Last year we took the time to travel to Northern France and visited the beaches where many soldiers from countries all around the world lost their lives. Normandy is a spectacular place, with beaches and shorelines as far as the eye can see. We drove through the coast of Normandy and stopped in many beautiful little towns including Honfleur. A beautiful little town known for its port and roots as the start of impressionistic art movement. Fun fact the port saw the departure of a number of explorers, in particular, an expedition in 1608, organised by Samuel de Champlain, founded the city of Quebec in modern-day Canada.
Our Facebook album has tons of photos to view the beauty of Honfleur France.
Another great town in Normandy is Bayeux, we stayed overnight to explore its rich history. Founded as a Gallo-Roman settlement in the 1st century BC under the name Augustodurum, Bayeux is the capital of the former territory of the Baiocasses people of Gaul, whose name appears in Pliny's Natural History (iv.107). It is best known for its Bayeux Tapestry an embroidered cloth nearly 230 ft long and 20 inches tall, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. A great deal of visitors were around likely from Britain as the Bayeux War Cemetery memorial includes the largest British cemetery dating from the Second World War in France. There are 4,648 graves, including 3,935 British and 466 Germans. Most of those buried there were killed in the invasion of Normandy. Our photos of this stunning town are in our Facebook Album, enjoy!
The most picturesque of towns was Etretat. A very small town with its chalk cliffs are so magnificent and if you have the courage to walk to the top you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the three natural arches called L'Aiguille or the Needle. A great many painters, poets, writers were inspired by this amazing place and you can immediately see why. Now you can even golf there above the cliffs overlooking the sea. Our Facebook album is here.
But the whole reason for taking this road trip is to really to experience the D-Day landing beaches in person. We particularly were interested in Juno Beach in Courseulles-sur-Mer, since that is where many Canadians lost their lives on D-Day. The Juno Beach Centre is a museum owned and run by Canadians as a non-profit charitable organization to preserve the legacy and to remember the sacrifices for which these soldiers have given for our freedom today. We took a tour and they showed us the bunkers, inside and out, explaining every detail of how they were constructed as well as describing the landings on the beach. The day we visited was so grey and ominous, it was sort of fitting. There is an unusual pull towards this beach with its huge shore line and retreating sea water of the beautiful coast of Normandy. Your imagination can't help but wonder and picture the Battle of Normandy and the events of June 6, 1944. There also is a feeling of wanting to find something, like a bullet, something anything.. So much blood shed on this beach and so many lives lost.
Our visit concluded with the Canadian War Cemetery in Bény-sur-Mer, France. Where Canadian soldiers killed during the Battle of Normandy and the Battle for Caen were buried and lay resting. The cemetery welcomes you with two stunning maple trees, is immaculately landscaped and maintained to the highest degree. The impact here is alot like that of Juno Beach except here grave sites remind you that these soldiers were so incredibly young. Each grave inscribed with their name, hometown, age and how they died. It was strikingly obvious that most were not even 25 years old. It was heartbreaking to read each monument but you almost felt like you had to. This visit will stay with us forever as we understand what these young men and women courageously gave at such a young age to fight for freedom.
As November 11th approaches I can't help but think of the courage these soldiers had. The bravery they exuded to fight in such brutal wars both WWI and WWII. We must never forget and shall we be inspired to be brave for they have given their lives for our freedom to do so. Our photos are here.