Normandy, WWII sites
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Jun 8, 2012 12:45 AM Last Post By: Liberat
May 5, 2012 11:03 AM
Normandy, WWII sitesI am planning to drive from Western Spain to the Netherlands and contrary to my usual way of doing this, I plan to stop off in Normandy to pay a visit to the WWII-sites. I've read Antony Beever's book about D-day as well as many other books about the invasion and think I know the relevant facts.
My plan is to drive in two days to Normandy and find a hotel somewhere in the middle, Bayeux or closer to the beaches. I plan to visit the western-most beaches, in particular Utah-beach, possibly have a look at the remains of the harbor in Arromanches, and visit some of the museums in that area such as the one in Sainte Mère d'Eglise, on my first day. Then return to my hotel and do the eastern part on the second day and at the end of the day drive in the direction of Rouen. One of the museums I plan to visit on my second day is the one in Caen. In this forum it is often mentioned as extremely good.
My question is if someone has a specific place, museum or whatever, they think I should visit. Although I selected some hotels form the Logis-de-France website, I would appreciate someone's suggestion for a hotel for the two nights in Normandy.
I plan to visit Mont Saint Michel on another trip.
May 6, 2012 12:18 AM
1If you had to choose only one museum, the one in Caen will cover it whole...The museum in Arromanches is good too. If you get a bit high over the beach (from nearby headland), at low tide you can see all the "Mulberry Harbour" concrete elements scattered around the bay.
And do not miss the cemeteries, quite surreal and very moving.
Going through towns like Saint-Lô helps understanding what happened inland to civilians around D-Day.
Another interesting WWII site / museum, on your way to the Netherlands, is the Coupole , just south of St-Omer.
May 7, 2012 3:16 AM
2Micolett, thanks for this information. I'll see if I can fit a visit to La Coupole in my plans. From the information on the website I got the idea, that once there I'll be unable to leave until I have seen almost everything there is and that is a lot!
In which way visiting a town like Saint-Lô will make me understand the hardships of the civilian during the invasion? Is there a museum or can I get an idea in another way?
Edited by: Liberat
May 7, 2012 6:02 AM
May 7, 2012 6:17 AM
May 7, 2012 8:15 AM
5As regards hotels, I would recommend La Sapinière in St Laurent sur Mer (Omaha Beach) - I stayed there two years ago. It is not the most budget-friendly option (rooms start at €80, excluding breakfast), but the rooms are very spacious and uncluttered and clean, while the restaurant is very cosy and laid-back, there's a lawn and deckchairs...
If you had more time, you could walk along the beach from there to the US cemetery just a few kilometres further west (which also has a very comprehensive museum-like exhibition) and see the remains of some bunkers along the way.
On day one, you could stop over at the Pointe du Hoc.
If you happen to be in Arromanches around time for lunch or dinner, I would recommend the Hotel de la Marine's restaurant.
Unrelated to WWII, but try to see the amazing Bayeux tapestry, if possible late in the afternoon when the tour groups are gone.
At the same time, I think the places which you plan to see so far will easily fill these two days - driving the country roads can be slow, and you will want to eat or have a coffee and maybe just sit and watch the sea and think.
May 7, 2012 10:12 AM
6Riesling, thanks very much for this information. I think you rightly pointed out, that going there for a person like me, who has read a lot about the second world war and experienced it himself, may require to just sit and think.
I actually had planned to have a look at the famous Bayeux-tapestry. Maybe I should take three days in stead of just two for this trip.
May 8, 2012 5:28 PM
7I actually had planned to have a look at the famous Bayeux-tapestry. Maybe I should take three days in stead of just two for this trip.
Yes, try and make time for it if you can, it's a remarkable exhibition...in fact, Bayeux is a very pretty (and unbombed) town with a wonderful cathedral and outstandingly well-maintained WW2 Commonwealth Cemetery...and it's also a great base to visit the beaches, Caen, etc...
If you are going to the museum in Caen, try and give yourself as much time as possible as it's a very extensive collection...plus the castle and grave of the William the Conqueror are worth visiting in the city itself...
Jun 7, 2012 10:22 AM
8Being back from my trip, just an impression. The first night I slept near Poitiers and then went on, via Angers and Saint Lo to my hotel in Isigny sur Mer. As Micolett indicated the center of Saint Lo is almost completely new. I saw one old building and thought that also the church was old. However, I thought it much nicer than the buildings in Spain, constructed during the Franco-period. The roofs were in the Normandy-style and everything seemed rather well taken care of.
My hotel in Isigny sur Mer, hotel de France, was very pleasant and I can certainly recommend it. The next day I visited the german and american cemeteries as well as Point du Hoc. While visiting the american cemetery, there was kind of a celebration. The national anthem was played by a carillon, followed by three shots and a last post. All this via a public address-system. Some minutes later the shots and last post were repeated. All this did not appeal to me, it seemed artificial. The lay-out, of course, is marvelous with the sea in the background. The german cementery is more simple and I was almost the only one there. What amazed me was that quite a lot of the buried were only 17 when they died. I knew that the germans used very young soldiers at the end of the war, but was surprised to find that that was already the case at the moment of the invasion.
Point du Hoc is rather special. It turned out that there were no guns anymore, when the raiders attacked. In stead the germans had put up wooden "sticks", simulating the guns and the absence of the guns was not noted by the allied planes. I asked the girl at the information-desk if the transport of the original guns was not noted by the french resistance and reported to the allied forces. She did not know the answer.
The second day I went first to Bayeux and saw the tapestry. Wonderful and very nicely exposed. I also visited the cathedral and then continued to Arromanches and Courseulles sur Mer, both interesting. From Courseulles I went to the canadian cemetery (I am dutch and we were liberated by the canadians!), much smaller than the german and american ones, but also very impressive. What caught my attention, were the many personal texts on the grave-markers. The next stop was the museum in Caen. I think the material is very well exposed and very informative, but for me, who has read a lot about the second worldwar and its origins, it contained not much new information. For people, who do not know a lot about the origins of the war it could be an eye-opener. For me it was the end, because the amount of sights and impressions was enough. I've seen it, know that it was tough to land there and hope that people have learned enough not to let it happen again.
I went on to Rouan for the night and to the Netherlands the next day.
I would like to thank again everybody, who helped me with information.
Jun 7, 2012 5:14 PM
Jun 7, 2012 10:33 PM
Jun 8, 2012 12:45 AM
(3 star Hotel)
From US$226.79 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$138.49 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$101.00 per night