Saturday, August 27, 2011

{Flashback}: Day 9 & 10

We changed gears a little bit today and headed west to the Normandy beaches where we are going to be for the next couple of days. Only about 3-4 hours away. We rented a big black Mercedes van which was so roomy and fun for all of us, especially the girls. Remember those portable DVD players we got for our last trip? Yes, those are the best purchases we have ever made. Note to self: Buy a car with built in TVs when back in the states. Tim already said that was a done deal. :)

We arrived to Bayeux in the afternoon which is a small obscure little town in Normandy. But I just love little obscure dainty towns. So charming and relaxing. There were no French people here speaking English like in Paris so we had to pull out our very, very little French. Basically, "bonjour" and "merci" is all I said. Tim did the best out of all of us. He really wants to learn French, since he can easily read it, so it was fun for him to practice.

The only thing to really see in Bayeux is the Bayeux Cathedral.  I was so done with looking in cathedrals so I just hung out outside until everyone was done exploring. I didn't mind a bit because like I said, I love little towns and there is nothing like just sitting in a small town in France!

After wandering this small town a bit, which wasn't much other than cute shops, cute restaurants, and many cute boulangeries and patisseries, we got back in the car and took a small drive to Omaha beach. Tim's grandfather served in the U.S. Military in the infantry during WWII. He arrived to Omaha beach a few days after D-Day. This was one of the main reasons for traveling out of Paris to see Normandy.

It was really hard to transport my mind to what happened on June 6, 1944 on this calm beach. I can't imagine.

We woke up the next morning to do some more D-Day sight-seeing. We headed straight for the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial first. This was a very neat experience for me and I know for Tim and his parents. It was absolutely fascinating to learn what happened on D-Day and all the preparations before hand and all that transpired after D-Day. I mean, honestly, Europe was ultimately liberated because of D-Day.
There was so much to read, a couple of heart breaking videos to watch, and real life items to see.

The building was quiet inside and reverent which really added to the significance of the event and to those who sacrificed so much. One thing that really struck a cord with me was this all white hallway with dim lights and over the intercom a recording of a woman's voice named all the men who fought and died. A name was read, then a pause, another name read, pause, name, pause, name, pause... I got teary-eyed listening.

Here are a few facts that hit home to me:

"In June 1944, the Atlantic Coast of France was one of the most heavily fortified places on Earth.
The Atlantic Wall included over 500,000 beach obstacles, 6.5 million mines, and 13,000 fortified coastal strongpoints, many reinforced with 6-foot thick concrete walls. Almost 1.8 million enemy troops were stationed in Western Europe along with 3,300 artillery pieces and 1300 tanks."

"On Omaha Beach, critical supplies of ammunition and rations run dangerously low. The Germans destroy many shipments before they arrive, and only 100 tons out of 2,400 scheduled for the beach arrive that day."

"After 4 years of German occupation, the people of France had the most to gain from an Allied invasion- and the most to lose. More than 18,000 French civilians were killed during the fighting in Normandy. But despite the terrible risks, French citizens rose to welcome their liberators."

As if all this information wasn't enough, the most fascinating was the actual cemetery. We walked through beautiful well kept grounds from the main building to where all the American soldiers were buried. Families of those soldiers could have had their loved ones buried back in the U.S. but most chose to have them buried here.

The scene is breathtaking.

Row, after perfectly straight row, stood white crosses of where young brave American soldiers were buried. Most crosses had names on them, but some didn't, like the picture below.

This was a very peaceful, calm, reverent place. I felt so much sadness yet so much pride and gratitude. America is such a beautiful country on so many levels.
At one point while walking around, a trumpet sounded and the Star-Spangled Banner played. I couldn't hold back the tears anymore and they came flowing down at this point.

Living abroad sure makes you more patriotic than ever. I'm so glad for these experiences because I have become more grateful for what I have. Minus the material things that is. So proud to be an American and the freedoms I get to enjoy.

As we started to walk away to our next destination all the adults were walking and talking when we noticed that the girls weren't with us. We look behind us to see this...

No, that is not a wounded soldier, that is our little Natalie. She apparently decided to just lay down as we were walking and have absolute no care in the world? Marisa was off in the distance too climbing the wall.

We headed to see the British cemetery after this which I didn't take pictures of because quite frankly *cough, cough* the American Memorial is way better. But it was interesting to see the British side of things. And Grandma did manage to capture a picture.

We then ate lunch on Omaha beach which was really fun and then headed back to Bayeux for some more little town luxuries. Luxuries like, cute little sceneries like these...

There was another luxury we enjoyed I believe 3 different times at this one same location, but I will share them with you in the next post...

1 comment:

Kari said...

Normandy sounds amazing. You did a great job explaining the day. It sounds touching. I would love to visit there. Grandpa Hart would be proud.


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