Tour of Normandy 2014
Thursday 5th – Friday 6th
Filled up with fuel at Asda 6pm. Called in at McDonald’s Widnes, left there at around 7pm and got underway on the motorway. All clear until signs of delays at Wolverhampton so took the toll road. M25 clear but road closures shown on M20 and M2. Took M20 and then were transferred onto A2 final approach onto Dover harbour closed with road works. Just made the boat with minutes to spare 00.15 6th June 2014 (exactly the same time as the first troops were landing at Pegasus bridge France in 1944.) We’re pulled in and checked at customs but still managed to get the boat. Searched and couldn’t open the bonnet. Arriving in Calais we decided to drive right through to Normandy. The roads were lovely and clear and the dawn was breaking as we reached around Abbeville and it was quite light when we crossed the two big bridges at Le Havre.
We happened to find the site of the Pegasus Bridge by accident luckily and stopped to take photos and have a coffee ( 10€ for three coffees expensive!) there were a number of British troops there and the bridge was lifted up to allow a boat to pass whilst we were there. There was a couple of war ships and some jeeps there. Heading towards the coast we passed through Dives-sur-Mer all prettily decorated with parachutes and other DDay decorative things the place was pretty much deserted as it was so early in the morning.
Moving on we headed towards Ouistreham only to be stopped at every road heading in that direction by police. Didn’t know why or what was going on. Have never seen so many police ever! Later found out why. The queen was there and so were prince Philip, William and Kate, Obama, Putin, The Ukrainian president, the French president and in fact many more world leaders. So it makes sense to us now as to why the security was so very strict, but at the time we didn’t know and so we kept on trying to get there. We asked a policewoman and she told us it would be remaining closed in the whole of the area for the rest of the day some should ate the motorway to St.Lo and the follow Cartera (check spelling) go towards Cherbourg and the head off towards Utah beach which we did. Utah beach was spectacular and very emotional. There were war veterans there. Weather was beautiful. We were quite amused to see so many jeeps and other ex-military vehicles driving around everywhere along the roads, often in small convoys, flying flags everyone seemed to be having fun as well as honouring the memory of those who landed here 70 years ago. Leaving Utah beach we drove up towards Cherbourg passing through some pretty fishing. Images on the way. We stopped in Barfleur, positioned right on the pointed headland of France. We came into Cherbourg and the only thing of interest we saw was a statue of Napoleon. We were very tired though. Tried to find a shop to buy something and maybe get something to eat as we had not eaten since the day before. What a job to find anything open or try and get into a carpark. The sfirst shop was awful, too big a complex, the second we couldn’t find our way into and the third was just closing we still had nothing to eat!!! Bought some bread and cheese to have if all else failed, which it did. Drove back to Barfleur tried getting hotel rooms no luck, no chance of anything around here. By after 9pm we were at St.Lo and getting worried when a lay told us to go to Guilardville (check) and the hotel there would have rooms. We did and it was ok a relais stop. Had a coffee and to bed been up for two days solid.
Up and out early after breakfast. Headed to Omaha beach today. But stopped at —– parked at the church car park village was quite and we headed to the beach. It was a very quaint fishing village with lovely atmosphere quite a lot of people heading the same way as us must be something going on. Suddenly there was a long line of vehicles coming along the beachside road, all ex military and everyone was dressed in the clothes of the day not just the men in uniforms but, also women and even some children in 1940’s clothing. The line of vehicles just went on and on and eventually they stopped and were parked up for everyone to take their photos. We had sausage and chips and a nice cold beer. Leaving here we next visited Pointe de Hoc where the American forces scaled the cliffs. There is a museum here and lots of ruins of German bunkers. There were a lot of American troops here and some veterans. Next we came to Omaha Beach again there were jeeps on the beach and one was driving in circles with the American flag flying out behind him. There is a pier here from which you can take photos along the long stretch of beach. We then carried on along the coastal road and through some lovely villages although some roads were still blocked off by police. We visited Argeles sur Mer (check) were we parked up as the traffic was at a standstill and watched a parade of ex military vehicles passing through the fishing village with Scottish pipers and British army and Naval personnel. Climbed up to the small castle and watched the pipers playing from there. Anthony went up to the memorial. On to the next village of Aramanches (check) a lively village which had been hosting a memorial service with lots of war veterans, French aircraft displays and music. Plenty of restaurants here. The 360o museum sits above the village. Left here and headed back to the relais stop of the night before (50 miles away)
Next day back to Aramanches and Gold beach, and the museum just got in here in time as the car park. CLosed after we got in it was full. The film show is brilliant. There is a large statue of Our Lady and a large cross sitting above the cliffs. There is an old section of a pontoon bridge here near the beach as there were three or more used by the British navy in 1944. Carrying on we came to Juno Beach were the Canadians landed nice enough town but not so much here. The memorial is nearly on the beach and is made of steel which shines brightly in the sunshine it was inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle. From here we went to the town’s American war Museum, there were some soldiers posing with guns and taking photos in the small village where the museum is housed. In a nearby field was a British encampment ( here from the 6 th to the 8th June). We walked around looking at the way that the soldiers would have lived and worked in 1944 even the tinned food had the original type of labels. There was a French photographer taking aerial photos with a camera suspended from a kite.
