Friday, November 30, 2007

Normandy, France - Retracing History

On June 6, 1944 (D-Day) my father landed on Omaha Beach near Normandy, France. He rarely spoke about that day other than to say that he was in a tank which was sunk when they tried to land, he was rescued, and later redeployed. He and his wife went back to Normandy for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day.

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit the area during our 12 Night British Isles / Norwegian Fjords Cruise on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas in June, 2004. That year marked the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. The ship docked in LeHavre, France. Two of the popular destinations that can be reached from that port are Paris and Normandy. Since we had visited Paris before, we decided to retrace history in Normandy and the surrounding countryside.

Another couple joined us on our private tour. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and actually had taken part in the event planning for the 60th Anniversary. Our guide picked us up at the ship and we began our day-long adventure. This trip brought to life what had up until this point only been passages in a history book.

Our first stop was the British Cemetery (Bayeux War Cemetary). This is a well-kept cemetery with grave markers all lined up in rows. There is a main monument near the entrance which was lined with flowers (most likely left over from the recent anniversary ceremonies). Across from the cemetery was a farm where cows were grazing. If you weren't familiar with the area, you might have driven past the entrance without even noticing.

We also stopped at the Normandy American Cemetary and Memorial. This cemetery is also well-kept. Once again, all the grave markers are in rows, but this time, they seem to go on forever. When you step onto the grounds you are no longer in France, but rather you are on American soil. All the soldiers resting there have a view of America. We spent some time walking around the grounds, visiting some of the more famous graves. It started to rain while we were there which seemed quite fitting. It was as if the heavens were crying.

The final cemetery was the German Cemetery (La Cambe War Cemetary). Unlike the previous two cemeteries, this one has had periods of time where it was not well-kept. We learned that private funding had recently been obtained to do some improvements. There is a central monument that stands on a hill in the cemetary. Looking around the grounds, you'll see groups of small crosses (as you can see in the picture above). This cemetary seemed to be very dark and gloomy, despite the flowers and other decorations.

These are just a few of the locations we visited that day. I'm including links to photo albums for the cemeteries. In my next post, I'll continue with some of the other locations we visited. The albums and other links can also be found on Our Cruise Vacations website - Fjords trip.

Normandy Cemetery Photo Albums (on Shutterfly):

Normandy - British Cemetary

Normandy - American Cemetary Normandy - German Cemetary

I highly recommend a cruise that visits the British Isles and includes LeHavre and Normandy in particular. If possible, take the whole family so that history can come alive.

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