Saturday, April 18, 2009

Caen & D-day beaches, Normandy, France

by Lionel & Josh
The boys trip to France...Josh and I left on the ferry from Portsmouth, we had to be there by 7.15am so it was quite an early start (6.15am). Josh's first ferry crossing, and my apologies to those of you who have crossed either Cook or Foveaux Straits as this wouldn't count as a crossing going either way as the English Channel was as flat as a pancake. The only real motion was crossing a few ships wakes as we crossed the shipping lanes.
We had a great time, the D-day beaches tour was excellent and as we did this we realised that our ferry trip had retraced the path of a portion of the invasion fleet. We visited five sites, Josh's favourite was the Longues battery, which was on a point that could fire at both Omaha and Gold beaches and was disabled by naval gunfire on D-day. Mine was the American Cemetry at Omaha Beach where you see row after row of white Italian marble crosses with the occasional Star of David. That was amazing but it is some of the other things that encompass this sight, the huge maps showing D-day and the Battle of Normandy then another showing every attacking path undertaken by the allies in Europe in World War 2. Plus knowing that the graves of the 3 Nyhon brothers sit side by side, they are the true story inspiration behind the film 'Saving Private Ryan'. The thing that probably touched me the most was the memorial to the 1557 Americans who died in World War 2 whose bodies were never found. The memorial says those whose final resting place is known only to God. If you wander around it you see 10 little brass flowers beside 10 names - these men's bodies were found after the memorial was built in 1956.
Longues battery American Cemetry

After having a number of other stops and slow drive by of other spots we ended up back at the 'le Memorial de Caen' which is a very good museum that has exhibits starting from the end of World War 1 tracing the path and causes of World War 2. Through to the end of World War 2 and the development of Atom Bomb then continues through the Cold War to the fall of the Berlin Wall complete with a couple of pieces of the Wall and finally a peace exhibition.
On the Sunday Josh and I explored the Chateau Ducal in the centre of Caen where you can wander around the ramparts and get quite a good view over the city. Plus the height above the ground is quite impressive in places and the dry moat is huge. The other thing was being Easter Sunday there were very few places open when we went out looking for tea.

Now I have expanded my French vocabulary from yes, no, thank you, good morning to now be about fifty words but don't ask me to string too many together, plus it is amazing how many French words we use in English. There are quite a few English words which have become adopted in French, like Cheese Burger! However the last comment on my French goes to Josh. Dad, your French is truly awful.

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