I was sad to leave Marre and the french countryside, but it was off to our next destination. After bidding goodbye to our host in Marre we programmed Eve for Bayeux, France. We figured it would be about a 6 hour drive, if we left at 7:30 we would be there by around 1:30. We made pretty good time until we hit Paris, I have been to New York and a couple other large cities, but Paris was the biggest city I have ever seen!! It took us about an hour just to get through the city. I white knuckled it the whole way too! Tons of traffic and motorcycles buzzing in between cars, trucks etc. It was pretty nerve-wracking driving through Paris! We did drive past the Eiffel Tower though!
We finely made it through the city and were on the open highway heading for Normandy. We decided to stop for lunch and to rest a bit. We stopped at a very nice rest stop that also had a restaurant. Another hot meal! I noticed what appeared to be a U.S. school tour. Lots of American kids running around and a couple of teachers speaking French to each other with intermittent English thrown in. I’m sure they were on their way to Normandy as well. After our rest we gassed up and got back on the road. One thing I really like about France is that the roads are well-marked and also historical locations have pretty big road signs. We passed several large Chateaus and other neat looking historical locations. I remember driving through El Bouff, I mentioned to my wife that this is where Eddie Slovak deserted. He was the only U.S. Soldier to be shot for desertion during WW2.
We drove through Caen, at that point I knew we were almost to Bayeux. Here’s some WW2 history of the city:
In sector Gold beach in Normandy, the objective of the British troops at the end of 6 June was Bayeux. Around 7:35 am the first units of the 50th Infantry Division set foot on the beaches : the 231st Brigade on Jig beach sector, the 56th and the 151st brigade on the King sector. In the evening of 6 June, the 8th and 9th Durham Light Infantry, and the 2nd Essex stopped around Sommervieu; the 2nd South Wales Borderers reached Vaux-sur-Aure. The 2nd Gloster halted in front of Magny-en-Bessin, patrols were sent to enter north-east of Bayeux neighbourhoods; the British distributed cigarettes to the Bayeusains and promised to return the following day. The next morning, Bayeux and Saint-Vigor-le-Grand were liberated by the British without fighting. Later on 14 June, General de Gaulle, commander of the Free French Forces, walked again on the soil of France, in Bayeux he made a speech celebrating the real fighting France, and restored national authority.
We entered Bayeux right on schedule. We found our hotel with no problem, the Hotel Reine Mathilde. We checked in and unloaded our baggage. Bayeux was beautiful! We were right across the street from the Cathedral de Notre Dame. We had to park in a lot about 2 blocks away which allowed us to do some walking and sight-seeing. I was really overwhelmed at the beauty of Bayeux. We went to our room , stowed our luggage and went out to see the town. We did a good deal of walking through the narrow streets. This was a really lively little town, lots of tourists, but it still kept its charm. We walked as far as the entrance to the British cemetery and checked out shop’s etc. along the way. After a couple of hours of walking and site – seeing we went back to our room and prepared to have dinner downstairs in the hotel restaurant. I was excited as I had heard they had very good food! After a great meal and a couple “Afflegem’s” (this is a belgium abbey beer) we decided to do some more walking. Tired and ready for the next day, we went back to our room , relaxed and drifted off to sleep.
The next day (Wed.) we went to Coleville-sur-mer and Omaha Beach. I was a little anxious to see the beach as it was something I had wanted to see my whole life. The beach was well preserve’d and monuments abound. There was also a few concrete bunkers, one of them had some sort of graffiti about Adolph (Hitler). All I could make out was “ADOLPH”. Trenches spiraled through the high ground to the beach and I tried to imagine GI’s battling their way up the hills that lead to these trenches and bunkers, it must have been real Hell! We sae the 5th ESB monument as well as the 1st Division monument and headed for the visitors center. They had a few artifacts and were showing a few films about the battle. They had a “Rupert” doll as well as other things that were indicative of D-DAY, like the life belts worn by all invasion participants. We left the visitors center and made our way down the slopes and back to the beach, exploring inside some of the bunkers on the way. We walked the beach for a while, it’s funny how calm everything seemed to be now and it was hard to imagine the carnage of war on the beach, Kids were playing in the sand, people were sailing sand cruisers on the beach all was quiet.
We left the beach and decided to find some souvenirs for the kids, so we headed back into town. We went to a few shops on the outskirts of town and bought my daughter some things, but could not seem to find anything for my 10-year-old son. We went back to the hotel for some dinner and picked up some brochures to read while we were eating. We decided that it might be neat to go to Arrowmanches, besides seeing the mulberry’s and Gold beach there was a militaria shop that would hopefully be the answer to my sons souvenir! We finished our dinner and headed for Arromanchez! It was about a 10-15 minute drive to the coast. Wow we were pleasantly surprised. What a neat little town this was! We headed to the militaria shop before it closed, I spotted my sons souvenir in front of the doorway. A French WW2 Adrian helmet. He loves military helmets and this would be perfect! I grabbed the helmet and we entered the shop. He had a pretty good selection although the American stuff was really expensive! I bought a french WW1 canteen (I have a thing for WW1 french canteens!) and we bought my son a book about military uniforms and equipment used during the invasion. I was now satisfied! We headed toward the beach to look at the Mulberrys, these were large concrete artificial harbors built so that we could easily transport supplies to the landing beach. We took some pictures and looked in some shops, then decided to go back to Bayeux to spend our last night walking the town again. We went inside the Cathedral de Notre Dame, it was amazing to think that this huge structure dated back to 1077! We have nothing that old in America! It was a relaxing night as we strolled the streets. We stopped back by the hotel so I could enjoy another beer and decided to go see where the tapestry was. After walking a bit more we decided it was time to head to our room, so that we could get some sleep, tommorrow we had to travel back to Paris.
Thursday morning we checked out of our hotel in Bayeux and bid goodbye to the lovely town. We were headed for Paris and our Fancy hotel, The Pullman. I was very sad to leave and didn’t want my stay in Bayeux to end. After a 2 hour trip back to Paris we headed for the airport first so that we could return our BMW and Eve. We returned the car and took a shuttle bus to our hotel. It was a very nice hotel, but I prefered the French Countryside, I prefered the farm-house in Marre with all of its rustic charm and the small hotel in Bayeux. The french seem to be satisfied with so little, small comforts that we in America would not understand. I guess we have the mentality that “bigger is always better”, but I so enjoyed the simple life in the country and miss it to this day.
We had some lunch, went for a swim in the pool and headed back to our room. Later we went to the bar for a drink and snack then headed back to our room to prepare for our travel home the next morning. Our travel home was pretty uneventful, we laid over in Iceland for 7 hours and spent that time wandering the airport and eating. Soon we would be back to America and the kids and my dream would be over.
We were greeted back at Dulles airport by my children who had both made welcome home signs and were waiting in the international receiving area! My in-laws had driven them to the airport so that they could see us when we arrived. It was great to be home and I was very happy to see my Kids and dogs again, but I feel a piece of my heart will always be in France…….c’est bien fini…