We left Germany on Monday at 9am by train. Our first change of trains was in Paris, where we arrived at about 2pm. After taking a Metro train across town to the St. Lazare station, we boarded the second train to Bayuex, located about 2 hours northwest of Paris. It is the closest medium-size city to Omaha Beach, site of one of the main D-Day invasions in June 1944. After arriving in Bayeux, we took a taxi to our hotel in Colleville, a small harbor town right on Omaha Beach.
NORMANDY – SITE OF JUNE 1944 D-DAY INVASION
The next morning (Tuesday), we met our tour van at 8am in front of the hotel. We had to run back to Bayeux to pick up 3 more people, then it was off to Pointe du Hoc.
Pointe du Hoc is a cliff jutting out into the English Channel about 1 kilometer (6/10 mile). In 1942, the Germans, recognizing the significant importance of this location, built 6 concrete pits for their 155mm long-range artillery. These guns were situated so as to be able to cover Omaha and Utah Beaches. Opposing armies landing on the beaches below would have to scale the high cliffs under heavy fire to reach these guns. In early 1944, the Germans decided to reinforce these positions with stronger concrete enclosed casemates, and moved several of the guns about 200 meters away to protect them from American bombing. This was a great stroke of luck for us. On D-Day, troops from the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions landed on the beach and scaled the cliffs. Overcoming intense fire from the Germans, they secured the area the same day. Of the 225 Rangers (just 2 of several Battalions) who landed on Pointe du Hoc, 77 were killed.
Visiting the beach at Normandy and witnessing the incredible sacrifices made that day was very humbling. We’re glad Spencer could witness this as part of his time in Europe.
THE NEXT DAY: BAYEAUX, ROUEN, CAEN, AND ON TO PARIS
After exploring the market and the large Bayeux tapestry at the local museum, we headed back to the train station
to catch the 11:51 to Rouen, about a 2 hour ride.
ROUEN – JOAN OF ARC
Our next stop was Rouen, France, just north of Paris. This town is known as the site where Joan of Arc was captured, imprisoned, then burned at the stake in 1431. Joan of Arc was a peasant girl who claimed to hear Saints telling her to lead the reunification of France. This did not go over well with the English, who controlled much of the area in what is now France. Captured by the Duke of Burgundy, she was handed over to the British, who held a mock trial, finding her guilty of heresy and being a witch. She was tortured and burned at the stake in the town market square. She was mostly forgotten about until the 18th Century, when a statue in her memory was erected. It was not until 1920 that Joan of Arc was beatified and canonized, and this resulted in changes to the square. Allied bombing destroyed the square and all markers in 1944. The new church situated on the square today was built in 1979.
From here, we headed south to spend a few days in Paris. Watch for an upcoming travelogue as we visit the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, and many other famous landmarks around this great city.