We left Le Havre and sailed further along the French coast. We came into the heart of Normandy, which is famous for the ‘Invasion beaches’. We sailed into the harbor of Quistreham and the contrast could not be greater with what happened on the 6th of June 1944 when the British, American and Canadian allies arrived here on the beaches. Now the harbor has the most calm look, friendly environment with trees and sunshine.
That evening, we watched the movie Saving Private Ryan, because it would give a quite authentic portrait of the soldiers, equipment that is used and the beaches. Also the French mention this movie several times in museums. The next day we cycled to the most eastern beach which was invaded, nicknamed ‘Sword beach’ where most British soldiers landed. When approaching the beach, we wondered if there was still much to see from that period in time. And there was: streetnames like ‘Boulevard Winston Churchill’ or ‘Place du Général de Gaulle’, restaurants named after events in World War II and lots of monuments with statues and pictures of soldiers. The most impressive ones are to be seen at Utah beach, more to the west side of Normandy.
We went to a memorial place, and all the names of the late young soldiers (most not even 30 years old) is very impressive to see. Also the museums and the stories of heroic actions are impressive.
We can understand why these beaches in Normandy where chosen for the invasion, because they are so wide: if 100.000 soldiers have to be placed there in one time, you need all those kilometers of place for them to enter the country move further on (also with boats and equipment). Sadly, most of the cities and villages nearby the beaches like Quistreham, were immediately bombed and flattened by tanks. So the beautiful wide streets and boulevards you see now, are due to the reconstruction of those cities after World War II.
After Quistreham, we sailed further along the beaches to the west side, where Omaha and Utah beach were, where most American soldiers landed. The memorial sites and cemeteries make you silent, so many lives were lost here.
The 6th of June 1944 was the start of the liberation of Europe from the German occupation, in 1 day 150.000 allied soldiers had arrived in Normandy, 23.000 paratroopers, 20.000 vehicles. Sadly 12.000 men were killed, wounded or made prisoner of war.
After we had seen the D-day memories, we sailed further on the coast of Normandy and ended up at the harbor of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, where we stayed for 2 nights.