Visiting Arromanches: Counting Down to the 75th Anniversary of D-Day
Ryan and I had the incredible opportunity to visit France this March. When we travel we tend to focus on beer, brunch, and history, and this trip would not disappoint (well, trade out beer for wine and it's definitely a winner). One of our must see places for France was Normandy, the setting for one of the most important days in modern history: D-Day.
We rented a car (which I highly recommend if you're visiting the area—it's way too much distance to cover by walking) for a portion of our trip and had just come from the Loire Valley (I'll save that experience for another post, but it might be my favorite place on earth). We arrived in the afternoon and our hotel was in Bayeux, a small town just south of Arromanches. We dropped off our luggage and went to the beach town of Arromanches to take in the views of the coastline before starting at the other end of the beaches, per Rick Steves' recommendation. Sidenote: the Rick Steves books are the first place I go when planning any trip to Europe. Bar none the best resource out there for travel to Europe.
We drove up to the highest point of the cliffs overlooking the beach, and the view was stunning. The beach town below with iconic French seaside architecture was just as in any WWII movie you've ever seen, and remnants of the Mulberry artificial port could be seen as well. From here you could see the stretch of beach and how vast an area the D-Day invasion covered.
I hadn't read up on my D-Day history before the trip, but thankfully my husband Ryan is a bit of a history buff, so he gladly brought me up to speed.
In the preparations for D-Day, the Allies needed a place to bring in soldiers, tanks, and other supplies, so they created an artificial port to bring support in from Britain. This was an engineering feat with state-of-the-art floating piers to roll off tanks from the ships onto the mainland.
As we got to the beach, the remaining wreckage was equally moving and haunting. Remnants of the metal carriers that brought soldiers in to immediately begin fighting were still present along the beach, and with the tide out we could walk right up to them.
I think the most moving part of being on the beaches was walking up to the carriers and seeing "Merci" written on one of them. It was a moment of connection to the French people and a connection to our roll and the sacrifice given of all Allied forces in this historic battle. When we came across this carrier, I couldn't help but stop and envision what this port must have looked like in June of 1944.
I am immensely grateful for the bravery of the American, British, French, and Canadian forces that stormed this beach into a hostile German-occupied battlefield. In learning more of the battle of Normandy, I am in awe of the sacrifice, camaraderie, brotherhood, and courage they exhibited in the face of such dire circumstances.
We continued walking the beach and came across the Hôtel De La Marine, a quaint beachfront seafood restaurant where we ate dinner and watched the sun set across this historic town.