Yesterday, I went on a day long trip to Normandy, a region of France along the English Channel where the Allies landed during World War II as part of the effort to liberate France and defeat the Nazis. From the time I decided I was going to spend a semester in France, it was one of the places I wanted to visit and I’m grateful I had the chance to go there.
Angers is about a three-hour bus ride from the beaches of Normandy, so in order to accomplish everything in the itinerary in one day, we had to leave around 6:30 am. After I spent an hour or so failing to sleep on the bus, the sun finally started to rise, and I could see some of the countryside as we drove by. To my delight, many of the fields we passed were covered with a thin layer of snow (or more likely, ice, but it was difficult to determine one way or another from the bus). Eventually, we reached our first destination: the Caen-Normandie Memorial museum (Normandie is the French spelling of Normandy). The museum starts off with the end of World War I and explains the various events that led to another major conflict so soon after what was supposedly the war to end all wars. Afterwards, it moves on to show images and items from daily life in France during the war before and during the German occupation as well as the major conflicts and turning points of the war. The museum also has an exhibit dedicated to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy and a replica German bunker.
Afterwards we visited the American cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach. Seeing all of the crosses and Stars of David extending across the field was sobering and reminded me of Arlington National Cemetery. From there, we visited Omaha Beach and the memorial to the US Army 1st Infantry Division and the Pointe du Hoc. At the Pointe du Hoc, we saw the remains of German gun pits and large craters in the ground left from bombs.
It was an incredible and moving visit. If you travel to France, I would recommend dedicating some time to go to Normandy and see these locations.