Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 50: Arromanches, France
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Day 50: Arromanches, France
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Day 57: Flying Home



La Marine Hotel


Mix of cloud and sun with a high of 15°C


Day 50: Tuesday, October 24   Arromanches, France

In Search of the D-Day Beaches

It was a cool morning (10°) as we ate a big breakfast of coffee, croissants, baguettes and fruit at our B and B.  We set out on a 210 km trip to Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue on the Normandy coast.  We had mistakenly read that this was the beginning of the D-Day beaches but soon discovered that the D-Day beaches actually started further south.

We followed the coastline and came to a sign indicating the German gun batteries at St. Marcouf'  We drove to have a look and were surprised that it was 5 or 6 km inland.  We then drove back down to the coast to Utah Beach.  We walked the sand along the beach and had lunch at La Roosevelt Restaurant which was also part museum and souvenir shop. A little further down the coast we came to one of the most poignant reminders of the events of the summer of 1944, the Pointe du Hoc headland which is still pockmarked with shell craters and dotted with ruined bunkers. Here, Germans had placed bunkers and

Ken standing on Utah Beach

artillery. The positions were bombed, shelled and then attacked by 225 US Rangers, who scaled the 35-metre rock wall, besieged the bunkers and finally took them. By the time they were relieved, only 90 remained.  Pointe du Hoc now has a memorial and museum dedicated to the battle. Many of the original fortifications have been left in place. The site is speckled with an impressive number of bomb craters.  We took several photos here.

Pointe du Hoc photos.  Double clock for larger view. 
Hover mouse over photo for a caption.

We continued down the coast to Omaha Beach where we once again got out and walked on the beach.  It took very little imagination to picture the chaos as thousands of Americans came ashore under heavy German fire.  Ken really wanted to see the American Normandy Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer but we just missed the 5:00 pm closing time.  A little further down the coast we came to Longues-sur-Mer

Ken on Omaha Beach

Built in the first few months of 1944, the naval battery at Longues was equipped with four 150-mm guns, housed in casemates, and a range-finding post embedded in the cliff face. Thanks to the range of its guns, the battery could fire on both the Omaha (American sector) and Gold (British sector) beaches. Although it was heavily bombed prior to D-Day, it was still capable of opening fire on the invasion fleet in the morning of June 6th 1944. At daybreak, it engaged in a duel with several Allied cruisers before being silenced in the evening. The next day, it was captured by the British without a fight. Longues Battery is the only one in the region to have kept its guns as a memorial of the war, and because of its excellent state of preservation, it is well worth a visit.

Kathryn in front of one of the huge gun casements at Longues

It was getting late and we did not have a room booked, so we decided to stop for the night in Arromanches, a pretty seaside town with lovely walks and beautiful views.  Kathryn had been checking her guide books, and while I double parked, she got us a second floor corner room overlooking the sea in Hotel La Marine, located on Quai du Canada - how could we not stay there?  The town lies along the stretch of coastline designated as Gold Beach during the D-Day landings, one of the beaches used by British troops in the allied invasion.

Arromanches was selected as one of the sites for two Mulberry Harbours built on the Normandy coast, the other one built further West at Omaha Beach.  The Mulberry harbours were two prefabricated or artificial military harbours, which were taken across the English Channel from Britain with the invading army in sections and assembled off the coast of Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion of France.  However, a large storm on June 19 destroyed the American harbour at Omaha, leaving only the British harbour which came to be known as Port Winston at Arromanches. While the harbour at Omaha was destroyed

Remains of Mulberry Harbour on Gold Beach

sooner than expected (due to it not being securely anchored to the sea bed), Port Winston saw heavy use for 8 months—despite being designed to last only 3 months. In the 100 days after D-Day, it was used to land over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes of supplies providing much needed reinforcements in France.  Sections of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches still remain today with huge concrete blocks sitting on the sand, and more can be seen further out at sea.

We had a lovely meal in a small restaurant in this village of 500 called Au 6 Juin - this restaurant offers a great menu with a terrace for dining ‘al fresco’. It also doubles up as café serving snacks and a bar in the evenings. We walked the half block back to our hotel and went to bed for a much needed rest.

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