Next on to Ousterham finally got in to the town but what a disappointment it was so busy and just like Blackpool the beach was still closed off from when the heads of state visited here. Clouds were starting to darken and then the rain started to fall. Not having eaten since breakfast we wanted to have a nice meal couldn’t find anything so headed back to langres (check) restaurants still closed and didn’t find prices too good so went back to Aramanches and went into the restaurant we saw people eating in the day before. They stay open right through the day and there are always queues but well worth it the staff were lovely and the food was very good. Had mussels followed by pork cooked in cider with fries and then a dessert this as a menu of the day was 15€ . Could still not find a hotel at a reasonable price ended up looking in Bayeux and at ten o clock got a room in the Station Hotel. Very French!! Old windows brass bedheads one double and a single and the shower was just placed in the room!! Small washbasin and toilet behind a screen. The price included breakfast.
There had been rain and thunderstorms during the night but it was not too bad although the blue skies were having trouble coming through. We had breakfast and headed off towards the British memorial war cemetery were we took photos then the rain started to get heavier. This was were the queen had laid her wreath and there were some from David Cameron, the French prime minister, new Zealand and Australia along with many more. We went next to the tapestry museum. The 70 metre long Beyaux tapestry is housed in a beautiful old building. A plaque outside states that the Prince and Princess of Wales visited here. (Diana and Charles). An autoqueue tells of the story of Edward, Harold and William and the Battle of Hastings. Upstairs there are models and pictures explaining the origins of the tapestry and also a cinema with short film (19 mins) of the events. Coming out of here we went into the cathedral and had a short walk around the centre of the old town centre. At Abbeville we leave the motorway to take a look at this town and it’s cathedral of St. — it is raining gently. There is a large statue of WW1 soldiers on the roundabout. The cathedral is huge but so badly damaged from bombing during the war that a new wooden roof has been built but there is so much more work to be done yet. We walk along the main road and get a coffee in a local tobacco/lotto/cafe. There is not much to see here and the heart of the city has been ripped out along with the destruction of the buildings in 1944.
Leaving here we head for the motorway and make our way back towards Calais. Arriving here at around 6.30pm we filled the car with fuel but could not do any shopping as the shop closed early tonight. We had a meal in the Auchan restaurant and then looked for a hotel. We found one nearby called B&B which was not too bad. Watch a bit of tv and went to bed.
Following a good breakfast at the hotel we did a bit of shopping at the Auvhan shop before going to the port and booking in. We had to pay a supplement of £26 (31€) and were booked on the 15.25 crossing (My Ferry). With a couple of hours to spare we went to the beach, got some chips and sat outside to enjoy them with a bag of prawns we had bought earlier and fresh bread. Not being able to drag it out any longer we headed back to the port to catch the boat. We were stopped again by the customs, this time the French, and we’re asked lots of questions and they had a look in the boot, don’t know why all this questioning. Arriving back in England in beautiful sunshine with clear blue skies we made our way to Canterbury. We were able to park inside the grounds of the Cathedral which were beautiful. On going to buy our tickets we were told it was £10.50p each, this is too much so we say we will come another time. But we are already in so we have a look around anyway. The cathedral is amazing. The city around the cathedral is quaint and ‘Olde Worlde’ further out it is similar to many other modern English cities. Back onto the M2 and head back towards Liverpool. Hope to get away again soon!!!! Not happy!!!!
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