We left Rennes around 2PM to the Caen region where we planned to visit Omaha Beach and the American War cemetery.
On the way to Caen while driving along the highway we saw this little city called Avranches. In the best road trip spirit we decided to stop and check the place. It was a nice surprise.
Avranches is a small town of only 8,500 inhabitants but with a lot of history and beautiful things to see. Just after driving in you can see the Patton Monument in homage to General Patton that commanded the take over of the city in the second world war. There is a magnificent gothic cathedral where the skull of Saint Aubert is displayed as a reliquary.
You can also find in Avranches the Museum of the Manuscripts of Mt Saint Michel where you can find historical documents about the construction of the monument. Next to the museum building there are some ruins that you can climb to see the city from above and admire the majestic Mt Saint Michel in distance.
After a short visit of a couple of hours, it was time to continue our journey towards Caen and Omaha beach. Unfortunately the weather changed and it started to rain and this slowed us down a little bit.
Omaha beach is one of the “plagés de debarquement” – that is one of the beaches where the allied forces landed on D-Day. The way to the coast is very beautiful. There are a lot of tiny roads cutting through green scenery and tiny villages. Looking at the fields you can only imagine the fighting and destruction of war. I need to watch again Saving Private Ryan and compare to my visual experience.
We arrived in Omaha beach under quite strong rain – which in my opinion added to the scenery. The coast has a very long sand strip. There is a monument celebrating the soldiers that went on shore here and some plaques explaining what happened on D-Day. Close to the beach is located the Omaha Beach Museum where related items to the invasion, such as tanks, transport vehicles and cannons are on display.
It was a pity that we did not manage to visit the American war cemetery as it was already closed by the time we arrived. It is located only 5 minutes from Omaha beach, but it closes at 6:00 PM (we were 30 minutes too late).
There is a LOT to visit in that area of Normandy. All the beaches that were used on D-Day will have some sort of memorial – a lot of them will also have a museum. There is not only the American war cemetery but also the French and British ones. You can spend a good couple of days driving around and still sighting new things. It always feels good to visit places where history happened.
Later that day we drove to Caen where we spent the night in an Ibis hotel – the “richer” brother of the Etap hotel. Even though the night was good, we had a horrible dinner that will deserve a post for itself. I can only say that we reached the conclusion that the cook used a second world war flame thrower to prepare our steaks.