normandie Tours 40/45 We met these guys in the parking lot before we went to Pointe du Hoc above. They offer tours to visit the historical D-Day sites in one of their restored army vehicles. You can book for an hour, a half-day or a full day tour. They also offer 7-day tours where they set up camp in Army tents. How cool is that? John could not pry himself away from talking trucks and parts.
Discussion over the correctness of this, that and the other thing. Very NICE guys. If you are going over there, look them up. Check them out at www.normandie-tours.com
They still have an effigy of John Steele, the US paratrooper who famously dangled from the church spire during the fighting on June 6, 1944.
A picture of the stained glass window now in place in the church to honor the US paratroopers.
We ate lunch at this restaurant. You can still see battle damage on the metal fence in front. (And pretty good pizza).
The following photos are inside the Airborn Museum in St. Mere Eglise.
We arrived too late for admission to The Musee du Debarquement in Ste. Marie du Mont. But we were able to get a beer across the street at a bar which served beer to the soldiers during World War II. The bar is worth seeing. Many D-Day veterans have returned here and signed the table tops. Tons of autographs and memorabilia.
Near Saint Come du Mont is the Dead Man’s Corner Museum. Mike is explaining to the group how this famous corner got its name. Here again, during the movie The Longest Day, this building, and it is still the original, was used in the film. It stood empty for a long time prior to being reopened as a musee. This was one of the nicest ones we visited.
The displays inside have actual stories from the men who donated the artifacts. Very interesting reading. Here’s part of a display on “C” Company which was depicted in the Band of Brothers HBO series. Here’s a link to their website: www.paratrooper-museum.org Bayeux
La Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux – one of the many beautiful cathedrals we toured in France.
The 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. Over 200 feet long, it was embroidered by nuns and tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England. (The “original” Normandy invasion)
Bayeux is the home of the British military cemetary containing the graves of 4144 Commonwealth soldiers who died during WWII. 338 are unidentified and 505 are of other nationalities, mostly German.
The following photos were all taken at the Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie located in Bayeux.
Discussing the finer points of Sherman tanks. Gary and Mike debate the issues.
A rare British Churchill tank.
This GMC was set up as a mobil command center and communications shelter.
The only Bren Gun Carrier I saw the whole time I was there.
Juno & Sword beaches and other places east of Arromanches.
Heading east of Arromanches we stopped at Juno Beach. Mike and Don standing by a Tobruk on the Beach. The building in the background is the only Canadian museum of the D-Day beaches. We had a lot we wanted to see that day so we didn’t take the time to tour this museum.
Another bunker. The damage above the window port was a direct hit. The gun is still in this bunker.
A little farther east … looking out of a bunker at Sword Beach.
Between Benouville and Ranville is the Pegasus Memorial. It is dedicated to the men of the 6th British Airborne Division who were the first liberators to arrive in Normandy on the night of the 5th/6th of June. In the museum are the stories of that night, the most famous being the capture of the Benouville Bridge. The original bridge, renamed the Pegasus Bridge, is now displayed in the museum park.
A display in the Pegasus Memorial museum.
While driving some back roads in France we went over this Bailey Bridge still being used today. During the war, bridges were destroyed to keep the Germans from getting to the beaches during the invasion. The Brits engineered this portable bridge and brought the pieces with them to assemble quickly so the allies could use the roads again later.
A rainy day in Honfleur. Home of pioneer Impressionist Eugene Boudin. Renoir, Pissaro and Cezanne also came here to paint.
Mont Saint Michel, Rouen & Giverny
Mont Saint Michel Abbey. The history of this place goes back to 708 and is fascinating, not to mention the architecture. A “must see” when in Normandy.
Walking the narrow streets of the village built around the Abbey.
This shot is of the same section of street as the previous photo; taken higher up as we climb this village built on a rock and make our way up to the Abbey.
When we left Arromanches to head for Paris, we stayed one night in Rouen. Our hotel was directly across the street from this famous Rouen Cathedral in the very old part of town.
The old part of the city of Rouen is filled with this old architecture in the Norman style. Look closely and you will see the “Golden Arches” on the red flag. Yes, this is a McDonalds.
While walking around Rouen we saw many more churches. This one was a bit shell shocked.
A beautiful stop on the way to Paris — Giverny. One brief glimpse of this town and you immediately see why Monet and other painters lived and worked here.
Monet’s home and gardens.
Monet’s home and gardens.
Gary and I could only take so many flowers, so we went on a walk. We found this CCKW in a field near a farm. A knuckle boom crane has been added to harvest wood. Fantastic trucks from the war still being used 60 plus years later. A true testament to the engineering and manufacturing during that time.
Many outdoor cafes to choose from.
Sites from the boat ride on the Seine.
While the women went to the Orsay to view the Impressionist paintings, we went to the War Museum. Unfortunately, the World War II section of the museum was closed for remodeling.
So, the next best thing … toasting with friends.
An unusual siting of an Amphicar.
Kathy & I waving from the top of Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre.
All eight of us enjoying our last dinner in Paris. Good friends, good food & good times in France. When are we going back?