My wife and I had an 8:00 a.m. departure to Normandy Beach from our ship. Fortunately, my wife remembered this and woke me up in time. As a result, we didn’t miss breakfast and more importantly, our bus.
Three buses departed from our port in La Havre. Fortunately, our bus was only half full and so we spread out and use the seats around us. Since I had my loaded backpack, this was a nice luxury.
Our excursion was named “D-Day Remembered” and was a full day trip featuring sites from an American (versus German) perspective. As an example, we stopped at Omaha Beach instead of the cliffs above the beach.
Seeing it in person was quite an experience. I could see ships on the distant horizon without binoculars and thought that the Allies were sitting ducks for the German soldiers that were hunkered down.
We took a short ride to the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach. Seeing the cemetery, I didn’t think we had enough things to do in that amount of time, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The visitor’s center had a wealth of information and was set up much like a museum. It had many exhibits filled with stories about individual heroes. They also had videos playing and a short movie inside their theater.
AMA Waterways arranged a ceremony for us. We joined a group next to the bronze statue in the center of the cemetary. They began the processing with the Star Spangled Banner. Two passengers from our cruiseship carried a wreath and laid it down at the base of the statue. Taps was played and we observed a moment of silence.
We later found out that the passengers were a son and his father. The son’s grandfather landed in Normandy Beach during D-Day on June 6, 1944. The pair was visibly moved and it was difficult for all of us to maintain our composure.
The bus took a short drive to the artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer. There we were able to see the German constructed bunkers with cannons. Some of the bunkers were left intact and one was fairly decimated.
The next stop was Arromanches-les-Bains which is a small beach town approximately 23 km east of Omaha Beach. While this town has a nunber of gift shops for tourists, it isn’t overdeveloped with expensive restaurants and hotels.
The British built huge concrete walls and piers forming and defining the artificial port called the Mulberry harbour. This artificial harbor was used to facilitate the unloading of supply ships off the coast of Normandy.