Normany, France 2016

Our long weekend was rather spontaneously booked 2/3 weeks before we went. I first wanted to surprise my partner to visit there as he’s wanted to go for a long time to visit all the museums and learn more of the history of WW2. Well, I tried keeping it a surprise until he borrowed my laptop that had open my Trip Advisor account showing places to visit!! However it was good that he found out really, as we could both plan exactly what we want to see and do.

We reserved a car from Europcar, booked the beautiful Le Clos Saint Jean B&B and had a full list of museums, memorials and places to walk planned for our weekend. Driving from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Bayeux, France took us roughly 6.5 hours, not including our lunch stop, but it was a good drive with only one traffic jam of 30mins.

DSC_2025We arrived by the late afternoon, greeted by an amazing couple who had been running the B&B only for 3 months. They recommended that we walk along from the little stoney beach thats only 400m from the B&B to Omaha beach while the tide is out, and back along the bike path at the top of the cliff. It was a lovely 1 hour walk to do before settling in for the evening. It was cool and uncool at the same time to walk there, knowing so many people, most younger than us, had died there. 

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Check out the links below of how our itinerary filled our long weekend!

Day One –  360 Museum, D-Day Museum De Debarquement, Pegasus Bridge museum & Arromanche.

Day Two – Pointe Du Hoc,  La Combe German Cemetery, American Cemetery & Memorial, the Overlord Museum & Bayeux.

Day Three – The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, British War Cemetery, Bayeux Tapestry Museum, 1944 Radar Museum & the Longues-sur-Mer battery.

Day Four – Leaving the B&B to drive back home via the Fortress of Mimoyecques & La Coupole.

Normandy, France – Day Four

An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!

Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!

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The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!

DSC_2253Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.

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Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!

Normandy, France – Day Three

Bayeux was at the top of our list on the third day, visiting the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, however after visiting all the other museums it felt a little double reading similar stories and the same photographs. It was all beautifully displayed and the video really put everything together, so we felt it was still worth the visit!

DSC_2085The third cemetery we visited was the British War Cemetery, close to the Bayeux memorial museum. Each grave was also perfectly lined up as the American cemetery, but with flowers surrounding them. I found it more touching to see and walk around, maybe because I knew they were British like I had a connection. Poppy wreaths were still on the memorial monument since the 72nd Anniversary was only a month and a half before we visited.

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After some lunch we visited the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, something that I remembered visiting when I was younger. The 70 meter long cloth embroidered with the story of William the Conqueror and the October 14th, 1066 Battle of Hastings. I really enjoyed this museum visit and really appreciate seeing how much time and effort has gone into telling each chapter of the story in embroidery.

DSC_2121Taking a detour back to our B&B for a pause we stopped at a little 1944 Radar Museum that we found on the way as it was rather off track from the main roads. The museum had a collection of different radars and antennas that were used by the Germans for things like detecting the enemies, as well as a bunker that you can enter that is three levels deep. The bunker explained perfectly what each room would of been used for, and had a mock up of what the sleeping area would of been like. The radar below, called the Würzburg, is one of the three surviving Würzburgs in the world. Unfortunately this one had broken away from the base.

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Lastly before dinner we stopped at the Longues-sur-Mer battery, an open area with four bunkers in a row that had 4 navy guns, two that had been bombed to pieces and two that had not been hit from the bombings. They were placed strategically to see the coast for oncoming ships. 

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Check out Day Four here!

Normandy, France – Day Two

The cloudy morning turned to sunshine as we had reached our first destination of the day, Pointe Du Hoc. Free to get in we walked past through to the viewpoints of the bunkers and monument. Amazing to see the view and how far along the coast you can see, how the Germans positioned themselves during the war. Here you could also experience the damaged bunkers (could go in a few) and the massive holes in the ground left behind from the bombs.

