It is difficult to say which day was our favourite on our break in Normandy as they were all special in their own way.
Day one introduced us to the history of WW2 with a visit to St Mere Eglise, Utah Beach and Pointe Du Hoc.
Day two started us off on a medieval adventure with a visit to Bayeux and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux and the famous Bayeux Tapestry followed by Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery.
Day three was the simply stunning Le Mont St Michel and Day four was a day where we stayed at Eco-Gites Lenault to enjoy a snow day, but Day five just pips it for me and I think it was because it was the day Hubby got to visit Pegasus Bridge and Arromanches.
I have to admit I was not bothered about visiting the Pegasus Bridge at first as I didn’t understand its significance in WW2 but I am so glad we did.
Pegasus Bridge is a bascule bridge (a type of movable bridge), that was built in 1934, that crossed the Caen Canal, between Caen and Ouistreham, in Normandy, France. Its capture was a major objective of the British airborne troops in the opening minutes of the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.
A unit of Glider infantry of the British 6th Airborne Division, commanded by Major John Howard, was to land, take the bridges intact and hold them until relieved. The successful taking of the bridges played an important role in limiting the effectiveness of a German counter-attack in the days and weeks following the Normandy invasion.
The bridge itself has been replaced, however there are statues where each glider landed in 1944 and a big plaque on the first house liberated all those years ago. Just yards from the bridge is the museum and this was my favourite of our holiday as it was packed full of memorabilia and information. The kids were enthralled by a 12 minute film of the operation too.
Outside was the original Pegasus Bridge which you could walk over, a replica Horsa Glider, and a Bailey Bridge – a temporary bridge of lattice steel designed for rapid assembly from prefabricated standard parts, used especially in military operations. We discovered that both the Horsa Glider and the Bailey Bridge parts were made locally, which really instilled a sense of pride for me and now I know why the pub is called the Bailey Bridge!
For the rest of the day we headed back to the coast to visit the rest of the landing beaches, starting with Sword beach, where the British landed on D-Day. We found a lovely pier to run across and underneath it was the biggest collection of seashells I have ever seen. The kids were in their element finding them and we came away with a few that are now proudly displayed in a glass vase at home.
The coastal drive between beaches was lovely with monuments and statues dotted along the coastline and hubby stopped to get out at all of them. Our next big stop however was Juno Beach, where the Canadian Infantry Division landed in D-Day. There is a small museum there with memorials to all those who served and lost their lives outside and lots of bunkers outside which were sadly closed off to the public, although they do run guided tours in the summer months.
Gold Beach was our next stop and probably the most awe-inspiring one of the whole trip because it is also the site for the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches which was an artificial port that was vital for bringing in troops and supplies. The British built huge floating concrete caissons which, after being towed from England, then had to be assembled to form walls and piers forming and defining the artificial port and some are still visible today.
The site is really impressive from the cliff top, but standing by a massive caisson takes your breath away. The feat of engineering is impressive by modern-day standards, never mind the fact they were built 70 years ago.
Just beyond the headland was Pointe Du Hoc, where we had visited on the first day so we had completed our mission to visit all the D-Day beaches.
The trip certainly inspired us all and we have all learned things about the events of the WW2 that we didn’t know before. We did avoid the 360° cinema as had been warned it was not suitable for children here.
We headed back to base, a little sad that today was our last full day in Normandy, but determined we will return soon.