The Unforgettable Beaches of Normandy

Normandy BeachesWith so much to see all over Normandy it was quite difficult to decide on what to include and what to leave out. I suppose that’s true of every trip you take but the amount of museums, memorials, cemeteries, and visitor centres all along the north Normandy coast is simply staggering.

After amazing days out at Utah Beach and Carentan, the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, and of course the Juno Beach American tourist experience we still had so much to see. Jo’s prior research, which was awesome as usual, had made it so much easier so we knew what we were up to on our last couple of days. We visited so many places that this is just a selection to avoid boring you all too much.


The Longues Sur Mer Battery

Unbelievably there are still a lot of gun emplacements and defensive guns still lining the coast. After 75 years you would have thought that these would have disappeared but hats off to the French who have obviously worked extremely hard to preserve as much as possible. A short distance from our Airbnb was the incredible gun battery of Longues sur Mer. The five huge concrete gun emplacements still sit atop the cliffs with their muzzles pointing out to sea and covering the beaches of Gold and Omaha.

Longue sur Mer Battery

There didn’t seem to be much in the form of health and safety as you could still climb down into the underground bunkers and walk through pitch black concrete tunnels beneath the guns. Spookily quiet and completely empty we really felt as if we could hear the echoes of 1944 all around us. Just standing and gazing at the ocean through the narrow openings made you imagine what it must have been like for both sides. So interesting and emotional.

Longue sur Mer


Port en Bessin

We decided that we didn’t want every minute to be D-Day based so headed down to the quaint harbour town of Port en Bessin for a mooch around. It’s a tiny little place that wraps around the little harbour and although it’s claim to fame is being in the 1962 film The Longest Day, it is quintessentially French and very quiet.

Port en Bessin

port en Bessin
“Port en Bessin harbour”

Strolling along Gold Beach

Back on the history trail we took in an early morning stroll along the deserted beach between Port en Bessin and La Riviere at Asnelles. This was codenamed Gold Beach for D-Day and still retains the name today. Lots of smaller memorials to individual regiments line the beachfront with plaques galore for Jo to read. To be honest I was just as plaque-crazy as she was for the whole trip so can’t point the finger too much.

Gold Beach Normandy

Gold Beach Normandy

With hardly another person to be seen it was so hard to imagine what those troops must have been through and even harder to understand how important the location was on such a quiet desolate morning.

Gold Beach Normandy
“Every village and town along the Normandy beach coast has these posters hanging from lamposts commemorating troops that fought there”

Cemeteries

All over Normandy there are vast numbers of cemeteries to the fallen soldiers of D-Day, both big and small. They’ve mostly been built at the exact locations those particular troops lost their lives which is unbelievably poignant. All of the British ones are managed by CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) which does a fantastic job of looking after the sites and remembering our fallen heroes.

Did you know that there are 23,000 Commonwealth War Graves sites worldwide commemorating the 1.7 million servicemen and women that were lost in the two world wars.

We decided to visit the British cemetery at Bazenville and the Canadian one at Beny sur Mer to show our respects.

Normandy Cemetery
“The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Bazenvilles”

A visit to the only US cemetery in Normandy at Omaha Beach was also very touching although as it’s the only one it is absolutely huge. The Visitors Centre was extremely well done with so much history to educate the visitors along with many personal stories. So pleased that we visited.

US Cemetery
“The US cemetery at Omaha Beach”

Courselles sur Mer

Our Airbnb in the harbour town of Courseulles sur Mer was perfect as a base for visiting all of these various locations but we felt we should really see the town itself so an afternoon stroll along the avenues and alleyways was in order.

Courseulles sur mer
“Our little Airbnb apartment right in the middle overlooking the harbour”
Courseulles sur Mer
“Courseulles sur mer”

Courseulles sur Mer

Normandy


Deauville, Trouville and the Pont du Normandy

Before we realised it was time to leave and head back to Le Havre after an incredible week in beautiful Normandy. The whole place had completely changed my perception of France so it had been a revelation. We took out time driving back and decided to do the coastal route via the seaside towns of Cabourg, Houlgate, Villers-sur-Mer and finally Deauville where we stopped for our lunch and a bit of a walk on the beach.

I have to admit that I had never thought of this coastline as a seaside resort but it obviously is and the golden sands of Deauville with lines of sunbeds and cafes confirmed its status. In the height of the summer it’s a buzzing busy beach resort that would be well worth spending a few days in.

Deauville Beach
“Sunshine and blue skies at Deauville beach”

Heading on via Trouville, Fourneville and Honfleur we crossed the Pont du Normandy into Le Havre. Getting the car back and walking round to the ferry terminal was a breeze, especially after our experience on arrival (Operation Normandy). Oh and a daytime cruise over to Portsmouth much easier to handle than the all-nighter we pulled on the way out.

JWalkers


So is Normandy all about D-Day?

Well it is many visitors reason for going but there is so much more to see and experience than just war memorials and museums dedicated to 1944. Beautiful little harbour towns and marvellous beaches make it a lovely holiday destination. We went for the history though and to remember Jo’s Dads involvement in perhaps the most important military action that there has ever been.

Did it live up to our expectations? It surpassed everything we could have imagined, in fact we could easily have spent another week. Highly recommended for every traveller out there. What a trip!

30/09 – 02/10/2019

Unforgettable beaches of Normandy France

32 comments

  1. I’m always amazed at how well CWGC cemeteries are kept vs. most of the normal cemeteries in London, which are in a sorry state indeed. The CWGC website is a wonderful resource as well, though its search function can be a bit temperamental. I used it a lot when I was volunteering on a WWI project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a feeling we had so many times when strolling on those empty beaches. So many ghosts of that terrible day all around but now just holiday destinations. Very strange.

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  2. Wow I had no idea about the CWGC and that there are so many war grave sites worldwide, and looked after too. Thank you for this, Normandy is most definitely on my list now. Love the posters on the lamp posts, very moving. Also, as you said, it’s amazing they still have the guns and bunkers in such good condition. Loved reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s such an interesting place to visit especially if you a particular interest in D-Day and WWII. So much history and preserved and presented so well. You’d love it.

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  3. Nice blog Jon. Must have been nice to take in the sorroundings, and pause for thought, with the beaches being quiet. A fitting way to remember the war and those involved.

    Liked by 1 person

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