Sunny Normandy

May 26, 2012

In continuation of long weekends in May, we decided to take upon a little trip to the closest coast from us- Normandy, the place infamous for its weather. But never say never; we ended up with a weekend full of sunshine and very warm temperatures- almost hard to believe for May.

We started off by driving to Étretat, a small town north of Le Havre. It’s known for its drastic cliffs and scenic coastline, and especially summer time it’s filled with tourists. The town itself is very modest, mostly residential, but has lively little seaside with a promenade, restaurants, boutique hotels and shops. We had a little lunch at the beach, but struggled to hold on to our food trying not to get ‘attacked’ by the seagulls that were literally everywhere. At one point couple of them kept circulating intensively above us and all of the sudden one of them made its dive towards us, snatched the sandwich from our hands and flew away. They’re ruthless. After the lunch we climbed to the cliffs on each side of the town to get the views, and it was just fantastic.

We had booked a night in Honfleur, a charming little sea port town characterized by its beautiful houses that have so much history to them. We arrived in the late afternoon, and had plenty of time to get around the narrow alleys of the old town. Not so surprisingly one could find good deals on calvados, ciders and other apple-related products, as the region is big on these. We found the cutest tiny bar a cidre (cider bar) to do some tasting, and looked for a local cuisine for the night. The town has incredibly lot to offer when it comes to restaurants, even high-end ones. We actually had trouble choosing just one. Little mentioning here that once we walked back to our hotel for little wash-up, we bumped into a thermometer showing 30 degrees celsius (86F) at 7.30pm- so much for the cold and rainy Normandy

Later in the evening we got out for the dinner and the place we had chosen turned out to be very nice; not only it had a great dim setting and cool deco, but the food was really tasty too (we had mainly sea food).

The next morning our plan was to get through all the Normandy Landing Beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah (it’s a stretch of about 100km roughly speaking). We started pretty early in the morning so that we’d have more time for the last two beaches, especially at Omaha and the American Cemetery and Memorial. In the morning we made a small stop in Deauville- a luxurious seaside commune with well established international film festivals, Grand Casino by the beach, upscale boutiques and villas. In fact it’s sometimes described as the Parisian Riviera and counts to one of the most renowned beaches not only in Normandy but in whole France. Once there, it’s not a difficult to see why. A few hours stroll around the beach front and the town center is enough to become envious, considering everyone you see is obviously pretty loaded.

As we continued driving the coast, we made tiny stops every now and then and tried to follow all the signs for the landing beaches. The first three we got through rather quickly (there would be a lot to see and read along these all if you have the time), only stopping for a short while. We pulled over on the cliffs of Gold beach, just before a small town of Arromanches-les-Bains. This place was critical in WW II as it served the troops as their offloading harbour (also called Mulberry harbour), and over the harbour and the sea, one can still see the concrete blocks built and used during the D-Day.

When we finally got to the Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery, it was already quite late, but luckily we still had couple of hours to get around. I won’t even go into details of history that this place represents, but let’s just say the place is magnificent and a real must-see for anyone interested in history and particularly war history. The cemetery itself is very touching and it makes you to realize the magnitude and gravity of what went down there. It definitely makes you very humble and appreciative towards the war heroes and anyone who fought in wars, in general. We also got down to the beach where the troops made their landing on the D-Day- the most devastating and catastrophic landing of them all. The staff on the American Cemetery and Memorial were very informative and explained with maps the D-Day events and why things went so wrong at Omaha Beach. You get a different grasp on things when you actually stand there and picture it all happening.

Unfortunately we ran out of time to continue to any other points that day and we had a room booked in Caen. It’s a little bigger town that got almost completely destroyed in bombings; hence a lot of it is rebuilt. We did find a nice little old quarter with bunch of restaurants to enjoy a good meal after a long day of history lessons…

The next day we were on the wheels again to continue where we got left off- Pointe du Hoc. It was a strategic point located on steep cliffs between Omaha and Utah beaches. The rangers here had to climb the cliffs to attack the German troops and take over the fortifications. Nowadays it’s an outdoor museum area where you can walk around and see the remaining of the fortifications and some cannons. 

We then continued further to Utah beach, which is the last and westernmost landing beach and had the least casualties of all these places. We ended our exploring here, since we still had to drive back to Paris and avoid the horrific return traffic. 

All in all we were so lucky having sunny blue skies all weekend long, which definitely made the whole trip so much more colourful and pleasant. Not only all these historical places, but also all the little dulcet villages with all their beautiful houses, polished my memory I had from Normandy. So, if you’re lucky with the weather (which, let’s face it, is a big part of the deal here) you just might end up having a great time over at the English Channel

Back home we were inspired to watch the mini series Band of Brothers- recommendable!

©Copyright 2013 Old Voyages of Discovery