Saturday, September 8, 2012

Normandy: Day 4

The day started early for Shane and Tyler. They walked Omaha Beach, from where we were camping to the American Cemetery, about 5 miles. Shane really wanted to be on the beach the same time the first wave of soldiers hit the beach. 

We met them at the cemetery at 8:30am then drove to Caen.
We wanted to see William the Conquerers humble abode, and also the cathedrals that were built for he and his wife.
My littles just playing at the foot of Chateau de Caen, built 1060 A.D.
A view of the cathedral from atop the Chateau.
I was slightly disappointed with what was left of the castle, I assumed there would be more. But, it's old, I get it.

We located the two Abbey's, shortly after Shane almost killed us in a "no u-turn" type accident.
Abbaye aux Dames (hers)
Abbaye aux Hommes (his)
William had the cathedral's built to regain the favor of the Pope, who disapproved of his marriage to his distant cousin.

After settling for drive-by's we headed out to the little village where Pegasus Bridge was located.
Pegasus bridge was where the first fighting on D-Day happened. Three gliders landed super close to the bridge shortly after midnight (which is pretty cool in itself because they landed them in the dark with a compass, and gliders don't have any kind of landing gear.) The men in the gliders captured the bridge and fought off counter attacks until they were relieved later that day.
We ate lunch in a little cafe near the bridge. It was the first house liberated on D-Day. The family that lived there, the Gondree family, helped the Allies by sending secret information about the bridge in the days leading up to D-Day.

Georgette was the name of the little girl that lived there at the time. She was four years old. She now runs the little cafe, and we were able to meet her! I asked her if she remembered much about that day, and she said that remembered it quite well. The cafe is full of war memorabilia and tons of letters and photographs. It was really cool, and the food was quite tasty. She and one other lady prepared our food in what looked like there personal kitchen. Very quaint. We ordered a cheese plate, which smelled absolutely horrid, a quiche and a salad.

Pegasus bridge drawing for a sailboat
After lunch we crossed the bridge and walked to where the gliders had landed, marked by concrete monuments.
Then a tour through the museum.
This is the original bridge. It had to be replaced, but now sits in a place of glory in the garden at the museum.

The kids and I were pretty WWII'ed out by this point, so when Shane said he wanted to stop by the other three D-Day beaches on the way back to camp, we waited in the car. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep.
Sword Beach (British)
Juno Beach (Canadians)
 Gold Beach (British)

We did get out and walk Gold Beach. We took off our shoes, caught some crabs and explored the remnants of the artificial harbor.

^^^I just love Theo's face in this one^^^
 ^^^but I like Shane's face in this one^^^

Then off to see a gun battery at Longues Sue Mer. Again, the fam stayed in the car while Shane had his  moment.
Back to camp we went. We debated starting our drive back that night, but decided to hold off in the end. We also needed to get gas, but decided to wait until the morning to fill up.

Our drive back started out a bit earlier then we had intended. Theo woke up around 3am and screamed. He does this from time to time, he's inconsolable, and doesn't want to be touched, but doesn't want to be left alone.

Well, the tent wasn't sound proof, so we started to feel pretty bad about waking up our neighbors. 

We broke down camp around 4am. We got everyone and everything loaded up and were in our way to get gas. Well we couldn't find any. The freeways aren't lit here, and we had about 10 miles left to empty, so we pulled into the closest town...where nothing was open. There aren't 24 hour service stations as readily available in Europe.

There was one place to use a credit card but the didn't accept Visa or Mastercard. Of course we had plenty of Euro, just no one to accept it.

We were tired, and stuck. So, we took a nap, in a gas station parking lot in Bayeux, France. Our hope was that someone would pull in with the acceptable credit card and let us pay them cash if they would fill us up. It didn't happen. 

Finally a station opened at 6am. We lost our 2 hour head start, but, we got a nap and the kids were all sleeping soundly.  

So we got our gas, and drove home the opposite route that we came, through Paris. We caught a morning glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and didn't have to stop once for traffic.

It was just the break we needed.

We stopped at Ramstein on the way home for a little American fare, Chili's. Also well deserved, we decided.

Then we made it home. Safe and sound.

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