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We took the drive from Pointe Du Hoc to Carentan, in search of a place for lunch and our next destination the La Combe German Cemetery. It wasn’t very advertised with road signs so we had to use the sat nav and address, obviously not a place the French like to advertise. How strange it was to be walking among 22,000 graves of German soldiers, many of them aged between 16 to 22. Most graves consisted of two people, with too many that were unknown with no name.

Keeping other cemeteries in mind, we headed next to the American Cemetery & Memorial, which was the complete opposite of the German cemetery. This place seemed the busiest out of all of our chosen museums and places we visited during the weekend. The American cemetery is close to Omaha beach where most American soldiers lost their lives. The cemetery is filled with perfectly lined white crosses with one grave per soldier. It was all very touching with different graves having flowers placed in respect.

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DSC_2010The last museum on our list was the Overlord Museum. Greeted with original tanks situated outside we went in and looked at the big collection of items from June 6th, 1944. There was some interesting personal items and stories of witnesses and soldiers throughout the museum and compelling to see items like a tank full of bullet holes.

We finished the day with a dinner in Bayeux followed by a long walk around the beautiful city. Couldn’t resist a nutella pancake for pudding too!

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Check out Day Three here!

Normandy, France – Day One

We spent our first morning in Arromanches visiting the 360 Museum and D-Day Museum De Debarquement, parking our rented car at the top of the cliff and walking down to the museums and beach. The small town was pretty and clean, with an amazing view out to sea with high tide covering the ruins of the wall that was built during WW2. We enjoyed walking around there so much that we didn’t realise it was already 2:30pm and we hadn’t ate, so before we left we bought a nice baguette and drink each!

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DSC_1688The afternoon lead us to Pegasus Bridge museum, visiting the original bridge that the English fought at, with a very interesting tour through the museum about the glider planes and how easy the bridge actually was to take over with only 2 Germans guarding the bridge at night.

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We really enjoyed this museum, the lady who gave the tour even got a little emotional telling a story of a guy who had returned to Pegasus Bridge after 70 years, seeing the graves of his comrades and speaking for first time about what happened when he was there. The guy was a pilot who helped direct the glider planes to the bridge, which were full up with 28 men. It was so emotional to hear as he had so much responsibility for the glider plane towed behind his plane, which unfortunately broke loose too early, causing the men to die under his watch.

We headed back to Arromanche for a pizza, followed by an relaxing walk on beach. It was now low tide, so we could walk all the way out to the ruins of what had been left in the sea. We finished the evening watching a summer fireworks event at Port-en-Bessin-Huppain with all the locals.

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Check out Day Two here!

10. Feyenoord Champions Once More!!

More than 18 years ago, on the 25th April 1999, the Rotterdam team Feyenoord won the Eredivisie Championships. Today, they have made history again by becoming the 2017 Champions!

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The Champions Festival of Feyenoord on the Coolsingel on 25 april 1999
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Another photo from 25th April 1999

Since the last two weeks there has already been preparations for the celebrations, such as a 500-600kg flag hung up at Hofplein, projecting the logo against the 5th tallest building in the Netherlands, cakes with the logo and Rotterdam harbour workers making the letter F for Feyenoord with red and white containers. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention even cheese!!

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Source: RTV Rijnmond Twitter Account

Match One

Last Sunday was the first chance to become champions, with their match against Excelsior. Since the morning from 10am there were already cars tooting past the house, flags hanging out the windows. Fireworks heard going off all around the city and everywhere you look there were people in red and white.

The city was prepared for the match, with big screens and public areas completely filling up ready to watch! Containers were put around the city in place for security measures but most people used them to see the big screens!

DSC_3683DSC_3680The match started at 14:30 against Excelsior in their home stadium, but not that far from De Kuip, home stadium of Feyenoord.

The first half wasn’t the best, making a few tries but nothing really special. By half time they were 0-0 so it wasn’t looking too good for them. The 2nd half caught them even more off guard as Excelsior scored 3 goals within 9 minutes of each other. Unfortunately Feyenoord didn’t make a single goal and lost the match 0-3 to Excelsior.

