Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 51: Caen, France
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Day 50: Arromanches, France
Day 51: Caen, France
Day 52: Plasir, France
Day 53: Paris, France
Day 54: Paris, France
Day 55: Paris, France
Day 56: Paris, France
Day 57: Flying Home



Hotel Kyriad Caen Centre


Cool and cloudy most of the day.  We did not get the high temp.


Day 51: Wednesday, October 25    Caen, France

D-Day Part 2

We woke early and walked down the narrow main street of Arromanches.  There was a little pub that was open for breakfast.  We ordered the breakfast special of coffee (tea for Kathryn) and baguettes.  Our waitress had to leave us and run down the street to the bakery for fresh baguettes.  We went down to Gold Beach in front of the hotel and had one last look at the remains of Mulberry Harbour Winston.  It was the start of an emotional day for us.

Ken on Gold Beach

We drove a couple of blocks uphill east of the hotel and found the Arromanches 360 cinema.  Arromanches 360 is a striking modern movie theater with a circular screen -- actually nine curved screens synchronized to show an 18-minute film titled Le Prix de la Liberté (The Price of Freedom). The film, which tells the story of the D-Day landings, is a mix of archival and more recent footage from major sites and cemeteries. More intimate than the vast IMAX screens, we stood in the center of the cinema and watched scenes unfold around us. Images are projected onto the nine wraparound screens, producing the sense of being in, rather than watching the action. We were most impressed with the quality of the 1944 footage. For example, in one sequence, taken aboard a landing vehicle approaching the beach, we looked all around us in a complete circle, viewing the men in the boat, the coastline, and the other

Arrowmanches 360 Program Cover

landing craft. During a sequence showing tanks moving through village, the entire theater rumbles and vibrates with the sound of the engines.  There is no narration or music, only sounds that would have been heard that day. Evocative music and sound effects serve as dramatic substitutes for spoken commentary. Interspersed with the scenes of battle are images of the same areas taken recently. A meadow in 1944 strewn with bodies morphs into a pasture with grazing cows, or a view of a street lying in rubble changes into the same street today. It’s an extremely affecting film, particularly the images of the troops.

We then drove east along the coast to Juno Beach where the Canadian forces landed on D-Day.  We spent two hours in the Centre Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer, the only Canadian museum on the D-Day beaches.  It was a very moving experience.  We went down to the beach to take Ken's usual photo on the beach.  Even though it was chilly, Ken decided to take off his shoes and go in the water.  He was very moved to be standing in the very place were so many young Canadian soldiers gave their lives for our freedom.

Ken On Juno Beach

We then drove 10 km inland to
Reviers.  The men who fell on the beaches and in the bitter bridgehead battles are buried in Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery which, despite its name, is near the village of Reviers. The cemetery contains 2,049 headstones enclosed by pines and maples(2043 Canadian, 4 British and 1 French). These mark the dead of the 3rd Division and the graves of 15 airmen. The mayor and people of Reviers take a special interest in the cemetery for, although it bears another name, they feel it to be their own. Fine hedges decorate the entrance, and the flanking registry buildings have

Canadian Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer

platforms from which the visitor can see the whole area and appreciate the skill and devotion that has gone into the planning and design of this superb cemetery.  Heavy casualties were suffered in the fighting inland from Juno, and the majority of the burials here are men from 3rd Canadian Division. Among them are nine pairs of brothers - a record for a cemetery of the Second World War. Incredibly, one family had a triple bereavement in Normandy. This was unknown in the British Army, as the practice of placing men from one family together in a unit had largely been discontinued after the First World War. The gleaming granite slabs, each etched with a maple leaf and the name, rank and regiment of the soldier who lies beneath. Some also bear personal inscriptions, messages from family who hold them dear. "We do not forget you/Nor do we intend/We think of you often/And will to the end," said one.  "He is not gone he is just away" was actually a fairly common one.  What moved us the most was reading the ages of these "men" - most were really boys under the age of 21.  One thing we did notice was that there was no Canadian flag flying on the flagpole.

Anyone who’s seen "Saving Private Ryan" is familiar with the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. There’s that final scene, when the surviving veteran comes to pay his respects; the camera pans through the cemetery, across row upon row of perfectly aligned white crosses, intensely green grass, and reverent stillness.  We had arrived just at closing time the previous day and could not get in.  Ken really wanted to see it in person and so we took and hour to drive 45 km back to Colleville-sur-Mer.  This is much larger than the Canadian cemetery.  There are 9,386 graves at the site overlooking Omaha Beach on

The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer

172 acres of French soil granted in perpetuity to the United States.  Knots of people gather at individual graves, but others, like us, simply wandered, bereft of speech or purpose. We are struck by how pristine the graves are, how flawless the lawn, and how precisely deployed the marching rows of headstones. Despite the open vastness of the grounds, everyone speaks in a whisper, as if in church. We walked to the focal point of the cemetery, the memorial featuring a bronze statue "The Sprit of American Youth Rising From The Waves." It’s flanked by two enormous maps of the European Theater of Operations.

Aerial view of the US cemetery copied from the Internet

We drove an hour back to Caen for the night.  Kathryn found us an excellent hotel, the Kyriad Caen Centre, right downtown.  We checked into the hotel and then went out to the Caen Memorial Museum.  We only had 90 minutes to explore this fabulous museum because we had arrived in Caen late in the day.  We could easily have spent and entire day and more in this museum for Peace that gives an overall history of war from 1918 to the present day. It is split into many different sections starting with a journey into history in the aftermath of WW1 and then moving on to various aspects of WW2 including the

Kathryn in front of the Caen  Memorial

French Resistance and D-Day. Sections on the world and the Cold War and the world for Peace can also be visited. The attention to detail in the exhibits and the layout of the museum is first class.  The film at the War Memorial Museum in Caen is unforgettable. It is a must see. It is approx 30 min and shows a split screen of German and Allied forces actual war footage. It is unbelievable. No words, no language barriers, just music and harsh reality. Everything you have ever heard, seen, or read pales in comparison to this.

We went back to our hotel and strolled around the lovely downtown area.  We found a bank machine and had a very good meal at an Italian restaurant.  Contrary to France's reputation, the service was excellent.

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Day 52

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