Day 7 - 7/16/13 - Caen to Bayeux

The highlight of the day had to be the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. This beach was the launching point of the U.S. invasion of Normandy. This cemetery contains the graves of 9,386 American soldiers who died at Normandy and a touching memorial to another 1,557 whose bodies were never recovered. We decorated graves with the same flags we were waving on Day 4 at the Tour de France.

Overview of Day 7

We traveled by train to Bayeux, strolling to the charming old town, remarkably untouched during World War II. A few blocks from the center of town we checked into the Luxury Guest House. The accommodation was a spacious 2-room suite featuring a cozy fireplace, and writing desk with views of the garden.

On the floor of the master bedroom, we conducted a planning session for the flexible days ahead which would lead us to the WWII museum, and later, back to the old town. There, we admired a significant architectural gem - the Bayeux Cathedral.

Prior to embarking on “The Beaches” tour, we grabbed lunch in a quaint shop with a uniquely red-accented bathroom situated downstairs. Our tour encompassed Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc. At the culmination of our sightseeing adventure, we conveniently dined at a nearby restaurant where the tour concluded.

Stroll town

The streets of Bayeux in 1944 would have been a sight of both tension and relief. Bayeux was the first city of significance to be liberated in France during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The city was fortunate to have been spared from significant damage during the invasion because the Germans had pulled out of Bayeux before the fighting reached the city.

French sweets are not just about taste, they are a feast for the eyes too. They are often beautifully presented, with attention to color, shape, and detail, turning them into works of art.

These Allium Giganteum, also known as the giant onion, is an Asian species of onion.

The Bayeux Cathedral

The Bayeux Cathedral, a magnificent example of Norman architecture, is steeped in historical significance. Its consecration in 1077 was attended by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England. It’s believed to have originally housed the famed Bayeux Tapestry, an intricate 70-metre-long cloth depicting William’s conquest of England. During WWII, the cathedral survived intact, a silent witness to the brutal Battle of Normandy.

The story as told by [Wikipedia(Saint George and the Dragon - Wikipedia) and Chat GPT:

Saint George, a brave knight, rescues a princess chosen as a sacrifice to a fearsome dragon. He wounds the beast, tames it with the princess’s girdle, and leads it into the town. Promising to slay the dragon if the townspeople convert to Christianity, they agree, and Saint George fulfills his vow.

The same story but in amazing stained glass.

Luxury Guest House

Grand entrance to the Luxury Guest House. In 2013 the Family Room (1 nuits chambre familiale) cost $160 Euros plus $4 Euros tax. It seemed like an incredible bargain at the time and we fully expect that it would cost much more now.

Rosellen and Keira thought that our beautiful Guest House in Bayeux was the best accommodation of the entire trip. Called the Relais Saint-Loup Maison d’hotes Guest House at 66 rue Saint-Loup 14400 Bayeux Tel: 02 31 10 11 59.

We were overwhelmed by our English-speaking hosts Nellie and Eric. The house is magical. It was easy to imagine yourself living in a grand and beautiful place.

Rosellen was especially taken with the main staircase which went up to the level of our adjoining rooms and continued upwards toward a visible study and other floors or downwards in another direction back to the foyer and public rooms.

We had two adjoining rooms.

Complete with a fireplace.

A perfect place to write postcards home!

Each room had a nice view of the garden.

The comforter on the bed was incredible but still needed a quick test. In the morning after saying goodbye to our host, we walked and rolled back to the train station armed with our Eurail passes bound for Paris. Finally! we were going to Sight-see Paris!

Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy

This is the M10 Tank Destroyer, conceived in early 1942 and delivered in April that year, an impressive 3-month period.

Normandy Beach

We were at Omaha Beach, near the center.

A look down the beach to the North.

A look to the cliffs in the South.

Two Mulberry Harbours were to be built, one for the Americas at Omaha Beach and one for the British at Gold Beach. Unfortunately, before it could be completed, the American harbour was destroyed by a major storm.

The sections were manufactured in England and pulled across the English Channel for final assembly.

The Normandy section of the Atlantic Wall was one of the most heavily fortified, especially around the vital port city of Cherbourg and the areas we now know as Omaha and Utah beaches. Given the vast scale of these defenses, it’s safe to say that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cubic yards of concrete, would have been poured in the Normandy region alone.

The Gun was 150mm with a range of 22 kilometers.

It is evident from the holes through the armor that this pillbox took direct fire.

Credit to the US 116th Infantry Division (and all the supporting personnel) for taking the Pointe Du Hoc defenses.

The photo does not do justice to the size of this bomb crater.

Normandy American Cemetery

In 1999, Matt visited this cemetery with his father and brother. During their visit, Matt asked his father about his thoughts. His father responded, “All these guys, they were given orders to go, and they went.”

There are more than 9000 American soldiers and sailors buried here. The British have a separate cemetery.

The attention to detail, the respect, it is so impressive.

The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military decoration, awarded for exceptional valor and bravery in combat, beyond the call of duty.

Dinner in Bayeux

We had a nice lunch before heading to the Beaches.

With translation help from Reddit/r/France, the wall hanging reads:

"There is no man more complete than the one who traveled a lot, who changed the shape of his thoughts and his life twenty times - ALPHONSE DE LAMARTINE. "

Sweets to bring the day to a close

It was an emotional and draining day but I would do it again in a heartbeat. The people of Normandy love and respect Americans, we felt so welcome everywhere we went.

OMG, what a day! …and good night.

I thought it was funny that the name of the beaches tour we purchased was “Evasion Gold Beach” rather than “Invasion.” Some of the meaning is lost in translation I guess.

It was no casual mistake. They even bought the URL!

When I went to the train station to figure out how to get from Caen to Bayeux and then back to Paris, the agent kindly wrote it down for me. After you account for the reverse day/month convention, different style numbers and loopy handwriting, I decided to decode the dates and times for myself.

It was the first day of our EuRail passes.