It sure was disappointing feeling walking back through the city full of supporters, who were ultimately starting riots against the police with so much alcohol in their system. The riot police were already ready for the rioters.

DSC_3727Match Two

This match was the deciding factor of whether Feyenoord would be champions of not. The pressure was on them even more, but there was a sense of confidence throughout the fans as Feyenoord would be playing at home, in De Kuip.

This time they were against Heracles starting at the same time of 14:30.

More regulations were set this weekend in the city, such as tickets needed now for certain open areas and all supermarkets within the center were banned to sell alcohol during a specific time limit. But that didn’t stop the supporters, bringing alcohol with them obviously bought the day before.

Well what a way to start a match! 40 seconds into the start was the first goal scored by Dirk Kuyt, followed by the second before half time. The last goal was scored also by him in the second half, making it a perfect hat-trick. Heracles managed to score a goal in the second half but with a strong defence the championships were already won. Finishing the game with 3-1 to Feyenoord!

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Kuyt Celebrating in De Kuip! Source: Feyenoord Twitter Account

Once the match was ended, the whole city was crazy!! Now I’m not really a big football fan, but to experience this was unbelievable!! So much energy and excitement from EVERYONE. The one place all supporters go to visit is Hofplein, the fountain shown in the third photo. It is a well known spot to celebrate victories!!

DSC_3786DSC_3805DSC_3794DSC_3800As you can see below, you actually cannot see the fountain any more!!

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Source: RTV Rijnmond Twitter Account from Bart Luters

DSC_3837Tomorrow supporters and the team will celebrate on the Coolsingel for the champions ceremony, just like in the first photo 18 years ago.

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Source: Feyenoord Twitter Account

Budapest, Hungary 2013

Arriving by Budapest with the night train from Prague was much better than we expected, not being woken once from noise, obviously too cosy under the clean fresh bunkbed sheets. What was good was that you needed your sleep cabin key to get into the toilet provided, so you didn’t need to worry about lack of toilet paper or it getting too disgusting from everyone like guests who had not booked a sleeping cabin.

Day One

The first day included buying a public transport card, as the city is so big compared to Prague there was no way we could walk to everything during our 3 day stay. We stayed at the Friends Hostel Budapest where we booked our own little apartment with kitchen, perfect for eating cheap on vacation. For starters, we had to get used to the change in currency, that made us feel rich! The currency EUR to HUF was €1 to 310 at the time, so for a 10,000 HUF note it was only about €32.

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Stepping on the metro we headed first to the Szechenyi Baths, one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe. The weather was so hot the day we visited, making it rather busy, but still perfect to enjoy the outside pools and the inside spas.

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2013-08-15 14.16.53Seeing as we spent most of the day here, we felt so refreshed afterwards that we took a stroll back through the park to the Millenniumi emlékmű monument and towards Parliament, saw the shoes on the Danube bank and further for a walk around the bridges.

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Arriving at the Buda Hill Funicular was our next stop to get to the top of Buda Castle. A beautifully well kept castle with many viewpoints, gardens and museums within.

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Ending the day was with a free 3 hour walking tour of the city and night time walk to the fortress and Liberty Statue for fantastic views over the city. Definitely a highlight!

2013-08-16 21.42.51.jpgDay Three

Started the day by visiting the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian Technical and Transportation Museum and the Central Market Hall.

But the best museum we found impressive was the House of Terror Museum. This museum tells the story of the secret police and suffering endured by the Hungarian people under the Nazis and Hungarian Arrow Cross Nazi party in 1944 and the communist brutality after the war. There is also a section which pays special honour to the Freedom Fighters in 1956. Amazingly, both eras occurred in the same building, hence the museum name House of Terror.

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Finishing our trip with a Transavia flight back to the Netherlands ended our 10 day holiday to Prague and Budapest. It was fun, hot, and we had plenty of time to visit what we needed.