Normandy, France

After arriving in Cherbourg this morning, we set off in a coach for Utah Beach and Bayeaux. The coach stopped at a stop light and I mean stopped. A technician came and said we needed a new coach. Half of us went to a nearby pub and had coffees, Irish and otherwise. On a new bus, we proceeded through the beautiful, Normandy countryside, past canola fields in yellow bloom, fields full of cows, and fields of apple trees. Along the way unevenness of the land from bomb craters and abandoned German bunkers could be seen. The area is known for its Camembert cheese and its hard cider.

At Utah Beach we saw in the distance the cliffs that divide Utah Beach from Omaha Beach. On the beach we also saw two small islands in the English Channel that were the first areas to be approached. Multiple monuments and a museum are scattered around the approach to the beach. Our guide said there are over 90 war museums in Normandy. One of the most interesting monuments was the Way of Liberty, Voie de la Liberte, 1944. The first of 1147 monuments like this is placed at Utah Beach. Another is placed every kilometer from the landing site at Utah Beach to the site of the decisive Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. Everywhere around the beach we saw the American flag flying beside the French flag as in the beach photo above.

Our delay meant that we did not visit one of the cemeteries. There are now two American and eight German Cemeteries as well as some for the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. Some that were previously American are now German as 60 percent of the Americans have been brought home. In the afternoon, we visited Bayeux and saw the famous Bayeux tapestry that shows the build up to and the details of the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry, now over a thousand years old, was commissioned by William the Conqueror to tell the story of his conquest to people who were illiterate. The tapestry is 47 meters long and made of linen. This was of some interest to me as the Purcells came to England and Ireland with William the Conqueror, the source of my Scandinavian genes. Tomorrow, Sandy and I are off to Ghent, Belgium.

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