Vet visit, Bayeux Tapestry, Battle of Normandy Museum, Omaha and Utah beaches – Saint-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, France

As you can tell by the title. It’s been quite a busy day! Summer solstice today and we have made the most of it. First our vet visit to have the dogs willingly eat a chewable tape worm tablet from the vet, scan their microchips and fill out two lines of a form for the princely sun of €92.35 🙄 Not bad for less than 15 mins work. Ironically, due to some slight miscommunication they had already been given these in Portugal by the vet though that was much cheaper there. Ah well, at least all our paperwork is now clear for our trip home.

We had move the van 5 mins up the road to a slightly closer Aire. So a quick trip to drop the dogs off and a walk into town for our visit to the Bayeux Tapestry. We had both learned about this at school and were interested to go and visit. There is also a good deal where you can get both this and the Battle of Normandy Museum ticket for only €1 more.

There was quite a crowd heading for the Tapestry of all nationalities. We got our Bayeux Pass tickets and our English audio guides (included) and filed in. The audio guide triggers as you walk through the door of the darken room containing the 70m long tapestry. As you would expect the approximately 950-960 year old tapestry sits behind glass which wraps around the wall bending to the left. However the colours are still amazingly vibrant considering its age. The audio guide takes you through a commentary of what each of the numbered scenes are depicting. The detail is amazing, apparently it was displayed at Bayeux Cathedrale after the Norman Conquest of England to tell the story to the largely illiterate locals. It certainly brought back my school history lessons. Really interesting story and so pleased we made time to visit. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside of the tapestry.

Norman Solider at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum

After lunch and a quick exercise of the dogs before leaving them in air conditioned comfort we proceeded on to the Battle of Normandy Museum, which conveniently we were now parked right next to. Whereas the Caen museum we visited focussed on the build up to the war and D-Day. This museum had more focus on the wider 100 day battle for Normandy. It was a good combination of museums to visit, there does appear to be a museum in pretty much every village hereabouts so you do need to pick a little. There was a good level of detailed descriptions of the battles, objectives and outcomes. Descriptions of the The leadership of the Allies and their characters. Even a little more about Charles de Gaulle and his sometimes strained relations with the Allies. Alongside this there was of course lots of big guns etc. I felt I had been educated a bit more, especially as I now recognise the sites in Normandy as places we have visited / will visit.

Next it was time to finally leave Bayeux, but sight seeing was not over for the day. We really needed to get to an Aire with reliable services after 2 municipal aires in a row without water alongside those without services at all over the last week. We need a shower and water is low so we planned to make it to Utah beach today. Obviously we had to visit Omaha Beach along the way.

Luckily Omaha is a short drive from Bayeux and we managed to pull up roadside at the beach as all the car parks were height restricted. There was a lot more by way of memorials and signage for Omaha beach than the British liberated beach as I think the USA have funded this. It is a beautiful beach with lovely golden sand and for once there was no signs says we could not take the dogs so we joined the others already there for a walk in the sun. The Omaha invasion was one of the most challenged with the invasion pinned on the beach by heavy fire by the Germans from inland. Hard to image on such a beautiful day the bloodshed that happened here in the past. Good so many people continue to visit to keep their memory alive.

Next stop, which we could not miss before getting to Utah beach is the gun emplacements at Point du Hoc. The US Army Ranger Assault Group had to scale the 35m cliffs from sea in the early hours of 6th June 1944 to try to neutralise the guns before the landings started on Omaha. The used ladders and rocket launcher grapple hooks to climb the cliffs as is graphically recreated in the film the Longest Day. Due to the successive Allied bombing of the positions in the build up to D-Day, the Germans had in fact moved the guns inland. It was believed that this was discovered at the time, though it seems from orders now released they did know. The Rangers head inland and found and destroyed 5 of the 6 guns and went on to take the neighbouring towns. Of the 225 Rangers that landed only 90 were still fit to bear arms by 8th June when relief arrived. The US War Memorial committee now maintain the site in tribute to them. The empty batteries are less impressive than the huge crater filled landscape that surrounds them due to the heavy Allied bombardment. How horrifying it must have been to be in those bunkers during that.

Finally onward to Utah beach. Though we did do a quick u-turn when Kevin spotted the roadside monument to major Dick Walters. He was one the officers of the 101st Airbourne Division which are the subject of the epic series Band of Brothers. The moment was erected following his death on 2012 in honour of him and all the Junior officers like him that led the way. It says American junior officers but I’d like to think the other Allies are covered in this tribute too 🙂

Finally, we drove past Utah beach and onto our Camping Car Aire. We will explore Utah tomorrow. However, we greatly filled up with water and settled in for the night after a very full day.

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